Best condiment for grilled cheese? Giada and Bobby answer cooking questions

TODAY fans tweeted their kitchen challengesto #spillthebeans, and this morning Giada De Laurentiis and Bobby Flay shared their expert advice on-air. Check out their answers to your culinary questions below:

Tweet from Candice: "I can never get garlic to cook right, it either gets too burnt or not cooked enough."

Bobby: I actually like to crush the garlic into a paste. I chop it very coarsely, and then I take some kosher salt and use it as an abrasive. I take the side of my knife and crush it into a paste, because I want it to melt away when I put it in olive oil. It’ll disappear, but you have the flavor. Giada does not like to do that.

Giada: I don’t put that much work into it — and I don’t want my fingers to smell that much. I take a clove of garlic and my knife, and I just pound it, smash it. Then I take it out after about two minutes, which is what my mom used to do as well, and we’re done with it. I don’t want to eat the garlic, we’re just enhancing it.

Tweet from Emma: "Best cheeses and condiments for grilled cheese?"

Bobby: I think picking the right cheese is really important.

Giada: An Italian cheese, of course!

Bobby: I picked an Italian cheese as well: fontina. It’s a very nutty cheese, but it actually melts very well. I have bacon and tomatoes, some salt and pepper. You can spread the butter on the bread or actually put it on the griddle itself and then let it cook, griddle side down. What I like to do at home is just cover it with a bowl.

Giada: In Italy we make a lot of panini, and I make mine on a panini press. I use chocolate chips, brie cheese, and I put a little arugula on it because I need a little green in my life. I use taleggio cheese — it has a very potent smell, but it’s so playful with a little honey.

Tweet from Bobby to Giada: "What's the best way to make pasta salad a great dish, not just an afterthought?"

Giada: You cook it just like you cook regular pasta, so put lots of salt in the water. Make it a little al dente, but not too much, because you don’t want it to be crunchy. Do not put oil in the water, and do not strain it. Take the pasta out and put it on a sheet pan to cool.

Remember when you make the dressing to use a very light vinegar like red wine vinegar, lemon juice or apple cider vinegar. Don’t dress it until 10 minutes before you want to serve it, because the dressing will break everything down.

Tweet from Marissa: "What are your favorite meals to cook with your kids?"

Bobby: My daughter Sophie has loved shellfish since she was 5 years old. Anything in a shell is her thing. She used to look at a lobster tank and say, “Yum!”

Giada: Jade likes anything these days: Meatballs, mac and cheese cupcakes, pizza muffins.

Try out Giada's techniques with her panini and pasta salad recipes:

Taleggio and pear panini
Makes 4 servings

1 (1-pound) loaf ciabatta bread (or 8 slices country bread)
1/4 cup olive oil
8 ounces taleggio cheese or brie, sliced
2 large pears, apples or peaches, cored and cut into 1/4-inch wedges
2 tablespoons honey
Pinch salt
Pinch freshly ground black pepper
3 ounces arugula or spinach

Preheat the panini machine. Cut the ciabatta loaf into 4 equal pieces. Halve each piece horizontally to make 4 sandwiches. Brush the bread with olive oil on both sides and place the bottom halves of the bread slices in the panini machine in a single layer. Heat until golden, about 3 to 4 minutes. Continue with the remaining top slices of bread.

While the top slices of the bread are in the panini machine, begin forming the sandwiches. Divide the cheese among the warm bread. Cover the cheese with slices of fruit. Drizzle the fruit with honey. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Top with a handful of arugula. Place the warmed top half of the bread over the arugula and return the competed sandwich to the panini machine for 1 to 2 minutes more to finish melting the cheese. Remove from the panini machine. Cut the sandwiches in half and serve immediately.

Makes 6 servings

12 slices sourdough bread
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
12 ounces Brie cheese, thinly sliced
1 (12-ounce) bag semisweet chocolate chips
1/3 cup thinly sliced fresh basil leaves


Preheat the panini grill.

Brush both sides of the bread with olive oil. Grill the bread slices until they begin to turn golden, about 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from the panini grill and place 2 ounces of cheese on 1 slice of bread (the bottom half), top the cheese with 1/3 cup chocolate chips, and a sprinkle of basil. Top with another slice of bread. Continue with the remaining sandwiches. Return the sandwiches to the panini grill until the chocolate begins to melt, about another 2 minutes.

Cut the sandwiches into 2-inch wide rectangles or small triangles and transfer to a serving platter.

Antipasto salad

Red wine vinaigrette
1 bunch fresh basil, stemmed and leaves chopped (about 2 cups)
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 clove garlic
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Antipasto salad:
1 pound fusilli pasta
1/2 cup hard salami, cut into strips (about 3 ounces)
1/2 cup smoked turkey, cut into strips (about 3 ounces)
1/4 cup provolone cheese, cut into strips
1/4 cup grated Asiago cheese
2 tablespoons green olives, halved and pitted
2 tablespoons roasted red peppers, cut into strips
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Vinaigrette: In a blender, add the basil, vinegar, garlic, mustard, salt and pepper. Blend until the herbs are finely chopped. With the machine running, drizzle in the olive oil until the dressing is smooth.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain pasta.

In a large bowl, toss together the cooked pasta with the remaining salad ingredients. Drizzle with dressing and toss to coat. Serve.