Sunday, April 8, 2007

Happy Easter

Barefoot Contessa – Ina Garten

Photo Finish
Bibb Salad with Basil Green Goddess Dressing
Lemon Fusilli with Arugula
Plum Cake "Tatin"
Roasted Tomatoes

To get the recipes:
Click here

I’m sitting down with my martini glass ready to watch The Barefoot Contessa. Well, okay it’s not really a martini glass…and it doesn’t really have a cocktail in it. It’s more like a mug, an Anderson's Pea Soup mug, with lentil soup. Anyway…

Friend Miguel has decided to take up photography and he’s going to photograph Ina’s garden and stay for lunch. She wants the food to be “ready for their close-ups.” Her food always is.

Not like the time I served my kids very hard-fought (they were quite time-consuming) lentil burgers...I know, I’m not sure what I was thinking. I garnished the plates and served each kid. As I was getting something else off the stove, my daughter says, “Mom, can I have a new plate?” I said, “Of course, Honey, but what happened?” She said, “Someone threw up on my plate.” I never served them again.

But back to Ina’s, she’s making a very photo-worthy Plum Tart "Tatin", a spin on the classic apple confection. I love the idea. She’s making sugar syrup. (PLEASE be careful. Use extreme caution. There are few things more dangerous than sugar syrup. No kids or animals around…) She halves Italian prune plums and arranges them, cut side down, in a VERY well-buttered 9-inch glass pie dish. She gets the sugar syrup to a beautiful chestnut color and pours it over the fruit, reminding us never to stir caramel. Only swirl.

When you add the sugar to the water, and BEFORE it comes to a boil, you may stir. Once it boils, though, only swirling. Make sure you dissolve the sugar SLOWLY on low heat. Once it’s completely dissolved, raise the heat to bring it to a boil. Also, you can dip a pastry brush in water and brush down the bits of sugar that are clinging to the sides of the pan.

She creams the batter in her mixer, trying “to keep most of it in the bowl.” Is it just me, or do you find the Contessa absolutely hilarious, too? Butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla and lots of lemon zest. Let’s add some sour cream just for fun. Will you excuse me, I have to RUN into the kitchen and make this. Ok, I’ll wait, but only because I want to see how it turns out.

“Fluff flour, first, then measure.” Listen to our wise Ina. You don’t want a bunch of heavily compacted flour. That would result in using more than you should and you’ll have a dry Tatin and noone wants that for you. Telling us not to overbeat once the flour is added, she finishes the batter and puts it over the plums. She reports that the caramel is now completely hard…interesting. 350 degrees F for 30 to 40 minutes (that’s quite a big range, watch carefully after 30 minutes.)

She’s readying tomatoes with basil for Miguel to photograph. How sweet is he…He’s taking pictures of the Barefoot goddess while she’s trying to pick the basil. They’re good pictures too.

She’s roasting the plum tomatoes to concentrate the flavor, because although they are available all year round, she finds they just don’t taste like much. Garlic is sprinkled over with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, sugar and salt and they get put in a hot oven to roast their brains out for about a half hour. Truth to tell, these will be fabulous, but you can also roast tomatoes, completely naked…sorry, I’m still fixated on Giada
…Or you can put any combination of these extras that you wish: only salt and pepper or just a bit olive oil or just balsamic vinegar. When you see what’s coming for the main course, I might advise roasting them as they came off the vine…adding nothing else.

Cake comes out and must sit for 10 to 15 minutes, until you do the scary unmolding.

Tomatoes are done. They get a “shower of fresh basil.” She takes her mound of garden fresh basil and rolls up the leaves like a cigar. She cuts them into a thin
julienne or chiffonade
and tosses them with salt over the tomatoes. They are beautiful enough for a picture…oh, that was the idea.

Ina cuts carefully around the cake. She places a cake stand - which doesn’t look deep enough to me - over the dish. Holding the two together VERY TIGHTLY, she unmolds it PERFECTLY. I shouldn’t have worried. There isn’t a river of caramel – that’s why you let it sit after it comes out of the oven – and the heavy buttering of the dish insures that nothing sticks. She dusts it with sugar. I’m thinking if you’re leery of the caramel, you could just put melted butter and brown sugar in the bottom of the dish, as in a Pineapple Upside-Down Cake and that would be good too, although not quite the Contessa quality that we’re after today.

We’re on to the Lemon Fusilli. This is an old Barefoot Contessa (the store) recipe. She blanches broccoli for 3 minutes and then shocks it in ice water. To cook the pasta, she puts salt and oil in the water. I’m not a member of that sect. I think you just get oily water. Broccoli comes out…into the ice water. Pasta cooks while lemon cream sauce is made.

Ina tells us this is very easy and very rich. If SHE says it’s rich, you better hold on to your arteries. 1 tablespoon of olive oil, garlic…that’s not too bad. TWO CUPS of cream…WHOA!!! Definitely leave the olive oil off the roasted tomatoes, if you’re serving them together. She adds lots of lemon zest, the juice of 2 lemons and 2 teaspoons of salt. I know it’s for pasta and I know she’s the Contessa, but I would start with less salt. The mixture is being reduced by half, which will concentrate the flavors. Let’s start with 1 teaspoon – don’t mention this to Ina, PLEASE.

The whole thing simmers for 10 to 12 minutes until the mixture coats the back of a spoon. She pours it over the pasta and I don’t remember her doing this on the show, but the recipe says to cook for an additional 3 to 4 minutes so the pasta absorbs the sauce. Make sure you’ve left your pasta a bit al dente and don’t leave that pan for a second or you will have a sticking problem.

The recipe completely leaves out the broccoli, but do add that, it’s makes a colorful addition. Drain the broccoli and when you drain the pasta, pour it out over the broccoli so it takes the chill off. In the serving dish, add the cheese and halved cherry tomatoes (which are unnecessary, if you’re serving the roasted tomatoes). Ina smiles, because she mistakenly said one QUARTER cup of cheese. She realized that was a laughably small amount and corrected herself to HALF a cup. She plates it. Oh my gosh, that platter would serve 16 people. She and Miguel dig in.

But wait, there’s a bonus recipe… a little salad for her dinner. Who but the Contessa would dress 6 lettuce leaves with a dressing that has the same amount of calories as a prime rib dinner? That’s why we love her. The Green Goddess dressing has tons of basil, scallions, garlic, lemon juice, anchovy paste and of course, mayonnaise. Wait, that’s not all, just for good measure a cup of sour cream too, and I’m guessing it’s not fat-free.

We always get the real thing when we watch The Barefoot Contessa. No scrimping or substituting here.

PS I had to rush into the kitchen and make the Lemon Fusilli and Tarte Tatin. My only changes were that I chopped up the roasted tomatoes and added them to the pasta and I couldn't find plums anywhere, so I used apples. And you'll probably need the entire 45 minutes of cooking time for the tart.


jackiecat said...

I'm a lurker on most blogs, but I just had to tell you how much I love your blog. I love your choice of programs to recap, the recaps themselves and your notes about how to improve the recipes.

Sue said...

Wow, JackieCat! Thanks. Keep reading.