Monday, May 24, 2010

Catching Up and Slowing Down…

This week I tried to squeeze in as much Giada as possible. I watched Giada at Home on DVD, I On-Demanded Giada in Paradise and I made four Everyday Italian recipes! The GDL overdose has to do with the fact that on Friday I am flying down to Florida to see my whole family including my brother’s second baby (if he’s on time!). This mini-vacation is long overdue and I’m so so excited.

So the four recipes included Milanese Sandwich, Roasted Asparagus wrapped in Prosciutto, Brown Butter Sauce with Ravioli and Affogato. The Roasted Asparagus was boring. I’m sure it would be fabulously elegant at a dinner party but using left over prosciutto from the Prosciutto Purses and forcing Jared to eat even more Prosciutto when he’s not a huge fan, it just felt blah.

On the other hand, the Milanese Sandwich was fun and casual. Even though it wasn’t perfectly true to the recipe (I eighty-sixed the pork) it was delicious. I used an asiago cheese baguette toasted with mashed up avocado, tomato, arugula, balsamic vinegar and salt and pepper. The perfect quick weeknight meal.
Then last night I went all out for the LOST series finale. Brown Butter Sauce was extremely decadent. Butter, basil leaves, salt, pepper, nutmeg and Parmesan goes over a stuffed pasta like the mushroom ravioli I used. So rich and creamy and delicious. For dessert I made espresso for the first time which was super cool and I got a kick out of Jared holding those mini cups. After espresso we had Affogato which Giada describes as an Italian hot fudge sundae. Gelato with espresso poured on top and homemade whipped cream. YUM! Big yum! I’m a fan.

So now I’m off to Florida for some rest, relaxation and fun in the sun with the fam. Kinda like Giada in Paradise. Arrivederci! 

Monday, May 17, 2010

Simply Serene Sunday...

Yesterday I had a quality Julie Day. Nowhere to be, nothing to do, absolutely blissful! I got to clean my apartment (which is not a chore for me but greatly enjoyable for this neat freak), I went to the gym, I lazily flipped through magazines by the pool and then after a long bath Jared came over and I made a big pasta salad with GDL's Prosciutto Purses for dinner and a cool melon ball salad with honeydew, cantaloupe and watermelon for dessert.

Now obviously I didn't taste the prosciutto purses but they looked adorable and Jared seemed very impressed. It may sound like an odd combo but all this dish contains is melon balls (honeydew and cantaloupe) wrapped around a thin piece of prosciutto. It took minutes to make and when arranged on a platter with little toothpicks sticking out, they looked delightful. Plus, on a hot day I never had to stand over a hot stove!

OK, now after a completely relaxing Sunday, Monday has jolted me back to reality and my three postings aka just three recipes in May thus far has sent me into Julie Giada Project panic mode! I know I will make my deadline! This just happened to be another busy month. I really hope to knock some meaty recipes out over the summer but I am getting nervous.

Hopefully my loyal readers can keep me motivated. But after five months of this I can't help but wonder, is anyone out there? Anyone besides my relatives?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Lazy Mushroom Monday...

Last night I made GDL's Mushroom Pesto Crostini. When I ran down the ingredient list, everything was a staple in my kitchen so I just needed to run out for the mushrooms. The recipe calls for 8 ounces of white button mushrooms and just one ounce of porcini mushrooms.

At Whole Foods on Saturday, I grabbed my typical button mushrooms and scanned the shelves for whatever the heck porcini mushrooms are. Bingo! Leave it to Whole Foods to carry thirty varieties of mushrooms. Just one problem- they're $19.99 a pack and I only needed one ounce and even if I could separate the pack, no way in hell I'm paying 2 dollars for one friggin’ mushroom that probably doesn't taste all that different from all the other mushrooms anyway! Sorry Giada but maybe when I have four cookbooks and three TV shows and a line of Target products, then I'll start including these crazy expensive vegetables that still smell like dirt no matter what price tag is on them. So I eighty-sixed the porcini and went with my perfectly priced white button mushrooms.

I was feeling extraordinarily lazy last night, so I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the whole operation took no time at all. The mushrooms soften in hot water for 15 minutes and then get thrown into the food processor along with fresh parsley, garlic and toasted walnuts. OK I didn't toast them, I was tired... enough with the third degree!

Anyways, the mixture gets pulsed with a little olive oil and then poured into a bowl with Parmesan cheese. During this process the perfect little pieces of baguette got toasted in the oven until crispy and golden brown. A dollop of mushroom pesto on each slice and I was done! The mushroom mixture appears slightly dog-food-esque if it wasn't for the beautiful bright green parsley flakes and the shards of white Parmesan. And on the crostini it looked like a gourmet appetizer. I was quite pleased with myself.

Most importantly, it was delicious. The earthy mushrooms with the creamy parm, the fresh zing of parsley and the crunch of the baguette was a heavenly little bite. And my lazy self was able to crash on the couch for the remainder of the evening. Perfecto!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Summer Nights...

It's been hot here the last couple nights. In New England, May hits and everyone gets spring fever- puts on the sun dresses and short sleeves and then gets sick because it's still friggin' cold. But in Virginia, May started out ninety degrees and humid. I'm talking surface of the sun, sitting in a sauna, breathing through a straw, wrapped in a Snuggie- HOT!

You get my point.

So last night as the humidity dropped and the cooler breezes drifted in bringing more seasonal seventy degree days for the rest of the week, I decided to make a fresh, cool, summertime GDL dinner- Caprese Salad on a thin whole wheat crust and for dessert Grilled Pineapples with Nutella and Chopped Hazelnuts. And BONUS! For beverages I served cool sparkling water with lemon and fresh mint (thank you AeroGarden) mine with a splash of Vodka.

Caprese Salad is always delicious but I bulked up the meal by adding a whole wheat crust. Giada made this sort of Caprese Tart on an episode of Giada at Home. The crust bakes in the oven for just 15 minutes. If you prick it with a fork first the dough won't rise and bubble, it will stay nice and thin and crisp. Then I layered alternating big beefsteak tomato slices and fresh mozzarella slices on top, cut some basil (again, thank you AeroGarden) strips on top and drizzled with a mixture of lemon juice, salt and pepper and extra virgin olive oil. The presentation was gorgeous and so Italiano! And most importantly, it tasted so so good.

Next up was GDL's grilled pineapple with creamy Nutella drizzled on top. My kitchen was transported to Hawaii as I chopped up a whole pineapple into perfect little rings and Kate and Sawyer ran past the palm tree jungle on LOST. As the rings sizzled on my grill pan (only three minutes on each side for beautiful golden grill marks!) I whipped together Nutella, heavy whipping cream and vanilla and microwaved for a minute. The warm mixture was poured over the pineapple slices and topped with chopped hazelnuts. It was sweet with a nice crunch and so satisfying.

All in all, a lovely summer night in Italy... errr... Hawaii... um...  VIRGINIA!