Eat Like Giada de Laurentiis: 5 Recipes for Foods She Loves

There is no denying that Giada de Laurentiis can cook up a storm in the kitchen, but it’s her skills describing food we’re concerned with here. The chef, writer, and TV host has been featured numerous time on The Best Thing I Ever Ate, which is shown on the Food Network. With each theme, de Laurentiis manages to talk about a dish with such detail that your mouth will start watering immediately as you crave each sweet, savory, crunchy, chocolatey, or spicy food she that calls one of the best things she ever ate. To sample this smorgasbord of items in your own kitchen, try one of these five recipes.

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1. Bar Nuts

At Union Square Café, the bar nuts are a sweet and spicy combination that will keep you snacking all night long. No wonder Giada chose this for the “Snack Attack” episode. This recipe from The Union Square Café Cookbook, via ABC, will make approximately five cups of bar nuts. 

Ingredients:

  • ¼ pound each nut (peeled peanuts, cashews, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, walnuts, pecans, and whole unpeeled almonds; or ¼ pound unsalted, assorted nuts)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, coarsely chopped
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 teaspoons dark brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Toss the nuts in a large bowl to combine, and spread them out on a cookie sheet. Toast in the oven until they become light golden brown, about 10 minutes.

In the large bowl, combine the rosemary, cayenne, brown sugar, salt, and melted butter. Thoroughly toss the warm toasted nuts with the spiced butter and serve warm.

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2. SRG Eskimo Bars

The Eskimo Bars at Snake River Grill certainly do sound like the perfect frozen treat: brownies and ice cream are covered in chocolate and served with a side of caramel sauce. All the ingredients are homemade, but if churning ice cream or making caramel sounds a little too time consuming, use the recipe from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe, which cuts a few corners but will have you biting into a version of the SRG Eskimo Bar that is bound to satisfy your cravings.

Ingredients:

  • 10 tablespoons butter
  • 1¼ cups sugar
  • ¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (natural or Dutch-process)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 quart good-quality vanilla ice cream (store bought or homemade)
  • ¾ cup coconut oil
  • 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1-2 cups good-quality store bought or homemade caramel sauce

Directions: For the brownies, position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Line the bottom and sides of an 8-by-8-inch square baking pan with aluminum foil, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides. Lightly grease with cooking spray and set aside. Combine the butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt in a medium microwave-safe bowl. Microwave for one minute intervals, stirring in between, until the butter is melted and the mixture is smooth.

Set the mixture aside until it cools slightly (is warm to the touch, not hot). It will look gritty, but it will become smooth once the other ingredients are added. Stir in the vanilla with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously after each one. When the batter looks thick, shiny, and well blended, add the flour and stir until you cannot see it any longer, then beat vigorously for 40 strokes with the wooden spoon or a rubber spatula. Spread evenly in the lined pan.

Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center emerges slightly moist with batter, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool completely on a rack and then chill in the refrigerator or freezer until thoroughly cold — this will help the brownies hold up well to the ice cream layer that’s coming. For the ice cream layer, soften the ice cream to spreading consistency (leaving at room temperature for 15-20 minutes should do the trick), then spread an even layer across the chilled brownies. The ice cream layer should be about an inch thick. Put the pan in the freezer until very firm (1-2 hours).

For the magic shell, in a microwave-safe bowl, combine the coconut oil and chocolate chips. It helps if the bowl is more tall than wide, so that when you dip the bars, the chocolate mixture is deep and not super shallow. Microwave for 1-minute intervals at 50 percent power until the chocolate is melted. Stir the mixture until it is smooth. It will be fairly runny.

Remove the pan of brownies from the freezer. Gently lift the foil handles and remove the ice cream-layered brownies from the pan. Cut the browines in half. Then, working with one half at a time (you might want to return the other half to the freezer if your kitchen is overly warm), cut rectangle into long, thin bars, about 1 inch by 4 inches. You should end up with 8 or so bars per half. Repeat with the remaining half. It is best to put all the cut bars onto a tray or plate and keep them in the refrigerator while dipping so that they stay as cold as possible.

Place a baking rack over a sheet of parchment paper or waxed paper or even aluminum foil (to help with cleanup). Working one by one, gently hold the ice cream bar at the base of the brownie and dip it quickly into the chocolate shell mixture (tilt the bowl to help deepen the chocolate for easier dipping) until completely coated, and place on the baking rack. Your hands will get messy, but it’s worth it! Repeat the dipping process with each bar. After dipping about 5-7 bars and the chocolate shell has hardened (it sets very quickly, especially if your ice cream-and-brownie combo is very cold), gently remove them from the cooling rack and put them in the freezer so that the ice cream doesn’t melt, and keep dipping the other bars that were waiting in the freezer.

The chocolate shell mixture will want to stick to the baking rack — pry the eskimo bars carefully off the baking rack so that the chocolate shell doesn’t crack as you separate them from where the chocolate has hardened to the rack. When ready to serve, remove the eskimo bars from the freezer and let them sit at room temperature for 5-7 minutes. Warm the caramel sauce until it is runny and slightly warm but not overly hot (you don’t want any burned fingers). Dip the eskimo bars in the caramel and enjoy!

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3. Aji de Gallena

The “Nutty” episode is where you might have expected the bar nuts to pop up, but instead, it was Mo-Chica’s aji de gallina that was chosen by de Laurentiis. Mo-Chica chef and owner Ricardo Zarate shared the recipe for the dish with LA Weekly in 2010; aji amarillo is Peruvian yellow chile paste, and it can be found in most large grocery stores. Originally a way to use of leftovers, this dish is wonderfully flavored Peruvian comfort food.

