The Barefoot Contessa with Ina Garten
Avocado and Grapefruit Salad
California Iced Tea
Easy Lobster Paella
Shortbread Hammer Placecards
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Well, she's not really running around the barn barefoot, of course, but The Barefoot Contessa IS building a barn that will house her television kitchen near her gracious Southhampton house. Knowing Ina, she'll probably take every opportunity to use it... on tv or not.
She's taking the time to thank the architects for their hard work by preparing lunch for them. But you know, they can probably afford lunch anywhere, how about feeding the folks that are actually working on the barn? Of course, in Southampton, THEY too can probably afford a fancy lunch.
At any rate, she has lunch all planned. Ina's starting with shortbread cookies, which will become place cards, after she's cut them out and written people's names on them. Please don't tell my British friends, but I abhor shortbread. It's not sweet enough, it's not moist enough and it's all crumbly. I look at it as an inferior sugar cookie.
At cookie exchanges, when everyone is oohing and aahing over the shortbread, I'm busy grabbing the Christmas tree cookies. (Okay, so those are the ones that I made, but they ARE the best.) And, anyway, how could good could something be, if you always need a drink to wash it down with? Give me a proper sugar cookie anytime.
Ina didn't ask my opinion, so she's making shortbread and I'm sure it'll be great...if you like that sort of thing. She creams 3/4 lb of butter with 1 cup of sugar, mentioning her usual butter tip, which I have to admit I've never had the nerve to do. She leaves her butter out OVERNIGHT to really soften and get to room temperature. I imagine all kinds of things crawling all over it and I just can't do it. (I could, I suppose, leave it out in some kind of airtight container, but I'm content to do my baking later in the day or just zap the butter in the microwave.) She mixes in the vanilla, telling us not to overbeat. And now the flour goes in (3 1/2 cups, which is a good 30% more than you'd use for a sugar cookie.) See? How can that NOT be dry? She mixes in the flour until it's just incorporated. Sometimes, she says, she adds almonds or toasted coconut.
She tells us we can roll it out and them freeze it. OH!!! That's what I do with my sugar cookies! Oh wait, I jumped the gun. She takes her dough, wraps it and places it in the fridge for a bit to firm up and THEN rolls it out. (At THAT point, she's suggesting, you could freeze it.)
I cannot stand working with dough after it’s been refrigerated. Remember that I'm talking about cookies or pie crust dough...it’s the same difference. The CHILLED butter becomes like cement. It’s really difficult to roll it out nice and thin, so THIS is what I've come up with after many years of rolling out cookies: I mix the dough, then I roll it out immediately between sheets of plastic wrap. I put the rolled-out dough, still between those sheets, on a cookie sheet and into the freezer. When I’m ready to use it, the cookies are able to be cut out beautifully from the frozen dough and I just bake them a few minutes longer. Often, by the time you get to the last cookie, the dough has thawed anyway.
Again Ina didn’t give me a call, so her dough is in the fridge chilling.
She visits with Miguel who’s setting the table, using a “building” theme.
Ina moves on to the beverage. She’s mixing half iced tea and half lemonade. Isn't that what's known as an Arnold Palmer? Darned, if the next words out of her mouth aren’t “This is supposedly all that Arnold Palmer drinks.” Ina and I must share a brain...I wish.
She pours 4 cups of boiling water on 4 tea bags and squeezes 5 or 6 lemons to get 1 cup of juice. She doesn’t even want to hear about any other solution but FRESH lemon juice. Bravo, Ina! She adds ¾ cup of superfine sugar with the lemon juice and 4 cups of water to a pitcher. She stirs in the tea (after removing the tea bags) and adds a few lemon slices. Looks good, but where’s the vodka? Oh, I suppose her guests have to get back on their scaffolding.
She rolls out her cookies and cuts them into hammer shapes after chilling the dough for 30 minutes. She’s using quite a lot of flour. With my trick, you need very little flour. She puts the cookies on parchment (not my favorite, as you know.) and sprinkles them with granulated sugar. She bakes them at 350 deg. Fahrenheit for 25 minutes until browned slightly.
You know, I was just thinking after Ina’s barn is finished, she’s not going to be able to run upstairs for a nap while her dough is chilling. And she won’t be able to run into the back for a few (!!!) herbs or fresh flowers. I originally thought she was building it in her backyard, but it’s being referred to now as “just SOUTH of her home.”
The next recipe is Lobster “Pie-ELLA”. INA, I’m surprised at you! It’s PIE-AY-YUH.
Ina softens onions in a big white Dutch oven (it matches her blouse) for 5 minutes. She adds julienned (rather thickly if you ask me) peppers and cooks for another 5 minutes. Then 5 cloves of garlic (2 tablespoons) go in for just a minute. Now Ina adds 2 cups of basmati rice and 5 cups of chicken stock (homemade, that's our Ina) and then saffron, which she reminds us is from the stamens of crocuses. She puts it in the oven at 425 deg. Fahrenheit for 15 minutes with the lid on.
She goes to a break. (Am I nuts to be falling for that Dawn Direct commercial? They've had it on about 27 times today. It’s just so darned attractive, it makes me WANT to wash a sinkload of dishes.)
Ina takes the lid off the paella pot. She stirs it and puts it back in the oven to cook without the lid for another 15 minutes.
For the icing to write names on the cookies, Ina reams a lemon to get ¼ cup of juice and stirs in 1 lb. of confectioner’s sugar until smooth. She adds ¼ cup of corn syrup, which helps to keep the mixture “freeflowing” enough to push it through a pastry bag. She loads the pastry bag, folding down an admirably large collar to keep the whole thing un-icky. Ina pipes her guests names on the cookies, definitely preferring the short ones! Funny, Ina.
Ina squeezes more lemon for the salad dressing. She whisks it with 1 tablespoon of mustard, salt and pepper and then she slowly adds ½ cup olive oil. (Friends, use a blender, it’ll be done in SECONDS). She deals with the avocados. Now THIS is interesting. After cutting them in half, she runs her finger around the inside edge to loosen the flesh and pops them out of their skins. She immediately turns the avocado pieces around in the vinaigrette to stop from browning. She arranges them on a platter.
She cuts the ends of a grapefruit off and then cuts all the skin off. She cuts out the segments and places them on top of the avos. The juice left in the grapefruit membrane-y pieces gets squeezed over. She sprinkles over a bit more vinaigrette with some salt and pepper. What a wonderful refreshing, yet rich combination. I love it.
She takes the Paella out of the oven and stirs in Pernod…using a wooden spoon?? NO, use a fork.
She keeps the pot on low heat for a few minutes, then takes it off to add cooked lobster meat...one and a half pounds worth! She stirs in sliced kielbasa and a package of frozen peas and just lets them steam in the paella for 15 minutes. I’m not sure why she didn’t add the sausage when she was cooking the onions. It would have given the entire dish more flavor. She garnishes the dish with parsley.
The party starts. All the building folk are enjoying lunch. Ina laughingly threatens to withhold the food if it will help to get the barn built faster. I have a feeling she could attract a big crowd to a barn raising if she needed to and a really big crowd...if it involved lunch.