Cooking Giada de Laurentiis’s Naked Spring Rolls

While my attempts to make Giada de Laurentiis’ Thai Curry might not have netted the best results, I will say that I had much more success her recipe for Naked Spring Rolls which were both part of the same Thai-themed episode of her Food Network show. It also happened to be a super simple and delicious recipe to put together.

The sauce in the recipe was really easy to put together and doesn’t need much in the way of commentary. I will say that it was tangy and delicious thanks to the combination of lime juice and fish sauce. To augment the dish, though, I also decided to make some sriracha mayonnaise. For this I just squeezed about two teaspoons of the hot sauce into the remaining homemade mayo I had in the fridge after making Banging’ BLTs and Lemony Tarragon Chicken Salad which was about a 1/4 of a cup. The only change I made in the recipe was swapping out agave (which I didn’t have on hand) for honey.

With the condiments created, I got to work on the actual spring rolls. As with every other kind of meat, I started out with whole, partially frozen pieces, cut them up and ran them through the meat grinder. Since I was already getting the grinder out, I figured I’d try running the carrot and shallot through there too. It worked pretty well, but there was an intense, tear-jerking blast as the shallot went through. All that went into one big bowl with the other ingredients which got wrapped in plastic and sat for the required 20 minutes.

After that point, I looked at the mixture and realized it was not going to stay together in the oven. So, I grabbed the two ends from our latest loaf of wheat bread, rubbed chunks between my hands to create tiny crumbs and mixed it all together with my hands. I got 15 of the spring rolls out of this and put the foil-wrapped pan under the broiler.

I served these with lettuce leaves, though they’re not super necessary. I dug how this meal came together, but my wife loved it, saying it was one of her top five favorite things I’ve cooked. I’m not sure if I’d go that far, but I am a big fan of this dish. It worked really well for us as it was, but could also make for a great party food (if made smaller) or a delicious sandwich. In fact, my only complaint was that the thinner sauce didn’t stick to anything which bummed me out because it was so delicious. If this was a sandwich, though, you could pour that sauce right into the bread to infuse that flavor! Dang, that idea’s so good it makes me want to start a food truck (not that it would take that much cajoling to do that anyway).

Cooking Giada De Laurentiis’ Thai Curry

Food Network has really changed over the years. It used to be packed with people making interesting foods and teaching us how. Now, even though they act like that’s still the main focus on shows like Next Food Network Star (which should probably be retitled The Next Food Network Game Show Host), you’ve got to search around more to see cooks telling you how to cook interesting and amazing food. While flipping around a few weekends back, we happened to stumble upon one of those wonderful times. That’s where I got the recipe for Giada De Laurentiis’s Thai Curry and figured I’d give it a shot.

I do want to say a few things right off the bat. I had trouble finding yellow curry paste at my grocery store. I bought curry sauce and just kind of eyed it. I couldn’t find a simple conversion chart for curry paste to curry sauce, so I basically poured in a little under 1/4 of a cup after giving it a taste. I think that’s the key to making sure you’ve got the right.

I will also note that shrimp can be a bit expensive. I dropped about $12 on deveined, deshelled ones, just to give you an idea of what you’re dealing with. It’s not a bank-breaker, but definitely something to take into account when planning out your meals.

I also completely dropped the chili, swapped out unfindable Thai lime leaves for actual lime juice and throwing the limes in (I realize I should have zested them) and skipped the step where you fry the noodles in canola oil which not only made this dish a bit healthier and cooled down the kitchen on a hot day but also took out a fairly involved step. Aside from those alterations, though, I followed the recipe as written.

Especially without the fried noodle portion, this is a super easy soup to put together. Open a few cans, pour a few things in a pot or Dutch oven and get those veggies in once it’s simmering. Let it sit for 30 minutes, then throw in the noodles and shrimp and let cook. That’s pretty simple.

