Saturday, March 10, 2007

I'ma big fan of Ina

The Barefoot Contessa with Ina Garten

Fast and Elegant Supper
Asian Grilled Salmon
Sauteed Asparagus and Snap Peas
Zucchini Vichyssoise
Pear Clafouti

Yummy zucchini and leek vichyssoise start the menu. I wish Ina could have taken a moment to show us how to deal with leeks. Take a sharp paring knife and cut the green ends as if you were sharpening an old fashioned wooden pencil. The leek should end up with a pointed pencil shape at the end. Cut off the hairy bit at the white end. Cut in half lengthwise and rinse all the dirt from in between all those layers. Slice as desired.

She says she's going to add a bit of cream at the end. We'll see about that......

Ina gets to work on the Clafouti - one of my favorite desserts of all time, thanks to a really simple Julia recipe. Julia made hers in a blender, which I highly recommend. Just throw in all of Ina's ingredients, except the rind, and let the blender go. Pour into a bowl for refrigerating and stir in zest. BTW, Ina uses a microplaner to zest the lemon. This is simply my FAVORITE kitchen tool.

I love how Ina always says "GOOD vanilla extract." I've always listened to her!! If I run out, I use a bit of brandy or cognac. Use the same quantity as vanilla.

Note: Having said that, Cook's Magazine did a taste test where Imitation Vanilla came out equal to or better than real vanilla, particularly in baked goods, as opposed to custards, for example. The problem seems to be when people taste the vanilla out of the bottle - the imitation tastes nasty. It must be cooked. (I'll prob'ly still buy the real stuff, but you do what you think is right.)

Clafouti is classically made with cherries. Ina's using pears and I'm also a BIG fan of apricots. Her recipe doesn't say this, but, boy, is it great to soak the pears in a bit of brandy and sugar BEFORE you put them in the dish!

Back to the soup, Ina says -on the show, but not in the recipe -you can always puree it in a food blender OR food processor before putting it through a food mill. Trust me, NEVER put potatoes in a food processor, they come out like glue. Maybe, because they are a relatively small percentage of this dish, it would be ok, but don't fool with potatoes and a food pro., you're bound for heartbreak.......The soup looks lovely and lookie at this.....Ina actually does add only a few tablespoons of cream.

Asian Grilled Salmon. Look at her fish. BEEYOOTEEFULL!!! She's using the marinade as a marinade AND a sauce - a practice I thoroughly approve of.

I like to sauce up my dishes whenever possible. Remember, though, to cook any marinade that raw fish, chicken or meat has been sitting in if you're using it for a sauce. Ina divides the marinade, so that's not necessary.

Ina suggests a half a pound of salmon per person. Unless she's coming to dinner, you could go a bit less, say 6 oz. per mouth to feed. Marinade looks simply delicious. This could turn into a quick family favorite. Wait a minute! Whoa there, Nellie! 6 tablespoons of olive oil?! No way, you need that much. But everything else, as always with the Royal Nude-of-Foot One, is awesome.

Ina returns from a short excursion. Miguel is already in the house doing the table setting. (Does adorable Jeffrey miss every social event because of his pesky Yale job?) Listen to this...Miguel didn't have a frog for placing the flowers in the vase. HE TOOK SCOTCH TAPE AND MADE A GRID ACROSS THE TOP OF THE BOWL to hold the flowers in place!!! That's some fancy flower prestidigitation.

Ok, Clafouti batter is out of the fridge. Ina slices the pears just beautifully, in a French tart way...Back to the salmon. Here we go. Onto a HOT grill pan, SKIN SIDE DOWN. GO for it and don't move it, so you get perfect grill marks. 5 minutes each side, she says. I'm not going to argue with Ina, but if you are using pieces less than half a pound, cut your cooking time accordingly. I would still cook it on the first side for 5 minutes, but maybe 3 minutes and 45 seconds on the second. Here's a tip - the fish should feel like the tip of your nose - just don't go feeling the fish and THEN your nose with the same finger....

Asparagus in the pan. Yay, she peeled it before she cut it!!! Although we didn't see that AND she doesn't mention that she peeled it AND it's not in the recipe to peel it. Follow your heart - if you have skinny spears, don't bother, if they're well-fed, do. Now, the secret to Ina cooking the veggies perfectly (She doesn't tell you this, I AM) is that she is using a big enough pot, so they saute and not steam. Well done, again, my friend.

All in all, a gorgeous, relatively quickly prepared meal. She serves it casually altogether, with the soup in those classic French Apilco type soup bowls. Personally, I would have liked a bit of rice to mop up the marinade/sauce, but Ina did it again. Kudos to the chef................

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