(Sorry, I just love that George Carlin quote...Giada didn’t even serve tequila.)
Giada At Home with Giada De Laurentiis
Cocktails With Couples
Spiced Cocktail Nuts
Cheese-Stuffed Dates with Prosciutto
Crispy Zucchini and Potato Pancakes
Gosh, Giada looks good in purple. Is that a bit of lilac on her eye lids? No, maybe not.
Giada is having a get-together for the engagement of friends John and Corinne. She’s making a few snacks and one special drink before they all go out to dinner. I think cocktail entertaining is particularly well-suited to Giada. She’s such a gracious hostess.
She starts with spiced cocktail nuts, which will be cooked in a low oven for 45 minutes. Giada whips 2 egg whites until frothy. Interesting. I wonder if the egg whites are a substitute for fat. That’s a good idea as long as they don’t come out gummy or gluey.
Giada mixes together 2 cups of roasted, salted almonds, 2 cups of roasted, salted cashews and 2 cups of regular walnuts. If she’s cooking them for so long, why is she starting with roasted nuts and why not do her own salting? Giada likes the “crunch” that the egg whites give to the nuts. Heh? I don’t quite get that. She says it’s more like a brittle that you have to break up.
To the nuts, G adds 2 tablespoons curry powder, 1 tablespoon cumin, cardamom, cinnamon, cayenne pepper - as much as you like - garlic salt (ick) and ¾ cup granulated sugar. OH, adding the sugar makes the egg whites more understandable. She stirs that all together and spreads the nuts onto a Pam-ed baking pan with Pam in one layer. She puts them in a 250°F oven for 45 minutes.
For her jazzed up potato pancakes, she substitutes some zucchini for the potatoes. She peels 2 lbs. of potatoes, halves them and grates them in a flash in the food processor. She grates the zucchini right on top of the potato. She transfers that into a kitchen towel.
Wait, where’s the onion? The potato has already turned a bit brown and every good potato pancake maker knows that the acid from the onion help to prevent that. You can also soak the grated potato in water to prevent the discoloration, but then there's a lot more liquid to squeeze out.
Giada squeezes the towel really tightly around the vegetables to get all the liquid out. She adds the vegetables to a clean bowl. Still no onion? She adds 2 egg whites to keep it light because they’re going out to dinner. I would just throw in an entire egg.
BTW, a standard egg is 2 oz. - the white is one ounce and the yolk is one ounce. That’s why it’s okay to substitute a whole egg for 2 whites. That’s helpful to know if you ever freeze the whites. One egg white is 2 tablespoons. 4 egg whites will measure half a cup.
Giada adds store-bought seasoned bread crumbs, salt and pepper. Onion? Giada! She DOES add 3 cloves of garlic and chopped rosemary. She reminds us that fresh garlic has tightly closed cloves and is sticky. She likes to chop it fine, so that no one gets a big hunk of garlic.
This is where I would absolutely use a garlic press. (And I would do my recently arrived at, but probably OLD wife’s tale, thing of getting rid of that center stalk in the garlic clove. I’m convinced that causes its bad rebound effects.) She stirs in the garlic. Nope, she is definitely not adding onion.
She heats a skillet on high and adds a bit of oil. Giada adds PRE-GRATED (where is Aunt Raffi when we need her?) Parmigiano-Reggiano to the mixture. Of course, she bought very high quality cheese, but that’s a pretty big container and I’m not sure she’s going to use it all up anytime soon.
Until I learned that Parmesan cheese didn’t come out of the brightly colored, big-holed container in the door of the fridge, I used to HATE it. Cheese is expensive, so I want to get my money’s worth. If that means having to grate it fresh, so be it. I often use pecorino when I can’t stomach the price of Parm, but NEVER pre-grated.
She stirs in the cheese and, THIS is different, she pours out the entire (onionless) mixture into the heated sauté pan and then she pats it down into one giant pancake (still onionless). WELL! I have to say I didn’t see that coming. Giada covers it with cheese and drizzles over a bit of olive oil and cooks it on the burner for 8 minutes and then bakes it at 450°F for 20 to 25 minutes.
Interestingly, Giada used this same recipe in a holiday special. Although in THAT recipe, she DID use onion instead of garlic. I have no problem with her recycling a recipe. When I come across a great recipe, I use it for years…for decades actually.
The Giada at Home kitchen is quite gorgeous.
Giada checks the bottom of the pancake and sees that it’s browned and then she turns it out upside down onto a Pam-ed baking sheet. Oh! That’s new too. She’s not just throwing the sauté pan in the oven.
She takes out the nuts, they look good.
Giada starts her dates. She mixes a ¼ cup goat cheese with a ¼ cup mascarpone. Both should be at room temperature. She chops basil really finely and adds that to the cheese with salt and pepper. She unwraps thinly sliced prosciutto.
She grabs a date. They’ve been pitted already and they have a slit in them. Did she buy them like that? I have some FANTASTIC dates from the Shields Date Gardens in Palm Springs, which I keep in the freezer, but they have pits.
Giada spoons some of the cheese mixture into the big Medjool dates. She wraps a half slice (cut lengthwise) of prosciutto around each one and stabs it with a toothpick or “cocktail pin”. I guess they have fancy names for things in LA. Hers ARE reusable, though.
She breaks up the nuts and puts them in a bowl. The dates are plated. After the potato pancake has cooled, she cuts it into little squares with a serrated knife. G dollops a bit of mascarpone cheese on top and finishes it with a few spikes of rosemary. Pretty. This is a nice recipe and you could add different things to the pancake mixture. Maybe prosciutto (if you weren’t serving the dates and the potato pancakes weren’t a religious tradition), bits of smoked salmon to garnish, or even a fine dice of red pepper would look good IN the pancake or on top.
Everything is in clear glass bowls or on clear glass plates. That’s her theme, she says.
Oh darn, sorry to all you college guys, the cameras don’t follow her upstairs to change. She comes back to the kitchen in that gorgeous purple dress (she is stunning beyond words…) and gets started on the cocktail, which is a thing of beauty on its own. I think that IS lilac eye shadow.
She puts fresh blueberries in a (clear glass) pitcher. She adds lots of torn mint on top and then pours an entire bottle of Limoncello into the pitcher. She pours in a cup of sparkling water. (I’m guessing Fresca isn’t the way to go here.) She stirs it gently. THAT is lovely. She takes a large (clear glass) “bucket” filled with crushed ice and jams her glasses into it to get and stay cold. (Can you even buy crushed ice?). Her friends have arrived.
She pours the Limoncello cocktail into the glasses. Everyone is impressed. She toasts to the engaged couple. They chow down. No one falls in the pool after all that limoncello. The sun sets.