And the results were pretty good, but I think some of my changes weren’t for the best. The dish lacked heat, which is a key element in Thai cooking. This wound up being good for my kid, because she’s not a fan of the hotness, but made the dish a bit bland. It also could have used more salt. Whenever I’m eating Asian food, I tend to skip the regular salt and go with soy sauce because it feels more in line with the flavors. Adding that to my bowl and then the larger dish when I put it away in the fridge definitely helped.

This is the first time I’ve ever cooked shrimp in what I consider my modern cooking timeframe. My mom taught me how to devein and shell them a long, long time ago, but I decided to cut that step out and just go with ones that had already been cleaned. Towards the end of the cooking process I realized I didn’t know what cooked shrimp was supposed to look like, so I brought one out to my wife, showed it to her and got the thumbs up. They turned out nice, plump and flavorful. I don’t generally cook shellfish, but this positive experience definitely gave me more confidence to do so in the future.

Cooking Giada De Laurentiis’ Tomato Vegetable Casserole

In addition to mixing up our protein intake when coming up with a weekly menu, I like to usually throw in a vegetarian meal. I came across Giada De Laurentiis’s Tomato Vegetable Casserole and liked it because it’s pretty simple but also involves one of my favorite aspects of cooking: prep. Since this recipe includes potato, yam, tomato, bell pepper, carrots, onion and zucchini, I got to spend a good deal of time with my knife and cutting board chopping veggies up into slices and tiny cubes.

Once you’ve got that done, you’re basically done making dinner. All you need to do then is arrange the veggies in the order suggested — like a lasagna — cover with bread crumbs (I had panko on hand) and pop into a 400 degree oven for 40 minutes. When your cook time is done you’re left with a sweet and somewhat tangy vegetable dish that balances the candylike yams with the  tomatoes. You could probably really mix things up when it comes to the actual vegetables included in this dish and I can only imagine how much better it would taste with super fresh ingredients all around. I’m looking forward to the farmer’s market kicking back up so I can try this with yams, carrots and potatoes fresh from the ground and maybe some heirloom tomatoes. Just thinking about that is making my mouth water.

Cooking Giada De Laurentiis’ Parmesan-Crusted Pork Chops

I’m not really sure why, but pork is second only to fish when it comes to proteins I have the least experience with. I try to keep my weekly menus well balanced, going with one beef dish, one vegetarian and not too much chicken, so I’m always looking for new ways to cook pig, which usually leads me to pork chop recipes. I can’t say exactly why, but that isn’t always the most thrilling prospect to me. However, when I came across Giada de Laurentiis’ recipe for Giada De Laurentiis’ Parmesan-Crusted Pork Chops, I was pretty excited. Not only have I had really great luck with Laurentiis’ recipes lately, but I think it’s also hard to go wrong with parmesan-encrusted anything. It also helps that this is a really easy recipe to put together, especially if you already have bread crumbs on hand like I did.

Instead of the cup of Italian breadcrumbs mentioned in the recipe, I actually used the last of the rye ones I had leftover from making Ruben Mac & Cheese a while back. From there, it was just a matter of whipping a few eggs, grating 3/4 of a cup or so of Parmesan cheese and getting the pork chops out of the fridge. As these things tend to go, you dip the chop in the eggs, then the cheese and finally the bread crumbs before putting them in a pan with hot olive oil. Cook, flip, let cool and eat. I also steamed some green beans to go along with this dish.

I’ve got to say, I was really impressed with how good and flavorful these chops were. The parmesan really worked well with the rye breadcrumbs and made for a really simple dish that I can mostly make from items in my pantry. For all those reasons, this recipe gets the double thumbs-up.

Cooking Giada De Laurentiis’ White Bean & Chicken Chili

I’ve made a lot of different kinds of chili and even though I really enjoyed Pat Neelys the first time I made it, there’s always more variations to try out there in the world. While looking through many a Giada De Laurentiis recipe on Food Network’s website (many of which I wrote about last week), I came across her White Bean & Chicken Chili which is so different from what I’ve tried in the past, I just had to give it a shot. In fact, I’ve actually cooked this dish twice since stumbling across it and it’s been a hit both times.

