During my nine years of living in Rome, I discovered that the best dishes were based on simple recipes that could be prepared with infinite variations. In her latest book, celebrity chef Giada de Laurentiis demonstrates this proposition, presenting us with what in Italy is called cucina casareccia--and in California, home cooking.
Among her most mouth-watering concoctions are the antipasti: prosciutto-wrapped dates stuffed with blended mascarpone and goat cheese; smoked salmon and apple carpaccio; and fried cheese-stuffed zucchini blossoms (I was particularly grateful for her suggestion for testing the heat of the oil: toss a cube of bread into the olive oil--medium heat; when the bread browns, the oil is ready.). Similarly, her salads--"easy to throw together"--are truly inviting: an example is her green-bean salad, seasoned with fresh rosemary, parsley, chopped garlic, drizzled with olive oil (Her advice on choosing the best olive oil is especially enlightening.). Her lentil salad--mixed with grapes and cucumbers, among other ingredients, including hazelnuts--tickles one's tastebuds. And her recipe for Involtini--rolled-up beefsteaks filled with a mixture of various ingredients including garlic and basil--recalled forgotten memories of my father's putting me to work as a child, chopping parsely, garlic, together with something he called "fatback," which I imagine was lard, but which has now been substituted by olive oil. The strings with which he used to tie the involtini together have also been replaced by easier-to-use 4-inch skewers. Merely reading the recipe causes me to remember the aroma of involtini simmering in marinara sauce.
The beauty of these recipes is that they invite one to be adventurous, as the author suggests in combining the best of Italy with the best of California. Are lobster tails too expensive when preparing her divine brown butter risotto? Substitute shrimp. Too much sugar for you in her imaginative strawberry and rosemary scones? Use half the amount! The amazing thing about Italian cooking is that, as the author remarks, it is always "evolving."
Although "Giada at Home" contains some shortcuts, such as her tempting lemon-chicken soup, which calls for "low-sodium chicken broth" and " diced rotisserie chicken" [My father would turn over in his grave if he caught me following her suggestion to break the spaghetti into two-inch pieces!], many of her recipes, such as those which call for slicing, dicing, beating, and grating, require one to spend considerable time in the kitchen.
If you have the patience and enjoy cooking, I am certain that the results will be worth the trouble.
on April 12, 2010
I have all her cookboks and this one, her latest (Giada at Home) is the best so far. If you're new to Giada and thinking about buying one of her cookboks, I would strongly recommend to start with this one. And of course, if you own her previous ones, I'm sure you will love this one as well.
I own tons of cookbooks, I simply have a passion for cookboks. But most of the time I don't cook more than one or two recipes from each book, they tend to spend most of their time on the shelf. Giada's books are the exception to that rule. Her books (and especially this one# are my to go to books. I love that most recipes in this book are easy,fast and uncomplicated everyday kind of meals/recipes, at the same time as they are so delicious, festive and special that they work more than well for special occasions and parties.
I've already tried several recipes from this book and been more than happy with the results. New favorites are the smoked mozzarella meatballs, pasta ponza, gorgonzola stuffed tomatoes and pea crostini. And there are many many more recipes in the book that I'm looking forward to try. Every Sunday, I plan the meals for the upcoming week #a real timesaver for our busy schedule). Every week I always have at least one Giada recipe on the menu, an old favorite or a new one. Like I said, she is the to go to girl when it comes to delicious everyday as well as weekend food.
Yes, there are some heavy and caloric recipes, but I always think that Giada tries to make her recipes a bit lighter. A splash of lemon here and there, small things like that really make her dishes feel lighter and perfect for my taste buds.
on February 28, 2010
When my younger sister first got me into The Food Network a few years ago, Giada's Everyday Italian become a quick favorite. From the very beginning, I felt like I had a connection with Giada. I was enamored by her tasty modern twists on Italian classics and simpler, more everyday approach to traditionally complex dishes -it also didn't hurt that I'm a big fan of Italian food and I my boyfriend has strong Italian heritage, so he's always happy to try out the recipes I get from Giada.
It didn't take long for my sister and I to introduce Giada to our parents, who also quickly become fans, and we started welcoming Giada into our kitchen regularly in the form of what we called "Giada dishes." Particularly after my sister and I gave my mother Everyday Pasta for Mother's Day last year, making Giada dishes become a big event that brought the family together. When I had the opportunity to check out Giada's latest cookbook, Giada at Home, I was more than excited and couldn't wait to see what tasty treats she had in store.
Giada at Home: Family Recipes from Italy and California builds on the already fabulous library of Giada recipes that put a twist on Italian dishes. This cookbook includes tasty appetizers like stuffed baby peppers (which can easily be turned into a main dish) and beef skewers; a great selection of soups and sandwiches such as white bean and chicken chili and mini Italian pub burgers (a great twist on silders); mouth-watering pastas such as rigatoni with creamy mushroom sauce and penne with treviso and goat cheese; meat selections, such as a succulent turkey meatloaf with feta and sun-dried tomatoes; lovely salads that could become meals on there own; some Italian twists on desserts and, in a unique addition, a selection of Italian-style brunch foods, such as baked provolone and sausage frittata, campanelle pasta salad and even an Italian version of steak and eggs! I particularly liked the blend of more traditional Italian dishes and more modern dishes with a Californian flair. The collision between classic and modern really gave the recipes here some dimension and variety.
