Giada

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I am not ashamed to admit that one of the initial reasons I was drawn to watching Giada de Laurentiis on the Food Network was because of her stunning good looks. However, I began to learn a lot of things by watching her shows (Everyday Italian, Giada at Home, Giada’s Weekend Getaway). Her appearances on “Next Food Network Star” totally made me want to try out for the show just for the opportunity to be mentored by her. A few things I have picked up from watching her shows: 1) How to make garlic bread from raw garlic cloves and butter, 2) NEVER break spaghetti noodles when boiling them–it’s an Italian cooking SIN, 3) Pasta water is great for thickening sauces and 4) Parmigiano Reggiano should always be in your fridge. I have also purchased kitchen items because I saw her using them: lockable tongs, flat & wide wooden spatula and an olive oil dispenser.

Many may criticize that the network is taking advantage of her looks and that she hardly knows anything about cooking (poo poo on them!). Well, she has consistently been one of the most popular chefs on the Food Network since not long after she first debuted and I seriously doubt she would have lasted this long if she didn’t know how to cook. Does she need to go around bragging that she graduated from the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu culinary school in Paris? How about the fact that she worked at the critically-acclaimed Spago restaurant in Beverly Hills owned by Wolfgang Puck? The answers are no and NO. Her resume speaks for itself. I love her because she has made dressed-up Italian cooking very approachable, simple and fun. I was positively bummed when I found out she wasn’t showing up at a taping of “Next Food Network Star” that my wife and I attended recently. Just my luck. Anyway, following are a bunch of behind-the-scenes clips and outtakes from “Giada at Home” that also show how much of a goofball she can be which, I also happen to love about her.

http://www.foodnetwork.com/videos/giada-behind-the-scenes/40581.html

This month’s Farm Fresh to You delivery: what should I cook with these?

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Grilled cheesy-ness w/cheddar havarti swiss pepperoni & spicy tomato sauce

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No meat

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Spinach ricotta ravioli w/marinara & garlic bread

It’s Friday (♫♪♬ Friday, Friday, gettin’ down on Friday…♫♪♬) during Lent which means no meat today. Thankfully we had ingredients to make a meatless meal. I prepared spinach ricotta ravioli with a spiced up marinara & garlic bread. The meal was actually pretty good and I really didn’t miss the meat. Ya know, I guess I should try meatless meals more often. I’m just so used to eating meat since I was brought up eating it and it’s so prevalent in American cuisine…oh yeah, it’s so darned tasty too! I think I’ll try to explore the meatless option a little bit more both eating out and cooking at home. Let’s see how this goes.

The ravioli dish I prepared today reminded me a little of when my mom made spaghetti for the family growing up. I recall taking forkfuls of it and placing it on top of garlic bread, then taking a bite. I’m not sure why it was so good that way, it just was. So tried that today with ravioli…..still delicious! It gave me an idea for an appetizer which I may try some time.

What have you eaten or are you eating today?

Umami?

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I don’t want to turn this entry into a forum for anything else other than food-related topics but I feel compelled to mention the devastation that recently occurred in Japan. Having unexpectedly lost a brother 4 years ago, it’s not difficult for me to understand how one’s life can be turned upside down within a matter of minutes. However, the manner in which thousands of lives were lost 2 days ago in Japan is heart-breaking to say the least. My sincerest thoughts and prayers go out to all of those affected, worldwide.

It’s by pure coincidence that I wanted my next blog entry to be about a Japanese word I heard for the first time only within the past year: umami. A savory flavor brought about by glutamic acid (glutamate) and other ingredients, umami is naturally found in foods such as tuna, shellfish, beef, pork, chicken, tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, parmesan cheese and soy sauce. Umami, or the “fifth taste” (sweet, salty, sour & bitter) was actually discovered in 1908 by Dr. Kikunae Ikeda at Tokyo Imperial University. Fast-forward to today, you can experience umami at any one of 5 L.A. restaurants aptly named Umami Burger. I have yet to try it myself but, as a self-proclaimed foodie, it is most certainly at the top of my current list of places to go. Meet me there? http://www.umamiburger.com

Who dat??!

