Friday, April 3, 2009

A Picnic With Giada And A Diatribe Against A Poor Honey Bear

Giada At Home with Giada De Laurentiis

Picnic In The Park

Devilled Eggs with Crab
Caponata Panini
Chocolate Honey Almond Tart

Giada is making a picnic dinner to take to an outdoor concert. Oh, this is a no-blanket-on-the-ground type of picnic. There appear to be white tablecloths underneath a big, fluffy tent. Ah well, this is LA and the food does look good.

I guess I haven't watched Giada’s show for a while; the graphics seem more modern. We see the outside of a spectacular modern home that seems to be where her kitchen is.

Giada starts by crushing 9 chocolate graham crackers in a food processor for a pie crust. She adds 2 tablespoons of slivered almonds. I SO would have toasted those first. She adds in half a stick of room temperature butter. (There would have been no problem melting it. In fact, I’m not sure why she doesn’t.)

She presses the crumb mixture into a non-stick buttered spring form pan and bakes it at 350°F for 12 minutes. I like Ina’s (is it HERS?) tip of using a metal measuring cup to tamp the crumbs down.

For the filling, Giada mixes ¾ cup of heavy cream (what’s with her blond streak?) with a ¼ cup of honey from a honey bear. She heats it until the honey dissolves. The honey is sooooooooooooooo unnecessary. She adds 12 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate chips to a bowl and tells us we can use milk chocolate, if we want.

I am NOT a fan of milk chocolate. I think it tastes dull and overly sweet. And in a tart with so few ingredients, it needs all the help it can get. In fact, I’m surprised she isn’t using a higher grade of chocolate.

Giada keeps stirring the cream to prevent a skin from forming. She pours that over the chocolate chips and whisks it well until smooth. Yummy. She pours that over the top of the crust and puts it in the fridge to set for an hour.

Giada is making caponata as a topping for panini. She dices eggplant, red pepper, onion and celery. She adds olive oil to a pan and throws in the onion and celery with salt and pepper. Then she adds the diced eggplant and red pepper with more salt and pepper AND more olive oil – ¼ cup olive in all. She pours in one can of diced tomatoes with 3 tablespoons of raisins for sweetness. (The sour part gets added later, she says.) That fridge is magnificent. I wonder what kind it is, it doesn’t look like a Sub-Zero.

Giada cuts demi-baguettes (they looked like ciabatta to me) in half and removes some of the bread insides to make a little pocket. The vegetables have cooked down a lot.

She adds ¼ cup red wine vinegar and 4 teaspoons of sugar. (Quick what is the sugar in tablespoons? It’s one tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon. Mls? It’s 20 mls.)

She stirs in a tablespoon of capers with some dried oregano. Giada adds halved slices of provolone cheese onto the (dry) bread and then the caponata goes on. She tops it with the other half of the bread and adds it to the panini maker. Is it is just me or was she kind of mingy with the cheese?

She cools the tart and cuts it up. Wait a sec! That was the whole tart? A crumb crust with chocolate ganache and honey inexplicably added is all she’s doing? Even I, who don’t generally like fruit with chocolate, think that a few raspberries could have jazzed it up or what about another layer of a coffee flavored or white chocolate ganache? It’s so simple that it seems unfinished.

And I don't want to enrage anyone, but what is it with people and that dumb honey bear? If you have school age kids, or you’re nursing a sore throat and are using it medicinally, then fine. But, really, Giada could do a lot better than THAT as her choice of honey. Honey IS expensive, and good honey is even MORE expensive, but generally you don’t use all that much and there is a huge difference in flavor…and finesse. Honey Bear honey and even Golden Blossom is super sweet, thick and richly colored.

Look at the difference between a store brand honey (obviously, someone in my house had a sore throat) and the next grade up – an acacia honey.

The acacia honeys are lighter in color AND flavor.

They've got a delicate, faintly floral taste and they stay liquid and don't thicken upon standing.

The acacia part of the name just means that it’s honey from a “false acacia” or black locust tree. I sort of think of it as the difference between Gulden’s mustard and Dijon. Maybe that IS a bit of an exaggeration, but good honey is definitely better. And great honey is amazing. (There are great dark, thick honeys like buckwheat, which is wonderful when spread on slices of toasted pumpernickel. It can really hold up to the bread's robust flavor.)