Giada at Home follows the standard of gorgeous food photography set forth in previous Giada cookbooks. Along with photos of mouthwatering Italian treats, there are also several photos of Giada and her family, particularly her young daughter, Jade.
My only tiny criticism of this cookbook is that I felt like Giada lost a little bit of her "everyday" aspect here. Some of the recipes got a little too complex or called for ingredients that are a little more difficult to find and have a much stronger appeal to "foodies." While I personally still loved the recipes here, some would have trouble with wide-spread appeal.
Overall though, another fabulous cookbook from Giada!
My repertoire of Italian cooking is limited to spaghetti so in an effort to expand it, I got this book. I wasn't familiar with Giada previous to this and would describe myself as an advanced beginner.
My first impression was this book is for gourmet chefs, not everyday cooking, which is fine. I wanted more sophisticated dishes and that's what I got. Prep times and cooking times are not included (which is standard in gourmet cookbooks) but serving sizes are included. There are a good variety of recipes, some easy some more complicated. As other reviewers have noted, some of the ingredients used are not typical and require a special trip to the grocer's but I didn't have a problem with that. These recipes, at least for me, are to be used for special occasions so I would have to go to the store anyway.
There is one pet peeve of mine: The book is filled with gorgeous photos, but many of them are of Giada and her family, not the food! I don't know her, do I really need all these photos of her posing with her family? It's especially irksome because not all recipes get photos. I want to know what the food looks like, not these random strangers. It's especially infuriating when, on pg.119 for the chicken and shrimp with pancetta chimichurri recipe, there's a picture of an empty plate with crumbs on it as if someone has just eaten the meal. WHA??? Why do I want a picture of an empty plate??? Why can't I have the picture of what the finished meal would look like? Because of this, the book's emphasis seemed to be on Giada as a personality, not the food itself, which was a bit of a detractor.
Giada has always been good about striking a balance between interesting dishes that impress and with realistic kitchen skills of the average cook. Her dishes are easy enough for a beginner to pull off and interesting enough to impress friends and family. Everytime I buy one of Giadas cookbooks I end up cooking and trying something totally new that I have never tried before. I have yet to be unable to cook a dish correctly and I have always enjoyed her recipes.
Giada at home focuses on family and recipes she loves for family meals. It has great pictures of her with her family, and the dishes are photographed with wonderful detail.
The sections included, along with some top picks are:
Appetizers- Stuffed Baby Peppers, Beef Skewers with cherry tomatoes and parsley sauce, bruchettas and crostinis.
Soups and Sandwiches- Zucchini and Olive pizza, Chicken Burgers with Garlic-Rosemary Mayonnaise, Mini Italian Pub burgers and Lemon Chicken Soup with Spaghetti.
Pasta and Grains- Gorgonzola and Porcini Mushroom Risotto, Fusilli with Spicy Pesto, Cheesy Baked Faro and Brown Butter Risotto with Lobster.
Meat, Poultry and Fish- Honey Balsamic Lamb Chops, Grilled Salmon with Citrus Salsa Verde, Grilled Tuscan Steak with Fried Egg and Goat Cheese and Chicken Milanese with Tomato and Fennel Sauce.
Vegetables and Salads- Grilled Asparagus and Melon Salad, Vegetable Parmesan, Roasted Tomatoes with Garlic, Gorgonzola and Herbs, and Skewered Greek Salad.
Desserts- Espresso Caramel Bars, Lemon Hazelnut Tiramisu, Pomegranate and Mint Sorbet and Chocolate Honey Almond Tart.
Brunch- Ginger Tea Lemonade with Basil, Citrus Salad, Egg White Frittata with Lox and Arugula, and Crispy Parmesan Biscuits.
Those are just a few of the recipes featured in each section.
This is an excellent recipe book that you will find yourself pulling out on a weekly basis.
on February 27, 2010
Giada's show is the only cooking show I watch on a regular basis, because the pleasure she takes in the preparation and eating of a great meal is infectious, but never overboard. The recipes in this book offer the same fresh, almost joyful attitude towards food.
I have only tried three of the recipes--for one thing, they are seasonal and locally oriented, so I can't get any zuchinni blossoms or seasonal squash in February. But the white bean and chicken chili was a delightful winter meal (I made it with ground turkey). The rigatoni with creamy mushroom sauce was also delicious...and a great vegetarian option, as she pointed out in her notes. But the best of all was the pasta ponza. I love the concentrated flavor of roasted tomatoes, and with the addition of bread crumbs, this was a real treat.
