11 Jul Special of the day: Celebrity Chef Series, Spotlight on Giada De Laurentiis
Started thirty years ago as a joint effort between Gary Plumley, Aspen’s Of Grape and Grain wine shop owner and restaurant owners Bob and Ruth Kevan, who had Chez Grand-mère at nearby Snowmass at the time, the Food and Wine Classic began as a way to draw business to Aspen in the slower après ski season. And it worked. That first year’s attendance of 300 has now swelled to over 5,000 who happily head off to what’s been described as the ultimate summer camp for foodies.
The Food and Wine Classic in Aspen is a food enthusiast’s fantasy fulfilled, to be sure. Having been tempted for a few years, my mom and I finally made the commitment to attend the 30th annual Food and Wine Classic this past June 15-18. And what a treat it was…
After the first fun-filled day of demonstration cooking seminars and grand tastings, we overheard someone returning to our hotel say, “I did everything on my bucket list in the month of June!”
My sentiments exactly. In just a few short days my mom and I were lucky enough to see none other than Jacques Pépin, Giada De Laurentiis, Mario Batali, Michael Chiarello, Emeril Lagasse, Bobby Flay and Susan Feniger all teach us terrific tricks of the trade throughout their captivating cooking demonstrations.
Every morning we awoke to sunlight streaming in our window, the fresh smell of clean mountain air, a view of the ski runs out our window to the north and just across the street: the white grand tasting tents where food and wine vendors set up an appetizing array of food and wine to taste between seminars.
On the first day, we had the pleasure of participating in a question-and-answer session with Giada De Laurentiis, the strikingly beautiful star of Food Network’s Everyday Italian and Giada at Home shows, judge on Food Network Star and best-selling author of numerous cookbooks.
As soon as she started talking, you could see she was just as beautiful inside as she was on the outside. She chatted with the audience for most of an hour, telling stories of growing up in Rome, moving to America, speaking Italian at home and English at school as a child and later realizing how important it was for her to keep the tradition going of sitting down and eating as a family now that she is married and has a four-year-old daughter.
Her helpful hints include serving breakfast for dinner for a change of pace and putting a vibrant spin on weeknight meals, like the Greek meatballs she makes with lamb, couscous and cinnamon.
She tries to introduce daughter Jade to new ingredients with a global flare so she can travel with Giada and husband Todd and enjoy the food they encounter together.
“Sometimes the simplest things in life are the best,” Giada declared, talking us through two quick and easy recipes for lemon spaghetti and smoky tomato sauce. Lemon spaghetti requires minimal time and just lemon juice, parmesan cheese, olive oil, lemon zest, pasta and some of the pasta water. Making the smoky tomato sauce involves blistering tomatoes and then processing them with red wine vinegar, honey, olive oil and smoked sea salt. She recommends serving the smoky tomato sauce on pasta or baked potatoes.
“Get as creative as you can,” she advised an audience member inquiring about getting kids interested in cooking, telling us that she likes to make macaroni and cheese “cupcakes” for Jade, for example. What a great idea!
Giada likes to let Jade pick a pretty picture of something she wants to cook with her mom and says this is a great way to get kids interested in cooking. “Jade feels like she’s a part of it and is interested in what she’s eating,” she said.
“Allow kids to make a mess,” she said, “The more you engage them in the process, the more they’ll enjoy the food.”
As far as how she stays thin and beautiful working around food all the time, she said, “I eat a little bit of everything, but never a lot of anything. It’s all about moderation and balance and enjoying your life.”
Giada’s best at-home cooking tips:
1) Get a really good knife.
2) Think about what you enjoy most about cooking so you can pick out dishes that make your mouth water before you even make them.
3) Plan well and stay stocked up on what you need.
4) Remember that the simplest dishes are often the best. “Cooking should be simple,” she said.
But that just whet our appetite and made us hungry for more, so we rushed right over to her book signing and bought her new book Weeknights with Giada, substantially seasoned with enticing photographs of every recipe, which she graciously signed before politely pausing to pose with us for a photograph. Such a lovely lady.
Kicking off a seven-week Celebrity Chef Series showcasing Giada De Laurentiis, Bobby Flay, Emeril Lagasse, Mario Batali, Michael Chiarello, Jacques Pépin and Susan Feniger is this week’s Special of the day: Celebrity Chef Series: Spotlight on Giada De Laurentiis and recipe for Dilled Shrimp on Lemon Spaghetti. Enjoy!
Dilled Shrimp on Lemon Spaghetti
Inspired by Giada’s Lemon Spaghetti recipe
1 pound large (16-20 per pound) shrimp, thawed, peeled and deveined
Make the marinade:
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
½ teaspoon salt
freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon fresh dill, minced
Whisk together marinade ingredients.
Transfer marinade to large Ziploc bag.
Seal bag and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Sauté the shrimp:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Melt butter in large sauté pan.
Remove shrimp from marinade and sauté in hot butter just until pink, turning to cook both sides.
4 ounces thin spaghetti
While shrimp are cooking, cook spaghetti in simmering salted water, according to package instructions.
Reserve 1 cup cooking liquid while draining spaghetti.
Whisk together sauce ingredients:
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup grated parmesan
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
Toss cooked spaghetti with sauce, adding cooking liquid a little at a time, as needed.
Arrange a small mound of lemon spaghetti in center of each plate.
Top with sautéed dilled shrimp.
Garnish with lemon zest, parmesan and fresh dill sprigs.
Sydne George is a food journalist specializing in recipe development, food writing and food photography. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org . Sydne’s recipes from “Special of the day” are archived at http://sydnegeorge.com/blog/.