Cooking for Beginners
Fusilli alla Caprese
Black and White Cookies
Italian Fish and Veggie Pockets
Aunt(???) Carolyna has come over to learn how to cook. I’m not getting this at all. Aunt Carolyna is a lovely young woman, fresh faced and eager, but the moniker “Aunt” doesn’t seem to fit. She and Giada string and take the ends off sugar snap peas and they go into a bowl.
Giada gives her a pepper and she keeps one. She shows her how to cut the end off and cut the pepper into strips. Unlike Danny, she works alongside Carolyna. Oh, she explains the family connection. Carolyna is the daughter of Giada’s old fox of a grandfather Dino (her mother is Martha Schumacher). Even though they consider themselves cousins, Carolyna is actually her aunt.
She lets Carolyna pour a bit of white wine over and then oil. Auntie knows to roll the lemon to release the juices. Giada zests and Carolyna squeezes. Giada makes a flavored salt by mixing the lemon zest with salt. They also set aside 4 slices of lemon. She tosses the vegetables with the lemon salt. That’s a great way to give a lemon flavor, especially when you’re in a situation (not here) where you don’t want to add liquid.
They divide the vegetables onto 2 pieces of foil and put a salmon piece on top of each one. Giada sprinkles a bit of lemon salt over. They top each packet with 2 slices of lemon. Giada pulls up the sides and closes the foil around the fish and vegetables to make a completely secure packet. They go on a baking sheet and bake at 350°F for 15 minutes.
When Giada takes out the packets, she instructs the young one to open hers gingerly, because it’s hot. Giada slips hers perfectly onto a plate. Aunt C. had a little more trouble, but she got it on the plate. C lightly chops fresh mint and they sprinkle it over. They taste it and like it.
For the pasta recipe, Giada adds salt to the boiling water and then 1 lb. of pasta. Carolyna struggles to free a garlic clove from its head. It means it’s fresh, her niece tells her. Carolyna smashes the garlic like an old pro and chops it. Giada adds oil to a sauté pan and cooks the garlic just until it becomes aromatic. Carolyna halves a pint and half of cherry tomatoes and adds those to the pan. Then she dices fresh mozzarella.
Giada asks her about her boyfriend and the adorable Carolyna blushes. She seems so sweet, just beautiful. I wonderful where she gets that…
They both press the cherry tomatoes in the pan with a fork to make the mixture saucier. Carolyna chops basil roughly as instructed. That gets thrown in with the mozzarella. The pasta gets scooped from the water right into the sauté pan with the toms. Giada pours that into a big bowl and tosses it with the mozzarella and basil and some pasta water.
They taste right from the bowl, which is not recommended, unless you’re going to finish every last bit in one sitting. Obviously, neither of these two tiny gals is going to do that.
She moves on to some special cookies. Crappy fast food alert!!! Why is Giada using bought sugar cookie dough? If it’s because that’s what college kids do, that’s not a good reason.
I thought this was an opportunity to teach her young aunt to COOK, not to open a package and slice. If you have 7 kids, go ahead and use a slice and bake cookie, but IF you have a cooking show on the FN and are giving a cooking lesson to your adorable auntie, THEN make your own dough. Giada could have said you’ll find the recipe on the website or use your favorite one.
For the chocolate center of these cookies, Giada heats 1/3 cup cream. She chops 7 oz of bittersweet chocolate with a serrated knife. THAT is a good tip. It does a fabulous job at shredding the chocolate into small pieces. She stirs it into the cream, off the heat. When it’s nice and smooth, Giada transfers it to a bowl and refrigerates it for an hour.
To form the cookies, she has Carolyna slice half the cookie dough. She cuts each slice into quarters and then rolls each piece into a log. Giada takes a ¼ teaspoon measure and makes chocolate balls from the cold chocolate mixture. Why not use a melonballer, I wonder?
Okay, this gets a bit fiddly. They wrap the sugar cookie logs around the chocolate balls and roll in tons of sugar. They get placed on parchment paper. They look really pretty. Wait, they’re not done. Giada presses each cookie flat with the bottom of a juice glass. Nice.
They bake at 350°F for 15 minutes. Giada takes out the cookies and Carolyna’s itching to have one. Not yet, as Giada presents her with a basket of all kinds of cooking goodies. And yes, she can have a cookie, actually she can have all of them, along with all the other loot she scored from Giada.
They hug. Gosh, what a beautiful family! I have to rush out and get me some pink blush and pink lip gloss.
But what I will never get (and NEVER support) is mass produced sugar cookie dough in a roll. The plastic wrapping affirms what lies beneath - fake, factory produced, additive-laden, sweet AND salty dough. This is so much better made at home...with family, if you're lucky like Giada.
A year ago today...