Now Playing – “You Don’t Have to Believe Me” – Eric Hutchinson
Quick! Name your favorite food network show. Barefoot Contessa? Yeah, me too!
Ina Garten is a wonderwoman. A genius. A goddess. My idol! Mildly obsessed? Absolutely. My friend and I even contemplated dressing up as Ina for Halloween, but I was a little skeptical of how I would be able to rock the “Ina bangs”. But seriously, how can you say no to that face?! The woman has created an empire – hundreds upon hundreds of recipes that are so simple yet so elegant, so tasty and so damn easy to make. I would cut off my right arm to hang out with her and Jeffery in her kitchen and make nutella crepes. I can see it now – Ina perfectly flipping the golden brown crepes, Jeffery pouring the piping hot coffee into our individual monogrammed mugs while I, dressed in one of Ina’s apron’s, prepare the nutella glaze. Ah, bliss.
Well, for today, that is one far fetched dream. So, I figured I would do the next best thing and transform myself into Ina, just for a few days. Watching me in the kitchen is like watching Ina’s evil twin. I’m clumsy, impatient, obnoxious and my food never turns out as pretty. Ina would never spend her Thanksgiving getting drunk off Apple Cider cocktails and later drop the champange flute to the floor, shattering glass on the feet of her family and closest friends. And I’m pretty sure Ina would never spill Italian dressing on the new fancy dining room chairs. (Sorry, Mom)
As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, Queen Ina recently came out with a new cookbook, “Barefoot Contessa: How Easy is That?” With the spirit of Ina running through my veins, I tackled three more of her recipes. I started my transformation on the walk home from work, as I endured the bitter cold and freezing wind that splashed my face, all with a smile. Since I couldn’t pick up a bouquet of flowers (so Ina), I went for the next best thing. Sprinkles Cupcakes. I was planning on creating a feast of Barefoot proportions when I got home, but seeing as I was entertaining a dear friend (per Ina), I figured I’d pick up a little treat for dessert, as to focus all my energy on the appetizer and entree. I arrived home with a box of six gorgeous cupcakes.
With the cupcakes far away from the wandering eye/mouth of my dad (maybe not so Ina), I threw on my apron and began cooking, with my imaginary television crew in front of me filming our pilot episode for “Barefoot Bytes”. I adjusted my bangs, found my red lipstick and pearl earrings and suddenly, I was Ina.
A Panznella salad is basically a bread salad with veggies, and Ina’s Greek version is out of control good. It’s easy, very quick and actually, quite fun to make.
3/4 cup good olive oil, divided
6 cups (1-inch) diced rustic bread / kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper to season
1 hothouse cucumber, unpeeled, halved legnthwise, seeded & sliced 1/2 inch thick
1 red bell pepper, seeded & large-diced & 1 yellow pepper, seeded & large-dived
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved (I used cherry – yum!)
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced in half-rounds
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons minced garlic 2 cloves (I used garlic powder instead and it worked great)
1 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
1/2 pound good feta cheese – 3/4 inch dived
First, heat 1/4 cup of the olive oil in a large saute pan until hot. Add the diced bread, sprinkle with salt and pepper and cook over low heat for about ten minutes until the bread is nicely browned – set aside.
Place all the veggies in a large bowl and toss together. For the dressing, whisk together the vinegar, garlic, oregano, mustard, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. While whisking, slowly add 1/2 cup of the olive oil to make an emulsion (what a fun word to say!) Finally, add the feta to the veggie’s in the bowl, add the dressing and toss lightly. Set aside for about 30 minutes ( I stopped and got hungry at 25 minutes) for the flavors to develop. Season to taste and serve at room temperature.
Normal & boring Allana has always been a little weary of meat sauces. Perhaps it’s her picky demeanor. Allana who is under the influence of Ina, well she threw those eating habits out the window the minute she tasted this sauce.
2 tablespoons good olive oil
1 pound lean ground sirlion
4 tablespoons minced garlic (4 cloves)
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (more or less depending on how feisty you’re feeling)
1 & 1/4 cups dry red wine, divided
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes, preferably San Marzano
2 tablespoons tomato paste (+ kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste)
1 pound dried pasta such as orecchiette or small shells (I used whole wheat spaghetti)
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (I could probably eat an entire hunk of Parmesan Cheese if I was challenged, so I use aloooot more than 1/2 cup)
Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the ground sirloin and cook, crumbling the meat with a wooden spoon for 5-7 minutes until the meat starts to brown. Stir in the garlic, oregano and red pepper flakes and cook for another minute. Pour 1 cup of the wine into the skillet, add the tomatoes, tomato paste, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and stir until combined. Bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for ten minutes.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil, add 1 tablespoon (or more) of salt, a splash of oil and the pasta and cook according to the directions on the box. While the pasta cooks, finish up the sauce – add the tomatoes, nutmeg, cream and the remaining 1/4 cup of wine to the sauce and simmer for 8-10 minutes until it’s nice and thick. When the pasta’s done, drain and pour it into a large serving bowl. Add the sauce, all the parmesan cheese you’d like and enjoy.
With a mouthful of piping hot pasta, I tried to contain my excitement. I kept thinking, “Holy shit, is this stuff good!!!”. Of course, on the outside, I smiled my Ina smile, and hoped everyone else enjoyed. The camera lights in my head slowly flickered off, and as I carefully removed my fake pearl earrings later that night, I took a minute to thank the the original, the wonderwoman, the real Ina, the real Barefoot Contessa. I smiled as I crawled into bed, hoping to once again find myself in Ina’s kitchen, cooking alongside the one and only.