Food Network’s latest star to hit the airwaves is Melissa d’Arabian, wife and mother of four daughters, ages four, three and one-and-a-half-year-old twins. After years in the business world, d’Arabian decided to become a stay-at-home mom, volunteering in her community and pursuing her love of cooking for her husband and daughters.
d’Arabian started her journey ten weeks ago when Food Network cast her as one of ten contestants to compete in season five of “The Next Food Network Star.” d’Arabian considered herself the dark horse from the very first show since she had no formal training. From her travels in such places as France and Tunisia, d’Arabian found that she loved to experiment with different flavors and make fast, economical and healthy dishes for her whole family. Week after week of the competition, d’Arabian proved this while giving new and easy tips to the judges and audience, always doing so with a positive attitude, winning smile and upbeat personality.
One of the key things that set d’Arabian apart from her competition, and that amazed the judges, was her handy tips. On one episode she had to make something with brussels sprout that kids might like, so she created mashed potatoes with a brussels sprout purÃ©e mixed in and plated it along with a raw piece of brussels sprout. Judge Rachael Ray was wondering why a raw piece would be included on the plate, but as d’Arabian explained, whenever she introduces a new vegetable to her kids, she always puts a small raw piece on the plate, because the crunch of it might make them think of something they already like, such as potatoes, so they would then accept the new vegetable as being good to eat.
Other d’Arabian tips included wrapping up a chicken breast and putting it in the freezer for a bit to make it easier to cut, never to overwork ground beef because it can end up making it too tough, and when sautÃ©ing vegetables for a quick and easy meal to remember the ingredients by the mnemonic “E-Z POT.” This means you only use, eggplant, zuccinni, peppers, onions and tomatoes, putting them in the skillet in that order since eggplant takes a few more minutes to cook than zuccinni and so on. Each vegetable thus retains its color, crispness, flavor and nutrients and all are healthy for you.
In the final week of the competition d’Arabian faced off against other finalist Jeffrey Saad, owner of a real estate firm and former owner of a restaurant who liked to travel to new places to find exciting ingredients to experiment with. Keeping with her philosophy of creating quick, easy and healthy food that can be put together from common items in the pantry and refrigerator, d’Arabian made a four-step “Rustic Lemon Chicken” dish, an amazingly easy recipe that looked delicious and consisted simply of:
Step 1 ®” Dredge a boneless, skinless chicken breast in flour, salt and pepper and sautÃ© in a skillet. Remove from skillet
Step 2- Cook your aromatics. She used onions.
Step 3- Add chicken stock and the juice from two fresh lemons
Step 4- Finish sauce with a couple of pats of butter to bring it together. Place chicken back in the skillet and let the chicken finish cooking in the sauce. Serve with vegetables.
After being named “The Next Food Network Star,” Brooke Johnson, President of Food Network, informed d’Arabian that she would be starting work on her new show the very next morning and it would air in exactly one week.
On Sunday, August 16th, exactly ten weeks since d’Arabian started on her journey, her new show “Ten Dollar Dinners with Melissa d’Arabian” aired on Food Network. For the premiere episode, d’Arabian made “North African Meatballs,” easy couscous with dates and cumin glazed carrots, and of course, she was not short on great new tips. We learned that tomatoes are at their peak of freshness when they are put in a can, so a canned tomato is essentially a fresh tomato. We learned to keep fresh ginger in the freezer because it will keep longer and it will be easier to grate. We learned that when making meatballs always use whole rolled oats instead of breadcrumbs since whole rolled oats have more fiber and are healthier.
In just a short thirty-minute show, d’Arabian was able to give some really good tips, while cooking a dinner that looked fabulous for under ten dollars. She stated, “food should be fun and make you feel good.” It is obvious that from her first show the judges were right on naming Melissa d’Arabian “The Next Food Network Star.”