In the Kitchen with Giada
By Fabiana Santana
Her family may have been in pictures, but this home cook has taken over television with her unique charm and easy recipes.
Born in Rome, Giada De Laurentiis grew up in a large Italian family that was committed to their culture, which means they were really into food. Her grandfather is legendary film producer Dino De Laurentiis and first put the idea into her head that food is not only is a part of life, but could be your life. He grew up selling spaghetti that his father produced and even after his cinematic success he went back to food, opening his restaurant and gourmet food store DDL Foodshow. Of course, Giada was always there.
She found her way to culinary school in Paris and in 2002 she found herself on TV. The Food Network came calling after reading about her family in Food & Wine Magazine. The story featured a sprawling Italian family all at the table together eating a meal that Giada cooked for them. Since then she has been one of the network’s biggest stars hosting three shows and writing four cookbooks. She even has a line of food products that bare her name.
And while her culinary training proves she has the chops to put out haute cuisine, she prefers to keep it simple and focus on meals best shared at home with family and friends. Because for her, that is how it all began.
Why did you decide to become a chef?
I grew up in the kitchen, mostly with my grandfather, my mother and my Aunt Raffy. My grandfather’s family used to own a pasta factory in Naples and they would go door-to-door selling their pasta. So his love of food came from his parents, which was then passed down to my mother and then again to me.
What are your first food memories?
Some of my best memories growing up are being in the kitchen with my family cooking. I also spent time at my grandfather Dino’s gourmet store, DDL Foodshow, where he brought in chefs from Naples to cook. I thought of them as rock stars. I loved being there, and that made me decide to become a chef.
Who are your inspirations?
Definitely my grandfather, my mom and my aunt Raffy. They’ve all taught me something about Italian cooking: tradition, simplicity and creativity, respectively.
What pantry items do you consider essential to Italian cooking?
There aren’t a lot but having these will definitely help make a variety of dishes and ensure they’re delicious. They are: extra-virgin olive oil, fresh garlic, red pepper flakes, assorted dry pasta in various shapes, canned cannelloni beans, canned Italian tuna packed in olive oil, marinara sauce (if you choose not to make your own – but make sure the first ingredient is tomatoes and not sugar!), dried herbs (oregano, rosemary, thyme and herbes de Provence), vinegars (balsamic, red and white), onions (red, Spanish, Vidalia), and capers.
What is your favorite cuisine other than Italian?
Definitely Japanese. I love how clean and refined the dishes are. They’re simple in their ingredients but the flavors and presentation are typically amazing. Second would be Chinese.
Watch Giada on The Food Network on Everyday Italian Saturdays at 7am/6c and Tuesday thru Friday at 4:30pm/3:30c and on Giada at Home Saturdays at 1pm/12c and Mondays at 4:30pm/3:30c.
Grilled Chicken with Spinach and Pine Nut Pesto
Recipe courtesy of The Food Network
This healthy and delicious recipe is done in under 10 minutes – the perfect make at home meal for one when you are in the mood for a satisfying weeknight supper.
* 2 boneless chicken breasts
* 2 cups lightly packed baby spinach leaves (about 2 ounces)
* 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
* 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
* 1 to 2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
* 1/3 cup plus 2 teaspoons olive oil
* Salt and freshly ground black pepper
* 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan
Heat a grill pan on medium high heat. Lightly oil the grill pan. Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper. Grill the chicken until cooked through, about 5 minutes per side.
Combine the spinach, pine nuts, lemon juice, and lemon peel in a processor. Lightly pulse. With the machine running, gradually add 1/3 cup of the oil, blending until the mixture is creamy. Add salt and pulse. Put half of the pesto into ice cube trays and store in the freezer for future use.
Transfer the rest of the spinach mixture to a medium bowl. Stir in the Parmesan. Season the pesto with salt and pepper, to taste.
Spread the pesto over each piece of chicken and serve.
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