Episode 4: One Minute Gourmet: Giada

What happens in Vegas doesn’t really stay in Vegas.

I usually don’t have any remorse over things that happen in Vegas. Even if I lose a few bucks gambling, or went a little overboard shopping, I’m over it by the end of the trip. But I can’t get over when I overpay for a meal … and Giada De Laurenttis’ signature restaurant, Giada, inside The Cromwell is one hand I totally regret.

I must admit that the food was pretty decent. I won’t say it’s a four star restaurant but the plate of Gnocchi with tomato sauce was simple but flavorful, and the Eggplant Lasagna had the wonderful combination of rich and cheesy flavors. The Spinach and Ricotta pizza was mediocre, at best, but what doesn’t taste good if it’s washed down with a glass of fruity Sangaria?

I think the restaurant perfectly represents Giada herself, or the way I feel about her:  It’s gorgeous and there’s no denying that this place has an impeccable taste, but it’s not interesting enough for me to return, especially with the outrageous price tag that’s attached to it.  Yes, you’re good but you’re no Mario Batali or even Bobby Flay.

Think:  Overpriced California Pizza Kitchen, with below average service.  But it does have a nice view overlooking the Vegas strip.

I hope everyone had a wonderful Valentine’s Day … and congratulations to all the Los Angeles Marathon finishers today!

At The Cromwell
3595 Las Vegas Blvd South, Las Vegas, NV 89109

Salmon Cakes


I am trying so hard not to pass judgment or make assumptions about others. I recently read a story about a certain celebrity couple who left their three-month-old baby home to fly to Paris, to attend a certain celebrity event. The former self would have judged and said, “Dude, what the #%@#? They’re such #$@%-ing awful parents for leaving their newborn, just to satisfy their own vanity!” (By the way, I’m trying hard to curse less too.) But the new self now thinks, “Everyone is entitled to their own choices, and if going away and taking a little vacation from parenting actually makes them better parents, let them to fly to a foreign country and flaunt those mega post-baby boobies!” It’s not easy, but I’m trying!

So, in the spirit of positive thinking, giving the benefit of the doubt, looking on the bright side of life, and glass is always half full, give Salmon Cakes from a canned salmon a try! Canned fish often gets a bad rap but these flaky cakes are delicious!


Salmon Cake
(Adapted from Ten Dollar Dinners, as well as Food Network)


2 strips bacon, cooked until crispy, crumbled, bacon fat reserved
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 egg
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 lemon, zested
1 (14-ounce) can wild salmon, checked for large bones
1 baked or boiled russet potato, peeled, and fluffed with a fork
1/4 cup bread crumbs
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup vegetable oil


Heat 1 tablespoon of the reserved bacon fat in a small saute pan over low heat. Add the onions and cook until translucent. Cool the onions for a bit.

Mix the bacon, onion, egg, mayonnaise, mustard, sugar, and lemon zest in a bowl. Add the salmon and potato, mixing gently after each addition. Form the mixture into 12 small patties. In a shallow dish, combine the bread crumbs, Parmesan, and pepper, to taste. Coat the patties in the bread crumb topping. Heat 1/4 cup of the oil in a large saute pan over medium heat, and cook the salmon cakes in batches until golden, about 3 to 4 minutes per side. Add more oil, as necessary. Arrange on a serving platter and serve.

I didn’t make the recommended side dishes. Instead, I served the cakes with pasta salad and string beans.


Orange Carrot Soup

soup 2

I developed a culinary crush on Melissa D’Arabian back in 2009 when she won the Next Food Network Star with her down to earth and wallet friendly menus, with a dash of her tenacious spirit. Then I cancelled cable and we went our separate ways … until we reunited when I purchased her cookbook, Ten Dollar Dinners!

I love buying cookbooks but I rarely cook from them (I read them like a literature), but this one is different. All the recipes look delectable and approachable. They are the culinary version of a girl next door – non-assuming and accessible– just like Melissa herself.

My first attempt from the cookbook:  Orange Carrot Soup (you can find the recipe on the FN website, under the name, Orange-Scented Soup).  The soup is infused with orange zest, which gives this lovely earthy soup a special twist.  I used a lemon zest instead but it was still very lovely.  My husband enjoyed it too, and this will surely become a go-to soup in chilly fall / winter nights.  And yes, the soup cost next to nothing, delivering on her promise.

We paired the soup with Salade Nicoise with Lemon-Thyme Vinaigerette (p.93) from the cookbook for dinner. 

Orange Carrot Soup
Adapted from Ten Dollar Dinners


1 tablespoon olive oil
3/4 pound carrots, roughly chopped
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
1 clove garlic, smashed
2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/4 cup white wine
1 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 1/2 cups water
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons light sour cream, divided


In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the carrots and the onion and sweat until the mixture starts to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, orange zest and oregano and cook until fragrant, another 1 to 2 minutes. Raise the heat and deglaze the pan with white wine. Add the stock and water. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook until the carrots are tender, about 8 to 10 minutes. Cool the mixture for about 5 minutes before processing.

