Le Pain Quotidien's Belgian Brownies
Rebecca Peltz's Pletzlach

Giada de Laurentiis's Penne with Spinach Sauce


When I first started this blog, I never imagined I'd be cooking any of the recipes from the more grating personalities on the car wreck that is the Food Network. From Rachael Ray to Paula Deen to Sandra Lee to Giada de Laurentiis, it's a veritable horror show of lip-smacking, thigh-slapping excess. I confess that Alton Brown's show, with its cameo appearances from the grande dame of food science herself, keeps me entertained at times, and that Ina Garten's cooking holds a certain appeal (though her increasing girth has me perpetually worried she'll die of a heart attack on my television screen one day). But Emeril? George? And the rest of the girls? Not my cup of tea.

And yet. When the LA Times reviewed Giada de Laurentiis's new book last week, I couldn't help myself. The description of a pasta dish slicked with spinach sauce didn't sound half bad. Some raw spinach and garlic whirled into a pesto of sorts with goat cheese to punch up the flavor and Parmigiano to smooth out the edges couldn't be terrible. When the article quoted Giada's foreward explaining how the food in her new book is "unpretentious, authentic, down-home Italian cooking", I had to hold back a bit of a snort (aren't I a snob). I know Italian down-home cooking and it has nothing to do with raw spinach or goat cheese or low-fat cream cheese (in the original recipe) or even whole wheat pasta. But this wasn't the time for splitting hairs. It was a time to get over myself and try the food of a best-selling cookbook author.

So, I chopped and I whirled and I boiled and I stirred and before too long I had a plate of pasta looking much like it was coated with pesto, but tasting nothing of that springy, herbal sauce. The spinach sauce was harsh with raw garlic, and the raw leafy greens had a flat, disappointing taste. Just thinking of it makes my stomach turn a bit. Ah, and here's the problem. A few hours after I ate my dinner, I became violently ill. For two days. It's taken me four days to even be able to look at the photograph without throwing up a little in my mouth. So, I'd say I should have just listened to my gut. Just because those slick little people in the television box are pretty to look at (an arguable point, I know), it doesn't mean they aren't out to reduce you to a sweating pile of misery lying on your tiled bathroom floor at 2 am in the morning, begging for someone to please just let you die.