I don't watch any of the Housewives franchise on Bravo. Those overly-dramatic, bitchy women with lots of money and little class are, to me, everything that is wrong with American society. So when I was approached to talk about Real Housewife of New Jersey Teresa "Table Flipper" Giudice's new book, Skinny Italian, I laughed out loud at the request. I sneer at the Housewives every chance I get and I'm going to promote one of them? Heck, I don't even know how to pronounce her last name.
So I made a little deal - I'll talk about the book if I can cook from it - that way, I can judge the book on its own merits and not on the reputation of its author. And I planned to be brutally honest about the recipes. So I contacted fellow blogger Jordan Baker, she of the highly amusing Top Chef and Project Runway recaps, because I knew she owned a copy of the book. (You can read about her experience with one of the biscotti recipes here.) I decided to try Danielle's Puttanesca Sauce (which I'm guessing is named after Giudice's favorite fellow RHNJ, Danielle Staub) and the Panzanella Salad.
I began to look forward to cooking because I *knew* I'd have some really strong criticisms. There was no way these recipes would be good. Heh - I was going to get to do some table flipping of my own.
I started with the Puttanesca sauce, which involved adding additional seasonings to a recipe Giudice calls the "Quickie Sauce" (recipe below). So step one was to make said sauce.
Me being me, I had to make a substitution to the recipe: because I don't like the watery texture of sauce made with hand-squooshed whole tomatoes and their juice, I substituted a can of crushed plum tomatoes. And, I had to question, with this being a "skinny" dish, why bother putting olive oil in the sauce if it's not first used to sauté garlic and/or onion? I did, however, add the oil. The end result was basically tomatoes + basil + oil slick = sauce. That needs a recipe? I think not. It tasted like canned tomatoes with basil in it. My use of crushed tomatoes, however, produced a pretty texturally perfect sauce, thick and smooth, just the way I like it. But this basic sauce needed some serious doctoring. And that's basically the premise of the recipe - it's a base to which other flavorings are added to create different types of sauce (for instance, Quickie + carrots + meat = a Bolognese).
On to the Puttanesca: A "puttana" is a whore, and this type of sauce - like a good whore - should be both salty and spicy. Basically, you take the "Quickie" tomato sauce and add some anchovy paste, garlic, olives, and capers, simmer for a few more minutes and pour it over pasta. Surprisingly, the salty capers and anchovy paste really transformed the bland basic sauce into something far more rich and savory.
I served it over fettuccine, my favorite type of pasta.
Here's the basic sauce recipe, as published on the Hyperion Voice site, originally from Skinny Italian, by Teresa Giudice with Heather McLean.
Basic Tomato Sauce AKA “The Quickie”
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
One 28-ounce can imported Italian plum tomatoes, broken up, with their juices
¼ cup tomato paste
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil or 2 teaspoons dried basil
Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the tomatoes and their juices and the tomato paste. Bring just to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the basil. Simmer to blend the flavors, about 10 minutes. The end.
Next up was the panzanella, a salad made from stale bread and tomatoes. My changes: I substituted Vidalia onion for the red onion and didn't remove the seeds from the tomatoes. Part of me thought that maybe there was going to be too much tomato/olive/basil going on since I was planning on serving it with the pasta Puttanesca, but actually, they were a good match - cold tomato vs. hot tomato, cold olives vs. hot olives, cooked basil vs. raw basil both reinforced the tomato- and olive- and basil-ness of the individual components.
While the sauce was warm and rich and spicy, the salad was light and bright and would make a great summertime lunch.
So what's the verdict of my Skinny Italian experience?
As much as I hate to admit it, both dishes were delicious. They had close to the perfect amount of seasoning and I didn't feel the need to do any heavy alterations or additions. That said, both recipes were very basic, very simple. I have the feeling that Skinny Italian would be an ideal first cookbook for someone just starting to experiment with cooking - college students, young couples, people who have no clue about Italian food.
The Giveaway (you thought I forgot this part, right?)
