Giada De Laurentiis, the comely Food Network chef and cookbook author, has made a name for herself preparing relaxed Italian fare. Her latest book, Weeknights With Giada continues that path but offers solace to stressed home cooks who want to eat well on weeknights but have limited time for food preparation. All the dishes are designed to make it to the table in under an hour and some are ready much faster.
In order to makes these recipes fast and easy, De Laurentiis takes some short cuts including using prepared pizza dough and supermarket rotisserie chicken. Options range from light and lean salads to cream-laden pastas and meat-centered entrees. The first few chapters in the book are full of DeLaurentiis’ standard Italian comfort food, all delicious but definitely firmly in her safe zone.
Later in the book she steps away from all that with a chapter titled “Change Of Pace.” This chapter takes inspiration from a variety of cuisines serving up recipes from chicken with Peruvian chile sauce to tofu with miso vinaigrette, edamame and mushrooms. For her Food Network fan base this may seem an odd step but these meals fit in with the goal of getting a nutritious dinner to the table fast. There is also a chapter devoted to that fast dinner standby–breakfast as dinner. De Laurentiis steps it up from the basics with fare like peanut butter and jam crepes, smoked salmon crostota, and baked potatoes with sausage and arugula. This might be the most inspired chapter of the entire book, hitting that sweet spot between ease and flavor. A real homemade dessert is no easy feat on a weekday but this book shows how to pull it off, with a little help from cake mixes, Nutella, and canned pumpkin.
The book has the same soft and lovely air that her television shows have. De Laurentiis portrays a gauzy fantasy world where makeup is always perfect, children are always adorable, and food is ready for its closeup.