Known for both her easygoing demeanor and her easy-to-prep Mediterranean recipes, Giada De Laurentiis is best known as the Food Network’s “Everyday Italian” host. But in her latest cookbook, “Weeknights with Giada: Quick and Simple Recipes to Revamp Dinner” (Clarkson-Potter, $35), the sunny cook shows off what she cooks in another role: busy wife and mom. She appears Mar. 31 at noon at Sur La Table in Pentagon Row and at the Sixth & I Historic Synagogue at 8 p.m. to chat about it.
How can you get kids involved in the cooking process?
We have a stool in the kitchen so my daughter, Jade, and I can cook side-by-side. Everything gets made twice — once her way and once mom’s way — and my husband gets to decide which tastes better. I lose most of the time [laughs]. It’s a friendly competition she finds very amusing.
Having kids means you often have to cook things more quickly. Any tips on how?
Pick your recipes ahead of time and stock up on things that can sit for a few days: pasta, jarred sauces, garlic, so when you or your husband stop at the store you’re only getting one or two things, usually some kind of meat, fish or produce.
What are shortcuts that save time but don’t sacrifice flavor?
When my grandfather first saw “Everyday Italian,” he said, “You’re telling them they can buy jarred tomato sauce? Are you out of your mind?” But people don’t have that kind of time. Work meals around pre-made foods your family likes. Toss a favorite pesto on pasta or rub it on chicken and bake it. And frozen artichokes are fantastic.
Your new cookbook features some non-Italian recipes. Was this new for you?
My husband loves Thai food. It’s not my forte, and it’s not flavors I grew up with. But I’ve started to make some really great dishes he loves. Sometimes I want to be a little unpredictable, so I use flavors I know my family likes.
At the Mar. 31 event at Sixth & I, you’ll be interviewed by the Washington Post’s interim food editor, Bonnie Benwick. How will this be different from a typical book signing?
People will be able to connect with me in a way they’re usually unable to. I’m talking to everybody, and everyone can hear everyone’s questions. It’s certainly better than standing in line and getting less than 10 seconds with me.
What do people most often want to talk to you about at these types of events?
They want to touch me to see if I’m real, because for some reason they don’t think I am. Some tell me that every time they try a recipe of mine it works, and that is the biggest compliment you can give me. And others want to know how I stay thin and eat all of that food!