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Customer Review

on 13 November 2010
Being a big fan of both Italian and California-style cooking, this book was the obvious choice for me.

Giada is a very talented and creative chef, who went through culinary training at the Paris Cordon Bleu, and apprenticeships at Wolfgang Puck's Spago and the Ritz Carlton. Her dishes in this book, however, are not complicated to make at all, and rely mostly on everyday ingredients and store cupboard staples in many households.

Yes, she does "Americanize" dishes: for example, on page 86 is a recipe for "Spaghetti with Beef, Smoked Almonds, and Basil." No doubt, the beef is the "American" addition, for guys like her husband about whom she writes, "Todd likes to see a healthy serving of meat front and center on his plate." Strip that out and the recipe is a glamorous take on an old Sicilian dish called pasta con il pesto alla Trapanese, which she gives its modern twist by using smoked almonds instead of regular ones, and adds the refreshing zing of some grated lemon zest.

Another striking dish is "Penne with Treviso and Goat Cheese," a pasta dish whose sauce combines spinach leaves and treviso (a type of radicchio), whose bitter flavor is mellowed by the sweetness of balsamic vinegar, zested up with some fresh basil and lemon juice, and topped with crumbled goat cheese. This dish for me was love at first bite.

Her "Apricot and Nut Cookies" are crunchy and wonderfully buttery, enriched with some pine nuts and flaked almonds.

The book has a few downsides: Giada uses canned and store-bought ingredients a bit too readily for my liking; if I wanted to use ready-mixes I could stick with the recipes on the back of those boxes. And as usual, they are trying to do too much. Giada is probably happy to show how versatile she is, but by including recipes in the style of many US regions and Cally-Italian, the book feels like piecemeal: it's not coherent, and it's not true to the title. Clearly, the Food Network's marketing squad is more at fault here than Giada - I just wish that the chefs would tell this cherished marketing department to leave them alone.

I would still recommend this book to everyone who has an open mind and a palate that is one the sophisticated side.
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