As will be the case for the foreseeable future, I started this recipe by freezing the meat for about an hour, then trimming and cubing it and running the pieces through my meat grinder. I still haven’t looked at the numbers to see if this is cheaper than buying store-ground meat, but it makes me feel better knowing that I did it myself. Plus, my grocery store tends to run pretty good sales on chicken breasts that I take advantage of whenever it makes sense.

From there, this recipe is pretty simple. You cut up some onion and garlic, gather a small pile of spices, drain and rinse off your beans and prepare the Swiss chard. I went with white both times I made it, though I don’t see why red wouldn’t work just as well.

The results after 50 or so minutes of simmering is a dish that tastes both new and familiar. The ground chicken and chard bring their unique flavors into the mix while the corn and spice combination reminds you of the chilies you’ve had and loved in the past. I’d actually be interested in experimenting with ways that make this even more Italian-tasting. Maybe mix up some of the spices and herbs and incorporate some tomatoes. Could be fun to play with.

Cooking Giada De Laurentiis’ Fusilli With Sausage, Artichokes & Sun-Dried Tomatoes

After seeing Giada De Laurentiis’ Chicken Saltimbocca, I decided to stick with a theme and look around at some of her other recipes on Food Network. I also came upon a nice sounding pasta called Fusilli With Sausage, Artichokes & Sun-Dried Tomatoes that I tried and knocked out of the park. The only change I made to the ingredient list, aside from a few measurements that didn’t quite match up, was switching the sausage from hot Italian to sweet Italian, one that better suited our tastes.

As you can see, the recipe is actually pretty simple, just tossing the ingredients into the pot at different times and letting them do their thing. I always try to consolidate the number of plates or dishes on my counter while cooking, which meant I combined the sun dried tomatoes, chicken broth and wine in one measuring cup. I’d like to think that, in addition to being more efficient, this also makes the flavors more intense and mingled, but I have no idea.

By adding the mozzarella at the very end you go from a really great sausage and artichoke pasta dish to one that almost has a mac and cheese feel to it. Everything’s so warm and gooey and sweet and and tangy that it really is a party in your mouth, one I hope to have again soon.

Cooking Giada De Laurentiis’s Chicken Saltimbocca

My two favorite words when writing about food are “simple” and “delicious.” Don’t get me wrong, I love spending a good part of a day crafting a dish, but that’s so rarely feasible. I would easily label Giada De Laurentiis’ Chicken Saltimbocca with both, plus lots of smiley faces and thumbs up.

I’d never heard of Chicken Saltimbocca before and just stumbled across it while looking around on Food Network’s website a while back. I was sold, though, when I saw that it was basically a chicken, spinach, prosciutto and Parmesan cheese roll up. And the recipe is really that simple. You flatten out some chicken breasts, then add a piece of prosciutto, then some spinach, a sprinkle of cheese and then roll it up and run through with a tooth pick. Once you’ve got all your roll-ups prepared, you cooking them in some olive oil until all sides are browned. At that point you don’t take the pinwheels out, instead you add chicken stock and lemon juice and simmer for 1o minutes which really gets that lemony goodness into the dish.

When the chicken is finally done, you cook the remaining stock down into a sauce and serve over the chicken. I also threw some asparagus in the stove with a little olive oil, salt and lemon pepper and cooked for about 10 minutes which offered a simple side that carried over some of the citrus elements.

I still seem to struggle every week when attempting to put together a meal, but I think this meal will start appearing more regularly because it’s just so damn delicious. And simple.