I have many more recipes to try, and look forward to it.
on March 10, 2010
Giada at Home / 978-0-30745-101-9
Part cookbook, but with biographical elements that provide interesting insight and reading into the featured chef's adjustment from Italian cuisine to American cuisine, and her fusion attempts with both, this book is an interesting read with several mouth-watering recipes. Many of the recipes feature full-page finished photos, and most of the Italian cuisine dialect is carefully explained to the reader (finally, I now know the difference between prosciutto and pancetta).
It's worth remembering, when considering the purchase of this book, that the recipes here may be challenging for some American palates. Although Giada has tastefully combined American cuisine with her Italian childhood memories, the Italian flavors shine through heavily. Many of the recipes call for ingredients that may not be found outside of the nearest specialty market, almost none of the recipes utilize beef (and even the chicken and pork recipes are fairly sparing on the meat content), and there is a noticeable reliance on salty flavors in the meat and cheese dishes.
Of course, none of this makes the cookbook less worthy of purchase, but like all specialty cookbooks, I would recommend flipping through a few recipes before purchase. Having said that, this is a very nice specialty cookbook - the flavor and variety are appreciated, the writing style is quite engaging, the pictures are beautiful, and the assembly instructions are adequate (although I would prefer pictorial assembly instructions where applicable, but I suppose that's a bit much to ask from a specialty book).
NOTE: This review is based on a free Advance Review Copy of this book provided through Amazon Vine.
~ Ana Mardoll
on June 2, 2011
I made 4 recipes out of this cookbook in 1 week for different people (friends, family, etc) and ALL FOUR recipes were a complete HIT! I got so many compliments on the food it was crazy. SO good. I recommend this book OVER AND OVER! LOVE IT!
I really enjoyed this cookbook and it's gotten a spot on my 'referred to' cookbook shelf. I tried a couple of dishes and they turned out great. While some use more exotic ingredients, most don't and you could whip them up without a lot of trouble.
Also, I'm a 'mostly vegetarian' and I found myself dog-earing a ton of recipes that look good and will please both me and my meat-eater husband.
The little stories from Giada actually are informative (often I feel the author is just indulging themself with these little bits) and interesting. Though I saw a pre-pub edition so the pics were all kinda blurry and in black and white, it looks like there WILL be a photo included for almost (or possibly all) every recipe.
For the most part, Giada at Home presents an interesting assortment of Italian dishes- broken out to appetizers; soups and sandwiches; meat, poultry and fish; vegetables and salads; desserts; and brunch. Appetizers range from the more "normal" Italian fare of bruschetta (here it's roasted eggplant and white bean) to crostinis/tartlets (artichoke and bean, pea pesto, tomato basil). There's not really anything that exciting or intriguing to me in that section. The White Bean Chicken Chili found in the soups and salad section is a tasty recipe. It would have been nice if the Cheddar Scallion bread recipe from that episode was featured as well (it is an extremely tasty compliment to any soup or chili!). The Lemon Chicken Soup with Spaghetti was a fresh take on the traditional chicken noodle soup. For winter these two are good to have in your meal rotation! Another standout in this section is Chicken Burgers with Garlic-Rosemary Mayonnaise. I had never cooked with ground chicken before and I was very pleasantly surprised. They were so moist and tasty! I'm not that big of a fan of Rosemary so on second try I used Poultry seasoning instead so it was more of a herby garlic mayonnaise. There is also a recipe for Zucchini and Olive pizza that sounds delish- have not gotten to try it yet but once the summer season is upon us with the plethora of fresh veggies, it would be a nice change. The Roasted Halibut recipe offered a light way of cooking white fish without having to resort to pan frying (the only other way I know to get moist, yummy white fish). Fans of garlic will enjoy the nice flavor here (not too much to be overpowering or kill your breath the next morning, but just enough). Another hit was the Olive and Sun Dried Tomato Vegetables. This recipe gives you a sure-fire way to get picky eaters to eat a good serving of veggies. My dad and brother who are not fans of zucchini at all gobbled this up. I am not a fan of Kalamata olives, I found them to be too salty for this recipe. On second try, using black olives and no pimento green olives made the balance of sweet and salty much better. It is a nice dish to present- very colorful. It would be a great alternative for summer picnics or barbeques for a veggie dish- it tastes just as good cold as hot.
Overall there are definitely some winner recipes here. For my tastes some of the combinations or ingredients are a bit too weird for me but there are some that you just have to try to see. Giada is a chef to be trusted. I don't think you'll find a dud among the bunch, just might need to tweak some of the ingredients to make the flavor to your tastes (subsitute or use less of certain seasonings, or not include an ingredient). For example, the recipe for Gorgonzola and Porcini Mushroom Risotto sounds tasty to me except for the gorgonzola, and I'm sure that it will be just as tasty without it. The recipes are user-friendly enough that even beginner cooks won't feel overwhelmed or confused.
If you're a fan of Giada, this cookbook is a must. If you're looking to experiment with some Italian dishes without going to the extremes (in terms of difficulty and complicated recipes) of Mario Batali or some Emeril, this is a good pick for you. There is a good variety of dishes for you to select from. If you're not sure, it's definitely worth checking out of the library if nothing else.