Ingredients:

  • 13 ounces sourdough bread, crusts removed, torn into small pieces
  • 1 liter whole milk
  • 4-5 chicken breasts
  • chicken stock, as needed
  • 6 ounces red onion, finely diced
  • 4 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon tumeric
  • 2 ounces aji amarillo, or Peruvian yellow chile paste
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon walnuts, chopped or broken by hand
  • 4 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 large potato or the equivalent of smaller potatoes, boiled and cut into medium pieces
  • 1 egg, boiled, peeled, and quartered
  • fresh cilantro

Directions: In a medium bowl, soak the bread in the milk. In a medium pot, boil the chicken breasts in chicken stock. Allow the chicken to cool, then shred the meat with your hands and reserve. You should have about 4 cups.

In a skillet, sauté or shallow fry the onion, garlic, tumeric, and yellow chile paste in olive oil. Add the bread mixture, shredded chicken, and walnuts, and stir to combine and heat. Stir in the cheese at the very end. Serve the Aji de Gallina over the potato and egg, and top with cilantro.

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4. Churros con Cajeta

A churro from La Casita Mexicana will be shorter in length than your average churro, and instead of dipping it in a caramel sauce, you’ll find the delightful caramel accompaniment is already there, inside the churro. For the cajeta, a Mexican caramel sauce made from goat’s milk, follow the recipe from Scarletta Bakes. It makes about 18 ounces and will be perfect when piped into the churros from Annie Eats.

Ingredients:

Cajeta

  • 2 quarts goat milk (cow milk may be substituted, but be sure to go with whole-fat cow milk)
  • 2 cups white sugar, granulated
  • 1 stick canela (a cinnamon stick may be substituted)
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon water (plus extra, possibly, for thinning)

Churros

  • 4½ tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • pinch coarse salt
  • 1 cup flour
  • 3 large eggs, beaten
  • canola oil, for frying
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Directions: For the cajeta, dissolve the baking soda in the water and set aside. Cook the milk, sugar, and canela over medium heat in a large pot. Bring to a simmer (about 20 minutes) while stirring regularly (once the mixture begins to simmer, you should note that all of the sugar has dissolved). As soon as the mixture is simmering actively, remove from heat and stir in the baking soda mixture. The milk may foam if it is highly acidic — that’s not a problem. Once any foam subsides, return the mixture to heat and adjust the temperature so that it is at a constant, brisk simmer. Continue to stir regularly.

After one hour of cooking the cajeta down, you can begin testing a couple of drops on a plate: When cool, the cajeta should be the consistency of a medium-thick caramel sauce. If the cooled cajeta is thicker (almost like caramel candy), stir in a tablespoon or so of water and remove from heat; if too runny, keep cooking. Once the cajeta is done, remove it from heat and allow it to cool before pouring it into storage containers, preferably glass jars. Refrigerate your cajeta until you are ready to serve. You can always reheat it (even in the microwave) and stir in a few drops of water to thin if necessary.

To make the churros, in a medium saucepan, combine the butter, water, sugar, and salt over medium-high heat. Stir frequently. Bring the mixture to a boil. Remove from the heat and transfer to a food processor (a stand mixer will also work). Add in the flour. With the feed tube open to vent steam, pulse (or mix) briefly to incorporate the flour. While continuing to mix, gradually pour in the eggs in a slow, steady stream until fully incorporated and the mixture is smooth.

Heat a large pot of canola oil (at least 2-3 inches deep) to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. While the oil is heating, transfer the batter to a pastry bag fitted with decorative tip. When the oil has reached the desired temperature, pipe lengths of the batter into the oil, using scissors to snip each length off into the pot. Keep the churros only in a single layer and avoid crowding them. Fry, flipping once, until light golden brown, about 2-3 minutes per side. Remove from the oil with a slotted skimmer and transfer to a rack lined with paper towels. Repeat with the remaining batter. Be sure the oil returns to 375 degrees Fahrenheit before adding a new batch.

In a shallow bowl or plate, combine the sugar and the seeds scraped from the vanilla bean pod. Massage together until the vanilla bean is evenly distributed in the sugar. Stir in the cinnamon. Dredge the cooked churros in the cinnamon-sugar mixture, shaking off the excess. Poke a skewer through the doughnut lengthwise and pipe the filling into the hole.

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5. Drunken Noodles with Chicken

When eating with chopsticks, Giada goes for the drunken noodles at Wazuzu in Las Vegas, Nevada. Now, thanks to Wazuzu chef Jet Tila and Average Betty, you can too. You can also check the chef out in action and listen to an interview here.

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons black soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sweet soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 3 tablespoons canola or peanut oil
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 eggs
  • ⅓ pounds beef, pork, or chicken, thinly sliced against the grain
  • ½ medium white onion, sliced
  • 4 cups fresh rice noodles, separated
  • 1 cup Thai basil leaves, loosely packed
  • ½ medium tomato, sliced
  • ½ teaspoon white pepper

Directions: Combine black soy, sweet soy, oyster sauce, and fish sauce in a small bowl and set aside. Heat oil to medium high in a medium sauté pan and sauté garlic until light brown. Add eggs and lightly scramble until set. Add meat and onions, folding constantly, until the meat is half cooked, about 1 to 2 minutes. Add fresh rice noodles, sauce, tomatoes, and basil; toss to combine for about 3-5 minutes. Make sure the noodles are cooked until the edges are slightly crisp. Sprinkle white pepper to combine well and adjust seasonings as necessary.

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