Thursday, March 12, 2009

Checking In With A Giada Recipe

My blog, my blog, my precious precious blog ... oh, how I've MISSED thee! *blowing kisses at the computer screen* I'm a horrible mama to you, I know. I created you with so much love, went through the initial growing pains with you, nursed you, cherished you, watched you blossom ... and then I disappear for FOUR DAYS without so much as a leaving a note! The same goes for you, dear readers. You, who have stuck by me through post after post of my random babbling (but at least the recipes were good, right?!). Dear readers, you have done nothing to deserve such tardiness from me. It's not you, it's me. Will you give me a chance to redeem myself? Pretty please? Trust me, I have some fab-yu-lus-ness waiting for you as you scroll down. So much so that I can't help but submit a couple of the pics to Gayathri from Just Urs for MCC 2009.

But first, I owe you an explanation. I actually skipped town after my previous post. No, I'm not on the run from the law or anything, nor did DH kick me out (not after I've bought his love with all this food!). You see, it's my dear 'ol dad's b'day this week. And I wanted to surprise him by showing up at my parents' doorstep completely unannounced. Which I did, and it was a fabulous surprise for them, so mission accomplished there. But the thing is, my parents live in Canada. And I haven't been back to visit them in a while. So now that I'm here, I plan to stay for a week. I've used this time for some selfish needs like catching up with family and friends, BUT I didn't forget you, dear readers, or my darlin' blog. You're always lurking (hm, not the best choice of words, ummm, "creeping"? No. "Lingering"? Yes.) ... you're always lingering at the back of mind, and for you I braved the bitter Canadian winter winds in order to experience, taste and photograph real gems of deliciousness. When I get back home to Long Island, you'll be seeing lot of Toronto on my plate. I've already reported back to DH with some of my more drool-worthy finds. He so jealous. Hee hee.
This Rigatoni With Butternut Squash & Prawns is my first Giada de Laurentiis recipe. Much like Giada, it's just so darn PRETTY! I couldn't stop photographing it. So you'll see some really tantalizing shots as you read along. It's also my first post using some kind of seafood. Seafood has always been a little intimidating for me, but I wuv shellfish, so hopefully this is the first of many nummy seafood recipes coming your way from me.
Hello little shrimpies ... or should I call you Monsieur Prawn?!

Rigatoni With Butternut Squash & Prawns
(adapted from Giada's recipe on the Food Network)
Serves 6


3 tablespoons olive oil, plus 3 tablespoons
1 butternut squash, trimmed and cut into 1-inch cubes
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon salt, plus 1 teaspoon
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus 1/2 teaspoon
1 cup vegetable stock
1 pound rigatoni
1 pound prawns, peeled and deveined (I used the frozen ones, thawed)
3/4 to 1 cup whole milk (low fat worked fine for me)
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
1 cup grated Parmesan

1. Warm 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat.

2. Add the butternut squash, garlic, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. Saute until the squash is golden and tender, 10 minutes or so.
3. Add the vegetable stock, bring to a simmer, cover and cook until the squash is very soft, another 10-15 minutes.

4. Transfer the squash mixture to a blender or food processor and puree.
5. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain pasta.

6. Meanwhile, warm the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle the prawns with the remaining 1 teaspoon of salt and remaining 1/2 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper. Add the prawns to the pan and cook until just pink, about 3 minutes.
7. In a large pot over low heat combine the cooked pasta, pureed squash mixture, half of the basil and 3/4 cup milk. Stir to combine. Add the remaining 1/4 cup milk if the sauce needs to be moistened (I needed more, because it was still pretty thick). Add the cooked prawns, remaining basil, and cheese. Stir until warm and serve.
Verdict: I would rate this a 6.5, almost 7, out of 10. I love butternut squash, so I did enjoy the sauce, and adding the sauteed prawns is a really great idea. This is a wonderful dish to entertain friends with, because of the subtle, pleasant flavors and the gorgeous presentation. It's also healthy! But next time I'm going to experiment with more spices and herbs. It needed more depth, more layers of flavor. This dish reminds me of Giada herself - great looks, but a bit shallow. Yes, I know I'm probably going to get a lot of hate-mail for saying that! But I don't really like Giada. I used to, but then I read somewhere what Giada said about Lidia Bastianich - something along the lines of calling her "boring" and that she, Giada, can do better. Basically dissing my Lidia. Nobody, I say, NOBODY messes with my Lidia. Especially not a young snippy little thing like Giada. Lidia can cook her under the table anyday, in her sleep. I'm very big on giving teachers, elders, mentors their due, and Lidia Bastianich is an institution. You don't have to like her, but you should respect her. Still, my score for this recipe is based purely on the dish. DH liked it, especially the prawns, and says he'll happily have it if I make it again. So Giada, looks like you and I will have to learn to work together!
I wonder if Ben over at What's Cooking? will still accept this entry for the weekly round-up of Presto Pasta Nights? Gosh I couldn't bear to get kicked out of that fabulous group! No hard feelings I hope, all you Giada fans out there. C'mon, I'm willing to try her dishes, and give them a fair shot. Still friends?!