Posts tagged ‘Giada De Laurentiis’

August 17, 2012

Latin “Flavor”

by Kathryn Baldwin

Aside from a few of the derogatory terms thrown at immigrants, I sort of enjoy some of the stereotypical words used to describe Latin culture. For example: how Latin culture is “colorful,” “warm,” “flavorful,” “vivid,” and “lively!” (Someone in our class took this picture during our trip to Guanajuato, Mexico while studying abroad. “Vivid” and “colorful” things to buy huh?)

Really though, if you’re going to describe Latin culture as “flavorful,” at least call it spicy. Shoot, if you follow this plan, just plug “spicy” into your thesaurus. Possibly controversial… hmm. But truthfully, I wish U.S. culture could be described as “peppery, zesty, spirited, piquant, and saucy!”

I like to think I have a little spice in my personality; although some may find my particular form of spice on the overwhelming side. (If you can’t handle the heat… wipe your tears, blow your nose, and order some sour cream!) So, regardless of how much “Latin” I actually have in my blood, I love color, warmth, flavor (spice?), and liveliness. And, when I start to feel like I’m losing some of my “flavor,” I crave a Latin vacation like my personality depends on it.

In the interest of finding color and spice in my life, I seek recipes with these “LATIN?” characteristics.

When I saw this wall of peppers at Safeway, I was instantly reminded of another wall of “vivid” color in a “vibrant,” indoor, Guadalajaran market in Mexico. (You should have seen the glares I got after asking if I could take this picture. Haha. So worth it!).

This week, I found a recipe for mini stuffed peppers in my newest Giada book; it was the perfect way to use an entire bag (24 peppers!).

Here’s what to do:

Brown 3oz of chopped pancetta in 3 tablespoons of medium high, hot olive oil. (You could use bacon or chorizo instead!) Then spoon out the crispy flecks of smoky goodness to dry off the excess oil on a napkin. Add half of an onion, chopped, to the leftover grease in your hot pan.

While the onion softens and absorbs the smoky flavor of pig fat, grate your 1/3 cup of fresh parmesan cheese.

In a bowl, mix together:

3/4 of a cup of ricotta cheese,

1/3 of a cup of Parmesan cheese,

1/2 of a cup of frozen pees (thawed),

The cooked pancetta and onion,

And a pinch each of salt and pepper.

Prep the mini peppers by chopping off the stem side, slicing out the white ridges, and flicking the seeds out from the inside.

Using a cute, mini, sugar spoon (the opposite of an ugly, giant, soup spoon?), stuff the smoky, cheesy mixture into each vibrant casing.

Place them on a lightly greased cookie sheet and pop them into the oven at 350 degrees for just under 20 minutes. You’ll see the peppers start to wilt and the edges of the cheese start to get brown. I wish I let mine brown a little more. I also wish I greased the pan a bit less!

My equally vibrant coworkers enjoyed this Italian version of “vibrant, Latin flavor.” It was a work-place, appetizer pick-me-up. Gotta love that Latin flavor to spice things up a bit….

June 15, 2012

Cooking with a History

by Kathryn Baldwin

Sometimes a memory can enhance a flavor, just like a memory clings to a song. Do you ever find yourself holding onto a song long after others are sick of it because it reminds you of… that one dance club in Mexico?… or that one car ride in high school? I do.

For me, food is the exact same way. Sprinkling sesame seeds on my mole enchiladas isn’t a meal-altering flavor boost; it reminds me of my host mother and makes me feel more and more nurtured with each bite. Eating ice cream out of a tall mug with added milk and a long, skinny spoon doesn’t change the flavor of the ice cream; it reminds me of my Pop and how I grew up admiring his quirky traditions.

Of course, this is all explained through Miguel de Cervantes’ words, written in Don Quixote (year 1605):

Translating from one language to another, …is like looking at Flemish tapestries from the wrong side, for although the figures are visible, they … cannot be seen with the smoothness and color of the right side.

As we choose our meal menu, or lost in thought as we chew, sometimes our dinner dates are sitting on the other side of the tapestry.

We may be thinking, “These purple potatoes remind me of that meal I had, sitting next to the clucking chickens in a rural Peruvian village.” But our dinner guest may be thinking, “Oh God, my ex boyfriend loved his stupid, purple Lakers jersey: I officially hate purple!”

The culture, the colors, the flavors, and the memories, which seep through our taste buds and into our souls with each bite, are ours to keep. I can try to describe why recipes or flavors speak to me, but you must cook with the passion that you find in your own history.


Giada tips her hat to Peru every time she cooks with Quinoa. I followed her recipe for “Quinoa with peas, potatoes, and olives” from her newest cookbook. I had tri-color Quinoa already in the cabinet to work with. Also, I didn’t hunt down “Peruvian potatoes,” I just used the darkest ones I could find (Did you know Peru has literally thousands of identified potatoes with names and distinct flavors?). I also packed the meal in a casserole dish and brought it to my sister’s for dinner a day later. Plus, I had it for lunch the day after that! Half of the recipe could feed a family of five as a side dish. My sister marinated chicken with lime, oregano, and red pepper flakes as the main protein. They were perfect together.

Come queens, come crooks! Come climbers, come quitters! Come coaches, come crews! This colorful, carnival of quinoa can calm cranky kids, can comfort complaining cooks, can connect cultural cues.

Keep cooking …

May 10, 2012

Giada and I…

by Kathryn Baldwin

So as you may have already heard, I’m on a first name basis with Giada. Psh. Well not really. She held up a motivational sign for the children I babysit and then retweeted me an hour later (I refuse to admit that I acted like I was a 12-year-old who just got a text from Justin Bieber).

Clearly I have Giada’s new cookbook: Weeknights with Giada(Apparently every girl and her mother are on a first name basis with this food network wonder-woman. Poop.) The first recipe that caught my eye, Apricot Oat Bars, intrigued me for a few reasons:

1) It reminds me of cobbler. Sigh…

2) It is a possible breakfast food, giving us a reason to get out of bed.

3) Since these bars include fruit and nuts, I was reminded of how Mexican culture is obsessed with the ingredients of fruits and nuts. Seriously. Mexicans will sit around a table and describe fruit textures and names for hours. My favorite is Zapote Negro, a black fruit that grew on a tree at my host family’s house in Mexico…I could go on for hours.

4) Tangent #3 led me to think that Giada’s southern-Italian style of cooking is similar to customs in Mexico. Mexican mole has almonds; Italian pesto has pine nuts. The list goes on forever! (I wonder if this has something to do with climate zones. Or price of animal protein products versus availability of fruits and nuts. I’ll have to do research. I’m in the middle of finals at school. Gimme a break.)

Thus, I decided to try Giada’s Apricot Oat Bars. Considering we had a ton of fig jam chillin’ in the cabinet, I used the exact recipe for a separate pan of Fig Oat Bars (just use dried figs and fig jam instead of dried apricots and apricot jam). They are a great gift for a Mother’s/Grandma’s day picnic, for teacher appreciation come the end of the year, and obviously, for an energy booster when you feel like you’ll die if you spend one more minute slaving on homework.

Apricot (or Any Dried Fruit + Jam) Oat Bars with Walnuts

Follow Giada’s recipe:

If you plan on making these as a breakfast or a mid-afternoon pick-me-up, I recommend putting half of a cup of brown sugar rather than a whole cup. If you want dessert, by all means, load it up!!!!

You may want to try another nut like almonds. I was also thinking that cranberry with pistachio would be fun to try. Make them any way you wish. Just tell me when you make them so I can tell Giada when we meet for coffee this weekend… (cough).