Saturday, June 2, 2007

Giada Dresses Up A Barbecue

Everyday Italian with Giada De Laurentiis

Dressing Up BBQ
Chicken or Steak with Balsamic BBQ Sauce
Amaretto and Raspberry Smoothie
Roman Summer Salad
Tri-Coloré Orzo

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Giada's having a barbecue that's dressed up enough for a dinner party. It better be, because I've spied a celebrity as one of her guests, Mariel Hemingway. That's exciting, but I guess Giada is becoming such a celebrity herself that it's quite a coup to get a seat at her table.

She begins by making a barbecue sauce made from balsamic vinegar, which is itself made from Trebbiano grapes. 1 cup goes into the pan with 3/4 of a cup of ketchup. Giada explains that barbecue sauce from the North is tomato-based, and sauce from the South has a vinegar base. This one is a mixture of both. She stirs in brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, Dijon, garlic, salt and pepper.

She moves on to the side dish of Tri-colored Orzo, while the barbecue sauce is reducing. Giada cooks the orzo and removes it from the water using a skimmer as is her wont. I still don't know why she doesn't drain it through a colander. (Many times, she does use a little pasta water for the sauce. And sometimes she wants a little water to cling to the pasta if she's adding it directly to a sauce, but neither is the case here.) She lays the cooked orzo out on a cookie sheet to cool it faster and sprinkles over some olive oil to keep it from sticking.

She toasts pine nuts to add crunch. The orzo goes into a big bowl and now she tells us she's going to add some vibrant colors. Arugula Alert! 2 cups of the peppery green leaves go in, followed by torn up basil. Frankly, I don't like basil in such big pieces. For the red component (remember it's tri-colored) she adds dried cherries. Yeah, maybe, but maybe NOT! How about sun-dried tomatoes instead? The toasted pine nuts go in with lemon zest, lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, salt and freshly ground pepper. After tossing it together, Giada adds some crumbled ricotta salata for the white part. And there are the 3 colors.

It looks good, but frankly, there is not better orzo salad than Ina's, which has roasted vegetables and feta. I almost always leave the feta out and I would probably do the same with Giada's salad - leave the ricotta salata out. Just make you sure you season it really well, because let's face it, this doesn't have that much going for it. (Sorry, Giada, good but not great.)

We learn that when the barbecue sauce coats a spoon, it's ready. She seasons the chicken and remembers to tell us to do both sides. (I have to admit whenever that's my current task in the kitchen, it always feels like I have MC - IF ONLY - over my shoulder telling me not to skip the step of seasoning both sides.) Giada brushes the thick delicious looking barbecue sauce over the chicken. She flips it and brushes the other side.

Hygiene Alert! I would feel better if she had separated out the barbecue sauce she's using to brush on the chicken, just to be safe. Let's see what she does... She tell us to cook the chicken for 8 minutes on each side and that she's going to simmer the barbecue sauce to serve it on the side. Whew! That's good. I'm relieved she's not trying to poison her guests. The rule is that if a utensil is used on raw chicken, or meat or fish for that matter, it must not come into contact with anything that isn't being thoroughly cooked. And the sauce that had the utensil in it, which touched the raw chicken, must be boiled or discarded.

Back from a break and Giada is walking through one of the marvelous farmer's markets on the West Coast. Back at "home", she takes the chicken off the grill. Wow, what a beautiful deep color from the balsamic vinegar. She covers it with foil while she finishes up.

She making a Roman Summer Salad, so named for her aunt in Rome who makes it. She slices the most beautiful ruby red juicy tomatoes fairly thickly and arranges them on a platter. She chops Italian parsley and basil (this time finely enough for my taste). "You have to have basil with tomatoes, we all know that."

She adds capers "used all over the Mediterranean" and green and black olives. She likes green olives for their tanginess and black ones for being sweeter and tenderer. The black ones are harvested later. Who knew? She chops 3 filets of anchovies really thinly and adds them. Then she adds olive oil, pepper and no salt. Finally, she adds some balsamic vinegar - one cup that she's been reducing for 20 minutes down to 1/4 cup. Thanks for telling us. She spoons the mixture over the tomatoes. They do look sterling. That's a really easy, fast (except for the balsamic vinegar at the end) treatment of tomatoes. Great idea.

Giada tells us she's going to end her dressed-up barbecue on a high note with a Smoothie. Fresh raspberries get blended with vanilla gelato. (I can't stand raspberries that aren't strained, unless they're being served fresh.) She adds orange zest to the blender along with Amaretto. Yum. I would love that, but skip the fresh raspberries (use them as a garnish) and add a little espresso instead. Now we're talking...and how about a little Kahlua too? She blends the whole thing and the color is gorgeous. "It's so beautiful, you can't help but want to drink this." She adds ice and blends until crushed and pours it into glasses. I think she could have gotten it a little smoother, but maybe that's just me. She crushes a few Amaretti on top, and voila, dessert's ready.

I guess I just expect a higher caliber of recipe from Giada. Simple and quick is fine, but ice cream in a blender? How about some fresh fruits with a balsamic vinegar reduction? She already had a pot of that on the stove.

The food is served. Noone is listening to me...they all really like it. Hey, isn't Mariel a vegetarian? I can't tell if there's any chicken on her plate. Oh, here's the answer. Never mind. When you have a table of such gorgeous people, let them drink milk shakes.


Anonymous said...

Well. I don't doubt that Giada is a personality of her own. But, *please* don't forget her background, her famous family! There are two possible connections to Mariel Hemingway that I can think of right away - 1. Her mother (Veronica De Laurentiis) was in a movie with her (Perfume, 2001); 2. Her grandfather (Dino De Laurentiis) produced a movie with her in it (Lipstick, 1976), also with Giada's late brother Dino.

Also, Giada used to work as a celebrity chef -- maybe for Mariel?

Sue said...

Hi Anon,

I love a good 6 degrees of separation game, but you've done it in one. Bravo.