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Ahhh Mardi Gras. That famously unofficial holiday that conjures up visions of 10 cent beaded necklaces being tossed in the air, Cajun & Creole food, endless glasses of Pat’s Hurricanes, street musicians on every corner and well, “generous” women unashamed to reveal their womanhood to strangers. Umm, yeah. Did you know Mardi Gras (“Fat Tuesday” in French) actually comes from Catholicism? The Wednesday following Mardi Gras is “Ash Wednesday” which is the beginning of Lent. Basically, Lent is a roughly 40-day period in late-winter/early spring where Catholics worldwide begin a period of fasting in preparation of the commemoration of Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection culminating on Easter. The fasting can be in the form of giving up certain foods like chocolate, soda or meat. One might give up watching TV, using Facebook or texting. Also, one can choose to take on things like praying more, exercising, going to church more or cooking more instead of eating out. Anyway, Fat Tuesday is a day for “fattening” up before Lent. I get the sense that many people don’t know what the origins of Mardi Gras are.

Having been to New Orleans, I almost feel obligated every year to eat something Cajun, Creole or native to New Orleans on Mardi Gras. My wife and I have already been to Stevie’s Creole Cafe in Encino (a little pricey) so, I found a food truck that happened to be close by (called “Slap Yo Mama” truck…not joking!) serving a couple N’awlins favorites: po’ boy sandwiches and gumbo. We ordered Cajun shrimp & catfish po’ boys, a bowl of gumbo (with crawfish, crab legs, shrimp & chicken) with mac & cheese and cornbread. Oh. Yes. The gumbo & catfish po’ boy were especially tasty. Hit the spot. Time to start saving up for our next trip to The Big Easy!!

Cajun shrimp po' boy from Slap Yo Mama truck

Catfish po' boy from Slap Yo Mama truck

Seafood & chicken gumbo from Slap Yo Mama truck

 

 

Dinner

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Orange chicken over steamed rice

I will admit this is a dish made from mostly frozen ingredients but sometimes, that’s just what you have to do. It looks darned good though don’t it? Made from a bag of frozen, battered chicken pieces with orange sauce packets and also a handful of frozen Asian veggies. It’s topped with sesame seeds and fresh green onions, served over steamed rice. I quick-sauteed the veggies in a drop of sesame oil to toast them up for more flavor and set them aside before warming up the orange sauce. Panda Express, eat your heart out! 🙂

FYI, I prepared the chicken according to instructions which was to bake the chicken and then toss it in warmed-up sauce.

 

Bored

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Ever cook something just because you were bored? Well, on this warm & sunny Friday afternoon in L.A., I decided to cook up some fried rice. I happened to have a few cups of leftover steamed rice in the fridge (which is what is recommended to use because it has less moisture than the fresh stuff). I also had about 1/4 of a ribeye steak I had for dinner the other night. So I chopped up some onions, garlic and baby portobello mushrooms, tossed them in an iron skillet with olive oil, salt & pepper and sauteed for a few minutes. Then I added about a cup & a half of frozen veggies (bell pepper, snap peas & new potatoes). Sauteed that a few minutes more, then added the steak which I had chopped up. Next, I fluffed up the rice with my hands to separate the grains, then added it to the skillet. Tossed it all around with some rice wine vinegar, a drop of sesame oil and some Toyomansi which is a combination of soy sauce, calamansi and chili pepper flavoring. Calamansi is a small, almost sour Asian lime found often in Filipino cuisine. I turned up the heat and tossed it around another few minutes, tasted it, added a little low sodium soy sauce and fresh ground pepper with a dash of sea salt. Mmm mmm goooooood!

Steak fried rice

4 March, 2011 15:47

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The fresher, the better

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Some of you know about this from previous Facebook posts but, for those not familiar, pictured is a box of fresh fruit & vegetables delivered to our doorstep this morning from a company called “Farm Fresh to You” (www.farmfreshtoyou.com). They’re based in northern/central California, though they deliver all over southern Cali as well. We’ve gotten their deliveries for about 5-6 months and couldn’t be happier! We love being challenged to make dishes every month that we might not normally make. We chose to get 1 small box monthly ($25), though you have plenty of options as far as box size, frequency of delivery as well as content of the box. You can suspend or cancel at any time.  They regularly include recipes in the boxes that you can prepare with what you receive.

For lunch today, I had another tuna salad sandwich (see previous post) but this time I was able to have it with fresh lettuce. Delicious!

If you’re interested, please go to the website and sign up with the promo code “6164” and you’ll get $5 off your first delivery. As a bonus, we get a free regular size box on our next delivery.

Pictured, not in order: Murcott oranges from Riverside, navel oranges & bacon avocados from the valley, blood oranges from Oceanside, Kent mangoes from Peru, Garnet yams from Edison, CA, lettuce from Oxnard, cauliflower from Bakersfield and yellow onions from Washington.

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