A Few Forgotten Recipes: Giada’s Orzo Stuffed Peppers & Jeff Mauro’s Meatloaf Sandwhiches

giada's orzo stuffed peppersOne of the problems I have with this blog is that, even when circumstances come up that delay me from posting, I’m usually still cooking. That means, when I do get the chance to sit down and write about what I’ve cooked, I’m often left with several pictures of food that looks good that I vaguely remember making and don’t really remember eating. But, I hate just deleting all these pictures and hope that some day I might have a spontaneous memory that pops up. By posting about these forgotten meals here, I hope to give my future self a record of what I cooked.

Anyway, above you can see the finished product of my attempt at making Giada De Laurentiis’ Orzo Stuffed Peppers. I want to say that we enjoyed this meal and from looking at the recipe, it doesn’t look too difficult to put together. I like that she mixed it up with this one and included mint and orzo, which I’ve also used when making food in my wok instead of rice. This isn’t the first of De Laurentiis’ stuffed pepper recipes I’ve tried, I’m a big fan of her Couscous-Stuffed Peppers With Basil Sauce, which I’ve made a few times now. jeff mauro's meatball sandwichesHere you can see my attempt at making Jeff Mauro’s All-American Down-Home Patriotic Meatloaf Sandwich which, again, I want to say turned out well. You basically make a meatloaf and a sauce and combine the two on bread with cheese and pickles (I went with dills because bread & butter pickles gross me out). I also tossed on some mayo because it’s not really a sammich without mayo.

I want to reiterate that I haven’t forgotten about these dishes because they were bad, I would have definitely remembered something bad, it’s just that my memory — especially my taste memory — fades more the longer away I get from something unless it was mind-blowingly amazing.

Pizza Party: Giada’s Carmelized Onion, Sausage & Basil Pizza

I had such bad results last time I made pizza that I not only didn’t bother posting about it, but also haven’t attempted to make any since then. That was a few months back. I was feeling adventurous a few weeks back, though, and decided to give Giada De Laurentiis’ recipe for Carmelized Onion, Sausage and Basil Pizza a try. I think one of the problems I had when I made pizza on my own is that I put too much stuff on the dough as it cooked. The somewhat wet ingredients got the dough moist and it didn’t cook all the way through, plus there were some structural integrity issues.

The beauty of this recipe is that it doesn’t have a lot of ingredients AND it’s easy to put together. You do need a little time, though, because you’ve got to carmelize the onions. After that, though, it’s just cooking the Italian sausage (I went with sweet instead of hot) with the onions and that part’s done. Since I bought dough instead of making it, I just had to roll that out into the desired shape, load up the pie with the meat/onion mixture and the blue cheese and pop into the oven on top of the pizza stone. That cooked for about 16 minutes and we had dinner after throwing basil on top.

In addition to the ease of cooking, I also really liked the taste of this pizza. I really like cooked sweet sausage and it mixed super well with the sharpness of the blue cheese. The basil hung around offering little fresh bursts of goodness that really rounded everything out. Next time I make pizza, I’m going to do the dough as well, either following Giada’s recipe or the one that’s in Michael Ruhlman’s book Ratio. Should be fun!

Cooking Giada De Laurentiis’ Italian Baked Chicken & Pastina

This recipe for Giada De Laurentiis’ Italian Baked Chicken & Pastina will go down in history as the one that broke our oven. That’s entirely true, actually, it’s not true at all. It just happens to be the last thing I baked in the oven before it mysteriously went kaput a few weeks back. But, even if it were the reason, it’d probably be worth it to some extent because this was a great and simple recipe that could be easily thrown together most nights and doesn’t take a lot of effort.

As you can see by clicking through to the recipe, you really only need to cut up some chicken, a few vegetables, saute them in some olive oil, make pasta, mix everything in a bowl and throw the dish in the oven for a half hour. Bingo bango, you’ve got dinner. And it’s a good one too, including cooked pasta, chicken, mozzarella and tomatoes. I will definitely make this again, once I get that damn oven fixed.