Family tradition is very important to me. A lot of our family time, our culture, and our love revolves around being in the kitchen. I learned to cook from my mom, and I cook homemade meals for my family almost every night. I’ve been collecting my mom’s recipes, tips, tricks and secrets from the Old World for healthy Italian living for years. I finally wrote them down to pass on to my kids, and the result is Skinny Italian. It’s a love letter to my mom. It’s full of full-color photographs, over 60 family recipes straight from Salerno, and of course, a bit of behind-the-scenes gossip thrown in. –Teresa GuidiceIf your interest is piqued, I have five, count 'em FIVE copies of the book to give away to my readers. All you have to do is share a family recipe or food memory in the comments section. You don't even have to be Italian. :) Please make sure to also leave your e-mail address so I may contact you if you are a winner.
Contest ends at noon June 11th, 2010.
The fine print:
- No purchase necessary.
- One entry per person – USA residents only.
- The odds of winning are dependent on how many entries we receive.
- Winners will be chosen randomly and notified via email.
- The prizing for this giveaway was provided by Bravo. However, Bravo is not a sponsor, administrator, or connected in any other way with this giveaway.
One of my favorite family recipes is:
Crockpot Chicken Taco Stew
1 lg onion, chopped
1 16 oz. can black beans, rinse/drain
1 16 oz. can kidney beans, rinse/drain
1 16 oz. can non-fat refried beans
2 C. frozen corn
1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
2 14.5 oz cans diced tomatoes w/chilies
1 1.25 oz packet low sodium taco seas.
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
Mix everything together in a slow cooker except chicken. Lay chicken on top and cover. Cook on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 3-4 hours. 30 minutes before serving remove chicken and shred. Return chicken to slow cooker and stir in. This is good eaten with cheese, sour cream, or tortilla chips.
Makes 14 loaded 1 cup servings
Number of Servings: 14
Funny, I don't think Teresa has ever been shown cooking on RHNJ. Although there was an episode this season where the entire family was canning tomatoes.
My favorite food memory? That would be my grandmother's fried chicken. I've tried a few times but never been able to duplicate it. Perfectly crispy but not scorched or greasy, the meat was moist and juicy. All I know is that it involved cast iron, Crisco, seasoned flour, and magic.
i loved the whore comment hahahahahahah!!!!
One of my favorite food memories is actually captured on photo - which I really need to find. My parents used to have awesome potluck parties with their friends, and everyone used to go ALL OUT. As a kid, it was the best way to try all sorts of new food, and there is one picture of me where I have both my hands full with food, my mouth is full of food, and I am staring at this plate of canapes with this look of amazement. I love that picture!
Thanks for the giveaway!
I have very fond memories of my mom making monkey bread when we had sleep overs, cranking us all up on sugar, and then sending the kids home.
Well done, Mom, well done.
I just found your blog today and look at that...a giveaway! Is it wrong that I contemplated buying this cookbook? Thankfully, Good Jen reminded me that padding this woman's pockets was a bad, bad thing.
My mom taught me how to cook at a young age, so as a teenager, since my parents both worked, I was expected to cook one dinner a week.
That one dinner was roast chicken, mashed potatoes, corn, and homemade gravy. Every week.
I've always been about comfort foods and with my limited repertoire, that was my go to meal. Looking back, I imagine my folks were pretty tired of eating the same meal all the time, but they never said anything negative.
It's still one of my favorite menus!
Your panzanella looks more like the book illustration than mine did. Now I'm jealous -- and sad that since I already have a copy, there's no need for me to win one. I'll have to live vicariously through the other commenters. . .
my fave food memory is prob the homemade peach ice cream/milkshakes that granny made while we were all out at the beach...we sat on the porch with our shakes and waited for our turn in the outdoor showers...
later after dinner by tiki light...wed all be back on the porch... with milkshakes and ice cream....taking turns cranking the handles on the ice cream makers til we were too sore to turn em anymore... for the next days batch...
