April 13, 2009

Gwyneth Paltrow’s Cooking Show on PBS; care for some empanadas?

I keep missing the show, is it still on?

Spain…on the Road Again with Mario Batali and Gwyneth Platrow

Not that we needed another celebrity to do a cooking show and show us how to eat right and enjoy those little, if any calories-full, ingredients they use in cooking to stay fit, slim and full (which usually backfires because we can’t afford the home-delivered Zone meals anyway.)

But this new cooking show Spain…on the Road Again on PBS, aired last September (I apologize for the old news, though), featuring Gwyneth Platrow and Mario Batali, a former Iron Chef America contestant, a superstar chef, author of the New York Times bestseller Italian Grill and Molto Italiano, and the chef and owner of eight popular restaurants, including two Spanish joints, Casa Mono and Bar Jamón in New York City, promises to be a good one. So good that we can start counting our calories now, because Europeans don’t usually obsess about fat-free, sugar-free, and taste-free foods when they eat out or cook.

Europeans celebrate foods and drinks, and this is what we should do as well. Years of experiments have proven that fat-free is not as healthy as it was claimed to be. So is the sugar-free. It’s all about the portions and moderations, fresh foods and cans-free, and a glass of wine here and there (French have the lowest rate of heart attacks in the world, attributing this fact to consuming wine at each meal, excluding, perhaps, only breakfast.)

While many cooking shows are set in a studio, Spain…on the Road Again is like a breath of fresh air - set on the actual locales of Spain - the show slash road trip makes it more entertaining and culturally-fulfilling to watch as we get to experience the atmosphere of it all – Spanish cuisine, Spanish people, Spanish climate, and Spanish cities and towns. I’m an active proponent of seeing, feeling, smelling and touching as you learn to cook dishes from regions other than where we live. If you talk about Spanish cuisine, it does help to be in Spain, show Spain, use Spanish ingredients and celebrate Spanish way of life and cooking.

The foursome – Mario Batali, Mark Bittman, Gwyneth Paltrow and Claudia Bassols, Spanish actress - take Spanish cuisine on the road through exploring Spain’s art, history, and culture in an adventurous cultural trip across the country with stops for savory cooking lessons of regional traditional dishes. If PBS is not airing the show anymore, you can still see all the episodes, including meeting the cast on SpainOnTheRoadAgain.

Years of strict macrobiotic diet, Paltrow finally loosens up and embraces what’s there in Spain to offer, but does keep her vegetarian profile. This leaves her out of some of the most delicious local treats – cured raw ham (jamon serrano), liver (higado), and spicy sausage (chorizo), among other mouth-watering Spanish dishes.

Being a busy bee, I didn’t get a chance to fish out the show and actually see it for myself, but from Mario Batali’s cookbook (ironically, or not, with the same title as the show “Spain…on the Road Again”) that features the recipes used in the show, it’s very appealing. Not to mention the fact that I’ve just come back from my 10-day trip around Spain. Still feeling the Spanish vibe, and remembering the local cuisine of tapas, paellas, sangria, cured hams, patata bravas and sausage-bean (chorizo-habas cocido) stews, I’m looking forward to seeing what Ms. Paltrow and Mr. Batali come up with in the show, and how entertaining and feasible the cooking will be. I’m actually looking forward to see how one can make empanadas, paella and Sangria at home, using the local produce without making international shipping requests from señoras and señores in Spain.

By the way, don’t expect breakfast places in Spain open earlier than 10:00 a.m., but at least in Spain you can have dinner as late at midnight.

If you are like me, who keeps missing the show on TV, catch the show on YouTube, and see what the show is all about to decide on whether to keep your TV guide on mark for the next show.

More from Mario Batali, check out his Italian Grill, Molto Italiano: 327 Simple Italian Recipes to Cook at Home, and The Babbo Cookbook; all available on Amazon.com.

Giada De Laurentiis’ Everyday Italian

One of my other beloved American-European TV cooking personalities with an International angle is Giada De Laurentiis. Her cooking program Everyday Italian has been broadcast on Food Network since 2003.
Check out her cookbook Giada’s Kitchen: New Italian Favorites online.

De Laurentiis is not knew to the American people, she has started what’s now known “cook as your travel” touchy-feely cooking shows during which she’d go to various parts of Italy, introducing the local produce, people, scenery, restaurants and traditions. Her shows and cookbooks give a new meaning to Italian cuisine – she made it fun, easy and enticing for us.
Other cookbooks by De Laurentiis: Everyday Italian: 125 Simple and Delicious Recipes, Everyday Pasta, and Giada’s Family Dinners. Talk about real Italian family dinners!

Would love to hear what you thought of the Mario Batali’s Spain…On the Road Again cooking show.

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