Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Rage against Giada, and some meatball soup

I was late to cable TV. We never had it growing up, nor did I have it all the years I had roommates, nor when I lived alone. The husband and I finally got cable in 2003, and it was then that I discovered the Food Network.

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?


  1. MMM, little meatballs...

    Ina does make me mad, but because she reminds me of someone I used to know who is a psycho. Giada isn't too annoying except for her massive bobble-like head.

  2. For all the reasons you mention above...I HATE Giada. And I love Ina. Especially when she absolutely fawns over her husband...it's somehow so sickly sweet but so cute at the same time.

  3. Can't argue with anything with mini meatballs. :)

  4. Cee: I knew you would appreciate a mini-meatball post!

    DS: I love Ina's husband--he's so sweet and kind of clueless.

    Bob: Right?!

  5. Great post, I too used to love the food network and now can't watch it...I stick to PBS on saturday mornings.

  6. I must find some star pasta!! I have never found it in that shape, too cute! I did buy elk shaped pasta at Ikea once, that was a fun way to eat macaroni (or elk) & cheese.

  7. egg to the apples: yeah, PBS is still good--they've got Jacques and Lidia at least.

    Megan: Isn't it cute? It reminds me of being a kid--chicken and stars was always my favorite soup.

  8. yum! must try that, i get a bit stuck with the same soup all the time. We get the mixed tiny pasta shapes - it has love hearts AND stars in it :)

  9. shaz: let me know what you think of the recipe if you try it! :)

  10. Haha! I used to love Giada. Now her personality really annoys me. I saw that same soup recipe and have it saved. Ina always makes great things.

  11. That's so hilarious about your love (or not) of the Food Network stars. I'm still a fan of Bobby Flay. I love his Throwdown shows. I like that Giada still cooks just like Ina, but I agree that it's a bit too much. One episode I saw she packed a dinner for her friends as they went for an evening out listening to the Pasadena symphony under the stars. Oh give me a break, like the symphony didn't give her a special table and told other visitors to stay away from her. I'm so tired of the special treatment she gets. Geez, I didn't realize I had so much rage pent up about her too!

  12. Giada is a bobblehead. You pay that spoiled little heiress no mind.

  13. I miss Sara Moulton too!!! And I love Ina, but her hubby creeps me out.
    I've gotta try this soup though. Off to FN.