Back to Giada, who is starting her devilled eggs. She hard boils eggs, halves them and gets rid of the yolks. (She would.) She adds 2 tablespoons mascarpone, 1 tablespoon each of sour cream, mayonnaise and Dijon. She stirs it together with salt and pepper. Wow, that fridge is really gorgeous.

She chops chives. You could snip them too. She slices celery. I would have diced it and that’s what the recipe says to do. She adds lump crab meat - how could that not be good? - and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice to brighten the flavor. Couldn’t she have added the yolks? Would that have been too heavy with the crab? Ah well, you can use them HERE...with your honey bear honey, too.

Giada fills the egg halves and she packs everything up and they’re “off to The Botanical Gardens”. Gosh, how lucky to be friends with Giada.

They do seem more interested in the food than the music. Oh wait, the concert hasn’t started yet. Nobody else’s food looks as good. They all love the meal. Giada serves the (super-simple) chocolate honey tart. Rachael Worby conducts the Pasadena Pops under a moonlit night as we fade into the night sky.


Mary said...

I generally like Giada, but I keep meaning to watch a whole show and count how many times she says "kinda". It is kinda starting to drive me crazy!

Love your blog!

Sue said...

Hi Mary,
I have to keep an eye out for that.

Thank you! Come back any time.

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

Isn't Giada actually taping these shows at her real home instead of at some place FN rented? Oddly enough, the kitchen doesn't look all that different from what I've seen.

I bought some Italian honey a while back that's almost black it's so dark. It cost me a mint. Now I'm getting all confuzzed...

Sue said...

Hi Rach,
They certainly seem to want us to believe that that's her house, like when she serves dinner to Todd by the pool. If it is, she's one lucky (and very hard-working) television chef.

I didn't mean to suggest that high quality honey is only light colored. It's just that the honey bear and store brand varieties are all the same "honey colored" shade, while good ones can be a great deal lighter OR darker, like the buckwheat I mentioned. I wonder if your honey is Truffle Honey. Hmmmm...

Anonymous said...

It's a picnic, Sue.
Sometimes corn syrup or butter is added to ganache for shine/sheen. I think Giada subbed the honey for the corn syrup thereby already elevating the flavor that is lacking in the corn syrup. I would also guess that the flavor of the chocolate would overpower even the best of honeys anyway. better leave my honey bear alone....he's my friend when my tummy doesn't fell well, sniff.

Tom said...

Giada showed her real house in an architecture-type magazine not long ago, and the Giada at Home kitchen is definitely not her real kitchen, unless she remodeled after she shot all the show episodes. Both seem to have spectactular views, though.

A chef friend made us a lavender honey cheesecake as a thank you for borrowing one of our springform pans and it reminded me of just how good and unusual honey can taste. I don't blame Giada for using what you can get in the grocery store for her show (she presumably wants people to try her recipes), but she could have mentioned that there were other honeys available and encouraged people to try them. Just a thought.

Emily said...

Oooh, what a lovely post! I wish I could go to that concert.

I'm not sure if I understand the tart. I don't really put chocolate and honey together.

The information about honey was really interesting. I think I've only tasted darker honeys. A honey tasting sounds like fun!

Uh-oh... I say "kinda" a lot...

Sue said...

Hi Anon,
Yes, it was a picnic, but it looked more like a fancy outdoor garden party. At any rate, Giada was using the chocolate mixture as a filling, so I don’t think she was too concerned about the sheen. I just think you’re mad about my honey bear comments. I’m sure your honey woney bear is perfectly delightful, but that filling needs a lot more than a squirt of even the highest quality honey.

And, remember, I gave a honey bear dispensation for illness.

Wow, what great friends you have.

I think Giada should have used a better honey and then mentioned that you could substitute a cheaper one. Wait a sec, I don’t think she should have made that recipe at all. I think a Lavender Honey Cheesecake would have been a much better idea.

BTW, I have some great pie and cake pans, if you ever want to borrow one and bake me a little something…

Thank you, Em,
I knew I wasn't crazy...about the honey with the chocolate anyway.

I never noticed that Giada says kinda or you either...I, on the other hand, kinda DO say that a lot.

Tracy said...

I'm with you ... I don't generally like chocolate and fruit together. I'm glad I'm not the only one. Although I make a tart that is similar to Giada's, but with strawberries on top. Divine.

I haven't done much tasting of honeys. I generally put it in tea. I'll have to keep a look out for acacia honey.