Kitchen Shrink: Gustatory groupies meet Giada De Laurentiis at book signing

catherine-kaufmanBy Catharine L. Kaufman

TV chefs are the new rock starts of our pop culture. They are idolized, adored, emulated and seemingly have the inspirational powers to convert culinary agnostics into devoted cooks.

Every item they tout — from an exotic herb, spice or infused oil to a kitschy utility knife or sauté pan — is revered.

Most notably, The Food Network has made these chefs household brands, while their trademark catchphrases have become ensconced in urban dictionaries, if not in Merriam Webster’s!

“Kick it up a notch,” “Bam!” – Emeril Lagasse

“Yum-O,” “EVOO” – Rachel Ray

“Holy Moly, Stromboli!” – Guy Fieri

“Butterlicious!” — Paula Deen, the sour cream and mayonnaise queen.

Recently, Giada De Laurentiis, while on tour for her sixth cookbook, “Weeknights with Giada: Quick and Simple Recipes to Revamp Dinner,” made several appearances in San Diego. If Julia Child had risen from the dead to sign her culinary Bible, “Mastering the Art of French Cooking,” the line would not have been as long as it was for this petite Food Network powerhouse.

At this echelon, a booksigning is elevated to an event, a soiree of sorts with the staff of the Williams Sonoma Fashion Valley store hospitably passing out treats prepared from Giada’s new book.

I sampled her penne with almond sauce, pirate pasta filled with treasures, including pecorino Romano cheese, crimini mushrooms, capers, green olives, tomatoes and fresh basil, and chewy, melt-in-your-mouth chocolate-hazelnut drop cookies.

Flavored water was also passed around to hydrate the masses during the three-hour-plus wait to finally arrive at the book-signing table.

But yes, so worth the wait to meet the culinary diva, linguini thin (an amazing feat considering her self-proclaimed chocoholic personality and passion for such a divine carb-loaded cuisine), a dazzling smile and sweet disposition — like those hazelnut cookies I’d been scarfing down.

Although camera-shy growing up, this Angelino transported from Rome had celebrity in her DNA from her film producer grandpapa, Dino De Laurentiis. As a child, Giada chose to have playdates in the kitchen with her mom rather than the playground with her friends.

She eventually earned her culinary stripes at the Cordon Bleu in Paris, worked among Hollywood glitterati at Wolfgang Puck’s Spago in L.A., and launched her own catering business called GDL Foods.

Her entrée to the little screen came during her stint as a food stylist with Food and Wine magazine where she was scouted by Food Network to host “Everyday Italian.”

Her current projects include “Giada at Home,” being a judge on “Food Network Star,” a contributing correspondent for NBC’s “Today Show,” and authoring a handful of bestselling cookbooks.

kitshrinl.17BFastPiadinGiada’s Crispy Breakfast Pita

This is a twist on a piadina, an Italian flatbread. For weeknight ease, instead of making a dough, Giada uses store-bought pitas as the base. They’re topped with a creamy mascarpone spread, a salty bite of prosciutto, a lightly dressed arugula salad, and a fried egg. Serves 6


6 (6-inch) pita breads

Extra-virgin olive oil

6 large eggs

3/4 cup (6 ounces) mascarpone cheese

Grated zest of 1/2 large lemon

Kosher salt and freshly ground

black pepper

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

3 packed cups (3 ounces) arugula or baby spinach

8 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto

Method: Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat or preheat gas or charcoal grill. Brush each side of the pitas with 1/2-teaspoon olive oil. Then grill for 2-3 minutes on each side, until crisp.

Remove from the grill and cool slightly. In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat. Crack the eggs directly into the pan and cook until the egg whites are set. Combine the mascarpone cheese, lemon zest, ½-teaspoon salt and ½- teaspoon pepper in a small bowl.

In a medium bowl, whisk together 3 tablespoons olive oil, lemon juice, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper until smooth. Add the arugula and toss until coated.

Spread each pita with 2 tablespoons of the mascarpone mixture. Divide the prosciutto on top. Divide the arugula and mound on top of the prosciutto. Carefully place a fried egg on top of each pita. Season the eggs with a pinch of salt and pepper, and serve.

— From “Weeknights with Giada”