Process the soup in a food processor or blender until smooth. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Pour into serving bowls and swirl in a heaping teaspoon of sour cream before serving.

I love this cookbook and Melissa’s recipes so much that I created a new categories for it! 🙂

Celebration Paarti with Aarti! Baked Samosas

I don’t think I have been this excited about a reality show winner since … I don’t know … I don’t really watch much of them. I watched the last several seasons of The Next Food Network Star and was very pleased with Amy and Melissa’s wins, but I was not emotionally invested in them.

In all honesty, I have been a bit disappointed with my then-favorite cable channel for a while now. It’s like when MTV stopped showing music videos and started showing game shows and other, non music-related programs in the 90s, Food Network has been spiraling down the wrong direction, in my opinion, by showing food competitions and other stupid programs that have nothing to do with cooking. Granted, I still enjoy some non-traditional “cooking” shows like Throwdown with Bobby Flay (Flay is super hot), Iron Chef (gotta respect those talented chefs), and Good Eats (the best show ever, in my opinion) that are still very respectable, but any shows that make contestants cook under pressure like this and this are just silly. I rarely watch Food Network anymore.

Then came an adorable little sweetheart Aarti Sequeira to the rescue, and got me glued to the channel all over again! I was so excited when she won the title of The Next Food Network Star, and although I haven’t really tried cooking Indian food in the past, I know that I would tune in to her show every week going forward to learn a new trick or two.  I love, love, love Aarti already and I know that she will be fantastic in her new endeavors!  I cannot wait to watch her pilot this Sunday!

For all the other Aarti fans out there, you probably already know that she is the host of a weekly online cooking / variety show called, “Aarti Paarti,” which she shoots with her equally adorable husband in their tiny but charming kitchen in Los Angeles (Culver City, I think). It is so quirky and funny, you have to check it out. The Aarti you see here are more relaxed and easy-going, I think, than the person you see on TNFNS (nerves, perhaps), but they are both lovable and Aarti Paarti is a guarantee good time. I watched all the episodes in one sitting and even though it cut my precious sleep time significantly, it was all worth it.

I just hope that Food Network will keep her quirky, wacky, slightly-odd style and not try to squeeze her into a mainstream mold just to gain some rating. I was already a little bummed that it even changed the name of the show from “Aarti Paarti” to “Aarti Party” but we’ll just have to wait and see.

To celebrate her win, I decided to cook my first Indian dish from one of my favorite Aarti Paarti episodes / recipes: Baked Samosas! I am almost certain that this recipe will be featured on her new show.

I changed the recipes for the dough and the filling pretty significantly (especially the filling, which has no resenblence of her mango-cilantro goodness) based on what were available in my fridge but the results were heavenly. Here are the recipes that I used / modified. I improvised a lot and since I have no knowledge of an Indian cuisine, I hope I didn’t mess things up, or offended any Indian cooks out there by screwing with the authenticity!

Baked Samosas
(Click here for Aarti’s original recipe. I highly recommend that you try Aarti’s version instead of mine … 😆 )  This recipe makes 8 large samosas, with some leftover filling.

Pastry Dough
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup non-fat yogurt
1/4 olive oil
A pinch of salt

For Filling
(Please note that his is completely different form Aarti’s original recipe)
2 medium-size potatoes, boiled
1/2 small onion, chopped
1/3 cups green peas, defrosted if using frozen
1 corn
6 – 8 oz. chicken breast, poached and shredded
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons curry powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon agave nectar
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 475 degree F. Put the flour, yogurt, olive oil and salt together in a bowl and mix well. Knead the dough for about five minutes. Let the dough sit for about 10 minutes.

1. Okay, here’s an embarrassing confession. Instead of the poached chicken, I used shredded chicken from a can! My mother gave it to me a few weeks ago because she wanted to make sure that I’m eating well (gotta love moms!). I didn’t think I would ever use it but when I realized that I had no more chicken breast left and I was too lazy to go buy one, I decided to crack open this baby up and give it a try. It wasn’t great but it was still edible. If you have the chance to use the “real” chicken, I recommend that you do!

2. Add potatoes, onion, shredded chicken, green peas, corn, and all the spices in a bowl and mix well.

3. Cut the dough in four.

4. Roll each dough in a round shape. You can change the size depending on the size of samosas you want but I liked mine big so I made a circle about 7 x 7 inches. Cut the dough in half.

5. Put the filling on one side. Bring the top edge to the middle of the dough.

6. Water the dough and bring the bottom edge to the top to close out the opening.

7. Pinch the opening and make sure that they are closed.

8. Close the openings around the dough by pressing it with a fork. Brush the pastry lightly with olive oil.

9. Put the samosas on a baking pan and bake in the 475 degree F oven for about 15 minutes. Lower the temperature to 375 degree F and bake for another 10 minutes.

10. Enjoy them while they’re still hot! 🙂  Mmm … they were so delicious, I ate three for lunch this afternoon.  This is my first Indian-inspired dish and absolutely loved it.  The curry powder and cumin gave a very, distinct flavors!  I will definitely try this, and many more of Aarti’s recipes soon!

Congratulations, Aarti!  YIPPEEEEEE!