I fell deeply. I watched hungrily as Mario Batali turned out fresh pasta and braised rabbit; I felt a kinship with the sweet but nerdy Sarah Moulton; and I developed a mild crush on Tyler Florence, who reminded me of a frat boy that figured out early on that the best way to get girls is with food. I got hooked on Jamie Oliver in spite of the lisp that worked my last nerve, and I endured the irritating Michael Chiarello because I couldn't argue that his food looked damn good. And I became a huge fan of Giada de Laurentiis. I watched her show and bought her cookbooks and tried not to pay attention to the long list of ways in which she was better than me (prettier, richer, more glamorous, more successful). I was a loyal fan of Giada, and of the Food Network.
Now the Food Network is different, though, and when I say "different" I mean "bad." Most of the shows aren't even about cooking. Sarah and Mario are gone. Tyler Florence has a narcissistic show about his favorite foods. Jamie's on, but at weird times, like early Saturday morning. And Giada has a new show.
Giada at Home is annoying. As if it wasn't enough that she's super-gorgeous, wildly famous, from a cool Hollywood-via-Italy film family, and married to a clothing designer for Anthropologie, I now have to observe her cooking her perfect food in her immaculate white kitchen in my Malibu dream house.
It's a little much for those of us prone to jealousy.
Last Saturday, post-cake, I masochistically found myself watching Giada pack up an adorable picnic lunch for her husband and baby. They then drove to an idyllic spot where Giada and her husband literally fed pasta salad to each other while the baby gurgled happily. I was ready to lose it.
Luckily, the Barefoot Contessa was on next. Now, some people might get incensed by Ina Garten. It's not like she's keeping it real in her sprawling, shingled home in the Hamptons with the perfect herb garden and double-oven kitchen. But she doesn't try hard to show you how great she is. She's just smart and relaxed, and her food always looks incredible.
Ina was making Italian Wedding Soup. We decided to try it the next night.
Readers, I highly recommend this soup. For one thing, the meatballs are baked not fried, and dropped on a cookie sheet rather than carefully rolled and shaped. They're quick and not messy. The recipe calls for ground chicken and chicken sausage, but I used ground turkey and pork sausage because that's what I could get at the butcher. The recipe also calls for tiny star pasta. I'd always wanted a reason to buy some of these little guys.
The soup was satisfying but not heavy and had a good balance of flavors. It was further improved by the fact that I'd actually made homemade chicken stock earlier in the day, a rare occurrence. The recipe calls for dill, which I left out, since as I mentioned recently, I'm not big on dill. This is a great, rustic soup for a night when you want something comforting, but it would also be excellent to serve to company. After all, who wouldn't like meatball soup?