My mother's cabbage rolls. Stewed in tomato juice in a pot, not baked. They were SO much better the next day and the next, if there were any leftovers. Not that you want to know, but I think her name is pronounced like "Judas" but more like "ice" at the end.
One of my favorite memories was coming home after midnight mass and my six younger siblings and I would then bake a batch of chocolate chip cookies for "santa". Even as we got older and married we made cookies right after the late mass at Christmas.
Kath - I love that you use 1 pack of *low-sodium* taco seasoning for 14 servings - the high salt version is deadly!
JordanBaker - but you had a *coupon!*
Kristine - "Judas" - LOL!
Giudice is actually pronounced "Judy Chay" or "Gee yoo DEE chay," depending on the region-- though she did pronounce it "jew-DICE" in the first season.
There's a whole segment in the books where she explains why she put up with it being mispronounced for so long that she even fell into the habit herself, and then reclaims the real pronunciation. . .
Look, I HAD A COUPON.
Kinda like Emeril pronouncing his last name "Lagassie" because everyone else does.
Most of my favorite food memories are connected to my Grandma's kitchen. At 12 I wanted to make my own ketchup and mayonnaise...an article in the paper inspired me. Mom thought I was nuts but Grandma just made space in the kitchen and helped me get things together. A weekend at Grandma's and a busy kitchen was the best! I think Grandma couldn't figure out why I wanted to make mayo but went along and helped if I asked. Best memories ever are centered in that tiny space.
Glad I found your blog! I've enjoyed browsing around.
The excerpts of Teresa's book on her website look fabulous - and lots of photos of those darling girls of hers!
Hey Kathy...Karin gave me the link to your blog so I've been checking it out. :) And I'm going to participate by sharing my recipe for Tangy Pork, which is adapted from a Cooking Light recipe. I feed to my Midwestern family when I visit (I'm trying to get them into new and different things besides the usual meat and potatoes thing, heh). It's also very flavorful for a "light" recipe.
Tangy Pork (serves 4)
* 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
* 1 teaspoon chili powder
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
* 1 pound pork tenderloin, trimmed and cut into 1-inch cubes
* 1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
* Cooking spray
* 1 cup chopped Vidalia onion
* 2 cloves garlic, minced
* 2 cups chopped tomatillos (about 8 ounces)
* 1/2 c. white wine
* 2 cups halved cherry tomatoes (about 8 ounces)
* 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Combine the first 4 ingredients in a medium bowl. Add pork; toss to coat. Heat 1 1/2 teaspoons oil in a large nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray. Add pork; sauté 3 minutes. Remove pork from pan; keep warm.
Heat 1 1/2 teaspoons oil in pan over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic; sauté for 30 seconds. Add tomatillos; sauté 1 minute. Add wine, scraping the brown bits from the bottom of pan. Add pork; cover and cook 10 minutes or until pork is done. Add tomatoes and cilantro; cover and cook for 1 minute.
I like serving over couscous or rice because it absorbs the sauce.
My fondest food memories involve my mom cooking like a madwoman in the kitchen before guests would arrive. Delicious smells would waft out of the kitchen, often of a meat dish then Italian sauces - a bit unusual considering that my family's not Italian but we cook it often. I would go ask my mom if she needed help in the kitchen, and she would tell me to set the table, arrange the flowers, or something else and not disrupt her culinary train of thought.
Then on the more peaceful weekends when it'd just be the family and no guests, she would actually let me cook...or attempt to.
Fast forward by a few years, and I'm still slicing potatoes as slowly as back then.
My food memory moment was at an English wedding. My dad was friends of the couple so we had to go (I definitely didn't want to go, though). Turns out these people had amazing "Old World" dishes and one was Corned Beef and Cabbage stew. It was so delicious, I ate myself sick. But I turned to my dad and said "Daddy (I was about 7), when I grow up and get married, I want to only eat this for the rest of my life! I do eat the delicious dish regularly, but not everyday of my life. LOL
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