Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Giada's Gone Wacky And Don't You Just Love People Who Can Admit When They're Wrong?

Everyday Italian with Giada De Laurentiis

Fun with Food
Roasted Acorn Squash and Gorgonzola Pizza
Tilapia with Purple Potato Crust and Chive Rosemary Oil
Mango Cheesecake with Basil Lemon Syrup

To get the recipes:
Click here

Giada begins the episode with the statement, "Sometimes I like to play with my food." That explains some of Giada's recent, AHEM, "interesting" recipes.
She calls pizza the ultimate "fun food". I guess that's true because you can top it with really anything. Today, she's using acorn squash. She likes it when "sweet and spicy flavors play off each other".

Giada prepares the squash for roasting. She cuts off both ends and cuts it in half. She scoops out the seeds and cuts the acorn squash into thinnish slices. Oh, I really hate that. It makes for the maximum amount of peeling. You have to attack each thin slice separately and it's all hot and it's a big pain. I'm not liking this at all.

She adds a couple of tablespoonfuls of maple syrup to the squash. (Great, now it will be hot AND sticky.) She adds red pepper flakes, salt, pepper and olive oil. (Add greasy to the list). She stirs well to coat the acorn squash slices. WHAT is going to happen to that skin and why am I wasting all these ingredients on a bunch of skin that's going to be discarded anyway? She puts the slices on a baking sheet in one layer in a 375 degree Fahrenheit oven for 20 to 25 minutes.

Next Giada rolls out the pizza dough. It's a 1 pound store-bought dough. As long as the Pillsbury dough boy isn't looking back at you, I guess that's all right. She rolls it out to an oval and put it on a baking sheet. I think I spy her using Silpat, which I detest. The recipe calls for parchment paper, which I also think is a big waste of money...I use foil in all parchment situations.

Now I'm getting cranky. I'm worried about all that work peeling the acorn squash. FOCUS!

Okay, Giada tops the dough with a cup of mozzarella. Oh, I do that too! Things are looking up. I like to put at least SOME of the cheese right on the dough to make a nice bed for the sauce or whatever comes next. it helps to prevent the crust from getting soggy.

She puts some Gorgonzola on next and then it goes into the oven. OH, I get what's happening. The BAKED pizza dough is going to topped with the ROASTED acorn squash, They're not going to be cooked together. Ok, I'm following now. She bakes the crust at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 25 to 30 minutes.

Sorry, I have another problem. The ONLY reason to cook the pizza dough that slow and long is to be able to cook it in the same oven as the squash. Normally, you wanna cook that baby hotter - 450, okay 425 if you're a chicken, and, frankly, the squash could use higher temperature too. Cooking them both at the same time is a green solution of which I approve. But, then, let's say 400 degrees for about 20 minutes for each of them.

The crust comes out. Yummy.. She gets to work peeling ALL that acorn squash. She tops the pizza with it. You know what? It looks marvelous ... really marvelous. The thinnish slices are in half-moon shapes and it really took Giada no time at all to peel.

OK, foot in my mouth alert! I WAS WRONG about the bother of peeling the acorn squash. The skin came off pretty easily. Giada knew what she doing all along. The half moon shape looks lovely on the pizza. It's a great idea. Ok, that's enough of that. Don't expect me to be contrite for longer than a paragraph or two....

She finishes off the pizza with arugula spritzled with olive oil. (I just made up that word - it's a cross between drizzled and spritzed...It's better than stoup(id). So Giada really pulled it out in the end with that beautiful recipe...

Next she's on to singing the praises of purple potatoes. They are stunning. She slices them on a mandolin so they're super thin and all the same thickness. She wants them to cook at the same time as her tilapia fillets. She seasons the fish well and tops them with overlapping slices of potato, "so it creates a nice crust on the fish".

Now she's going to...wait a second...what? SAUTÉ the fish - potato side down. That's a little bit of a juggling act. She adds butter and olive oil to a nonstick pan and breaks off a bit of rosemary to put on top of the potatoes. She puts the whole thing potato side down in the hot pan. Then she puts the whole thing in the oven. If she was going to put it in the oven anyway, why bother to take that whole delicate concoction and turn it upside down in a sauté pan? There's no way the carefully arranged potatoes are going to STAY perfectly arranged. There are easier ways this could have been accomplished. Strange...

To top the fish, Giada is assembling a chive oil. She mixes chives, fresh rosemary and fruity olive oil. She takes the fish out and flips it AGAIN. The potatoes ARE brown and crusty, but they bear no resemblance to the beautiful overlapping slices she started with.

She drizzles over the chive oil. It's very attractive, but what was the point of flipping the fish a hundred times? Just put the flippin' potatoes in the bottom of a gratin dish in an overlapping arrangement and put the fillets on top OR put the fillets on the bottom and arrange the potatoes on top and drizzle with oil. Which ever way you choose, don't be a flip-flopper, choose one and stick with it and serve the fish THAT way.

Ok, Cheesecake next. this should be good. She processes 1 cup of biscotti for the crust with 3/4 cup of melted butter. I love that idea for a crust. Things are looking up. She pats it into the bottom of springtime pan and bakes it at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 minutes. She cools it on a rack.

She processes together ricotta, cream cheese, sugar, eggs and mango pureé. Yum. She pours the mixture into the crust and places the pan in a big baking dish. She adds hot water half the way up and bakes it at 350 degrees Fahrenheit oven for 1 1/2 hours. She cools it and refrigerates it to set.

For the cheesecake topping, she makes a sugar syrup to which she adds lemon juice. (I think the rind would be good too.) She places the cheesecake on a cakestand.

She chops basil and puts it in a blender WITH the cooled lemon sugar syrup. Oh dear! I don't think that's a good all. Oh no. She pours it all over that beautiful cheesecake.

Giada! I have to say it LOOKS good, but I'm not ruining an entire cheesecake with that stuff. That's the kind of thing to have at a restaurant where you can eat just one piece to see if you hate it, not destroy a whole cheesecake.

Giada has made a few unfortunate recipe choices lately. I like exciting food and different combinations, but mixing espresso with champagne or basil with cheesecake is not my idea of fun.


Emilie said...

Oh that's horrible! You're right-why would you ruin a perfect and beautiful cheesecake with basil? I don't like that idea at all.

Squash pizza? I guess I could get on board with that.
Potato fish? It seems complicated, but maybe there's reason for it, and I just don't understand it.

Sue said...

Great minds...

I'm not saying I'm actually going to make the acorn squash pizza, but it turned out to look great.

Slap a sliced potato in the bottom of a baking dish. Salt and pepper it. Stick a fish on top. Season that. Drizzle with olive oil. Bake and call it dinner. She made it sooo complicated.