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Missed me? Good. I missed you, too. All the writing I’d done over the last year and a half about my love for cooking, and my dream to turn this passion into a bill-paying hobby now has come to fruition. The fact I’m here so seldom these days is due to my fully booked schedule. Yoohoo!

Last month I was working closely with my dear friend and a talented vegan chef, Melissa Costello of KarmaChow, on a project that involved cooking three meals a day for a group of 15 people over a period of three weeks. You can imagine our hands were full. However, I returned home with a roster of recipes that will serve as an inspiration to my own meals that I’ll then exhibit on these pages for you to enjoy.

Instead of a recipe, however, today I want to introduce you all to an Australian food stylist and a celebrity chef, Donna Hay. OK, some of you may not be that impressed as you and Donna go way back. Good for you! I myself, however, only discovered her last year, and, what can I say, I was head over heals for the Aussie gal and her culinary chops.

There are books, videos, an Australian TV show on food styling, and the magazine I’m a fan of. Only six or seven issues a year, which come to America with an irritating delay. Nonetheless, I am able to snatch each one every two months or so from my local Barnes & Noble. And so can you. I invite you to look through its pages for not only a gold mine of brand new recipes, but also the stylings of the dishes Donna and her team put together. Her signature color, pale blue, transcends across most of the recipes creating a casual, somewhat relaxing, and yet very elegant image. Juxtaposed against that gently humming background are vibrant reds, greens and yellows that make all dishes presented jump out of the pages. Literally! The arrangements on plates are an artistic expression in its own right. Simplicity screams through all Donna’s creations. Each element on the plate is exposed while being a coherent part of the entire dish, and yet there’s no chaos. Brilliant!

Even Oprah (I can’t believe I’m mentioning her visit to Australia once again, as if there wasn’t enough talk about it already) knew who to call when in the Aussie Land in order to have a feast of senses of her life…

 

It’s only fair to mention that my attitude towards Oprah is rather bitter-sweet, to put it mildly. Then again, there’s nothing wrong with BITTER-SWEET, especially when it comes to such chocolate bites sprinkled over thick slices of French Brie and topped with fresh basil chiffonade, then enclosed within two crispy slices of sourdough bread and melted in a panini maker. Aha! That’s a little secret I know from my gal, Giada De Laurentiis, and I’m sure she wouldn’t mind me spilling the beans.

And just like that I snuck in a recipe. A little bonus before I get down to sharing more of my own culinary tips and ideas. Check out the Australian cook extraordinaire and try something new today. Let your curiosity be stirred and your taste buds tickled. Always try to use the best, the purest, the freshest ingredients, and the pay off will be ongoing though your lasting satisfaction, infectious happiness, and vitality!

A few days ago I met a woman who was referred to my blog as a source of good tips for healthy eating. I can’t even tell you how flattered and delighted I was upon hearing that. Fountains of passion fruit juice sprang from my ears and blue forget-me-nots bloomed in the corner on my mouth.

You know I am not about dieting here. My mission, this Internet pilgrimage if you will, is to promote Jason’s perfectly pink nipples first, and right after that to show you how easy and available healthy food is to us. In all honesty, on occasion, I also have an urge to show off my positively adorable pooch right along with a cake I managed not to destroy in the process of baking it.

Granted, those who live in mostly sunny California have an easy access to a variety of fresh produce all year round. I’m one the those lucky bastards. Therefore, if you are one of the dudes of the surfers’ nation (board or no board) you’re out of excuses for not crunching on baby carrots and milking a navel orange on a regular basis.

There’s hope for the rest of America, worry not. You can always put a meal together from scratch no matter where you live. Just that one little adjustment will help you reduce, and hopefully eventually eliminate the amount of processed foods you put into your body. Everyone has access to potatoes, tomatoes, onions and some sort of fresh greens, lemons and olive oil. With only those few ingredients you can mash up cooked potatoes to serve along sautéed chicken strips and a simple but delicious salad. How long do you normally wait for a pizza delivery? At least 30 minutes to an hour. It will take about 20 minutes of your life to whip out a simple dinner I described above from start to the first forkful of the homemade scrumptiousness in your mouth…

Meat is expensive, and as alarming research shows, not good for us in excess. You can eat brown rice with a bunch of roasted vegetables and a tomato sauce; even that from a jar will do. You can serve whole-wheat spaghetti with garlic, a touch of extra virgin olive oil and lots of fresh parsley, just like the Italians do. Despite what you think about pasta, this simple meal is smashingly more nutritious and friendlier to your system than any frozen dinner you get from your megamarket, not to mention a highly processed platter of …edibles from an average diner.

Then we’ve got fish. Always opt for fresh fish when available, but if not, the frozen kind will comply. Here’s a recipe for a simple fish stew I borrowed from Giada de Laurentiis some months ago. You can serve it with bread, any rustic type, or ciabatta for being the most authentic choice for this meal. A lack thereof should not stop you from making the stew. Jason and I enjoyed the dish with a scoop of forbidden rice for example, but any rice is just as adequate.

Gather the following elements:

-       1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling

-       2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped into 1/2-inch pieces

-       1 onion, chopped

-       3 cloves garlic, minced

-       Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to season

-       3/4 cup white wine, such as Pinot Grigio

-       1 (28-oz) can crushed or pureed Italian tomatoes

-       1 cup water

-       1 tsp chili powder

-       1 tsp sweet paprika

-       1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, for some heat

-       1 1/2 pounds whitefish fillets, halibut, cod or arctic char, skinned and cut into 3/4-inch chunks (if frozen, let it thow out first)

-       1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Begin with sautéing the onions in a heated olive oil, ideally inside of a Dutch oven or other heavy-bottomed pan. Season with salt to help the onion sweat. Add carrots and garlic and reduce the heat to medium-low. Season again with salt and pepper and mix well. When the vegetables begin to soften, add the wine and scrape of all the bits of flavor from the bottom of your pan to incorporate that into the sauce. Let it simmer for about 5 minutes or until the liquid reduces au sec (almost all liquid is gone). Add the tomatoes, water and spices, mix and cook until the vegetables are soft. Now it’s time for the fish. Toss your fishy chunks into the pot and let it simmer all together until its meat is fully cooked. Taste and season with salt and pepper as desired. Add fresh parsley and serve.

Voila! Bon appetit and Na Zdrowie! Despite the hell-ish esthetics the meal was truly divine, I swear. Here’s one last tip — it always works — when plating, sprinkle each serving with love and fairy dust, thus turning it into an irresistible feast of the Olympian gods. The magic is in your hands, remember that.

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