Happy Cooking by Giada // Book Review
Happy Cooking: Make Every Meal Count . . . Without Stressing Out is the latest work by Giada De Laurentiis, the Food Network’s darling Italian chef. The cookbook boasts nearly 200 recipes but I found the boasting less than warranted. Spread across 312 pages, those 200 recipes are excessively punctuated by photo after photo of Giada. She appears on the book jacket a staggering 11 times.
This cookbook is a feel-good text covering everything from breakfast to sweets. I found some of the healthy Italian ideas a bit of fresh air compared to other cookbooks that take the boring and tired approach to traditional dishes. For example, Giada’s Pasta e Fagioli recipe includes mussels and her salmon recipe includes a edamame succotash. These are great improvements from other books. There are a handful of odd inclusions as well. Dotted throughout the book are really in-depth specialty Italian dishes, a hand scrub, a dog treat and more. These are fun inclusions, but I prefer cookbooks that focus on good recipes. I can pluck a hand scrub recipe from a magazine. However, I see how some readers might enjoy all things Giada and might love to try out her non-food recipes.
The photography throughout the cookbook is glorious, even if a good percentage of the photos include Giada. Full-page photos are so crisp that you can taste the food – and kernels of corn are life-sized. However, the scenery shots of Giada camping or biting into a chicken leg felt gratuitous and out-of-place.
I spent several weeks cooking recipes from this book. Some were successful and some were not. My favorite recipe was the pan-roasted asparagus with gremolata (page 152). This recipe caught my eye because I have grown tired of uninspired asparagus recipes. The gremolata in this recipe added the perfect crunch to the asparagus. The pastina soup (page 100) was extremely tasty, but fell flat because I could not find stelline pasta in the Netherlands. I substituted a similarly small pasta shape but the larger surface area of my tubular pasta shape absorbed most of the liquid in the pot. This made the consistency too thick.
The California lettuce wraps on page 149 were excellent. The lime juice in the recipe was absolutely necessary to balance the dish. I found that the pinch of salt was also essential.
The last recipe I’d like to mention is the pineapple-ginger smoothie (page 6). I mistakenly thought our three-year-old would suck it down like he does with every other smoothie recipe I have used. Sadly, the ginger was too much spice for him. Next time, I will make the smoothie without as much ginger for our kiddo, and then I will add the remainder for the adult smoothies.
Overall, I had a fine experience with this cookbook. It is colorful, full of photos and easy to read. On the negative side, some of the recipes are quite simple. They don’t focus on cultivating flavors. Also, there were simply too many Giada pictures and not enough recipes.
I received this book for free from Blogging for Books in exchange for this review. All opinions are my own.