Saturday, November 10, 2007

Ina's Idea Of A Working Lunch Includes Cupcakes

That's why we love her!!!

Barefoot Contessa with Ina Garten

Working Lunch

Caesar Club Sandwich
Chocolate Cupcakes and Peanut Butter Icing
Smoked Salmon and Egg Salad Tartines
Summer Borscht

To get the recipes:
Click here

Ina's editor and book designer are coming to lunch. I love that she's so cheerful and uses that as an excuse to make a lunch that would feed 20. "Why do I think between the work and the lunch are going to be lots of giggles?" Because your associates are lucky enough to be coming to your house for lunch.

Ina starts with cupcakes. She beats 1 1/2 sticks of butter at room temperature with 2/3 cup brown sugar and 2 EXTRA large eggs and vanilla. Then she mixes together 1/2 cup sour cream with well-shaken buttermilk and 2 tablespoons of coffee, which she loves with chocolate to bring out its flavor. "It's actually lowfat...Dare I say it?", Ina exclaims.

Ina sifts the flour, cocoa powder baking soda and salt together. The dry ingredients get added on low speed, and then the wet. "Finish it up with a spatula to make sure it's really well-mixed." Using a 2 1/4 inch ice cream scoop, she puts exactly the same sized blobs in each muffin cup. She bakes them at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 to 25 minutes.

Ina chops peanuts for the topping and cools the baked cupcakes. "The cupcakes are just a vehicle" for her wonderful peanut butter icing. She combines confectioners sugar and smooth peanut butter with room temperature butter, vanilla and cream. She mixes it on a low speed until creamy. Woweee! She ices each cupcake, leaving some of the chocolate showing. That's a good idea. Each one gets sprinkled with peanuts. Ina likes a garnish that indicates what you're about to eat.

For the soup, Ina mixes together 1 1/2 cups of beet liquid from cooking whole beets (with their skin on) with 2 cups of chicken stock. Lots of things go in next: 16 oz sour cream, 1/2 cup yogurt, 1/4 cup sugar (!), fresh lemon juice, Champagne vinegar, salt and pepper. She whisks that together and then adds a chopped English cucumber, 1/2 cup scallions and dill.

THEN she peels and chops her cooled beets ON A WOODEN CUTTING BOARD! I guess that's ok if you're the Contessa, but you will never get that out without bleach. I just use a dinner plate when cutting beets and a small paring knife to remove the skin. (Always cook them with the skin so the color doesn't bleed out and you keep more of the vitamins.) The beets come off the ruined cutting board and into the absolutely vibrantly gorgeous soup.

Ina likes to serve it in a white mug. She is so smart. That is such a simple tip, yet precisely, EXACTLY the right way to serve it. She puts the soup in the fridge and she's off to the store for bread. She buys a ciabatta AND a French boule. (After all, there will be three of them.)

For a spin on a Caesar salad, INA likes to make a sandwich out of it. She slices the ciabatta in half lengthwise and toasts it in the oven at 350 for 5 to 7 minutes.

She does her usual wonderful roasting of chicken breasts (Giada, take note) - boned breasts with olive oil, salt and pepper in a 350 degree oven for 35 minutes. She also roasts slices of pancetta for 10 to 15 minutes to make them bacon-like. They come out like thin brittle disks and are a wonderful substitute for fried bacon.

In general, I don't like chicken breasts, but this is a good, all-purpose, flavorful way to cook them. The skin and bone contribute to the flavor, of course. It's the old story - Fat is flavor. So remember this recipe, whenever you need cooked chicken breasts.

For the dressing Ina adds garlic, 2 tablespoons of parsley, 1 1/2 teaspoons of anchovy paste, 1 teaspoon mustard to the food processor and processes until minced. Then she adds 1 1/2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice and 1/2 cup mayonnaise and processes until smooth. (You could absolutely substitute olive oil for the mayo. It would be really delicious, but it wouldn't be quite as thick.)

She slathers that on the toasted ciabatta and layers on baby arugula, sun-dried tomatoes, shaved Parmesan, and the cooked pancetta. She skins the chicken and cuts it into thick slices. That goes on top of the pancetta with some more arugula. She tops it with the other slice of bread. That is one edible looking sandwich! She cuts in into thick slices and puts it on a platter.

Next is egg salad, her "feel good food". She outlines one way to hard boil in the recipe. I have an easy way too. I bring a pot of water to the boil. Add some vinegar - white is preferable, but it doesn't really matter. (The vinegar instantly sets the white, if there's a crack.) Carefully place the eggs in the water with a slotted spoon. Bring back to the boil and boil for exactly 11 minutes. Take them out with a slotted spoon and plunge into ice water. Done perfectly every time and they peel easily too.

She adds her 12 hard boiled eggs to the food processor and rough chops them. She puts them in big bowl and adds 1/3 cup mayonnaise (not that much, considering how many eggs she has) 2 teaspoons of whole grain mustard, chopped dill, salt and pepper.

Ina toasts slices of the French boule and arranges smoked salmon on top. She places a scoop of egg salad on top of that with a sprig of dill. I might have done it the other way around - spread the egg salad on the bread and top THAT with smoked salmon, but she's the Contessa. She halves them and onto a platter they go.

Ina serves the borscht in her aforementioned white mugs. She puts a dollop of sour cream on top with a sprig of dill. The food gets placed on the table. Naturally they enjoy everything, and they seem to be spending more time eating than working.

Ina says, "Either we eat more cupcakes, or we do some work. Which is it?" How can you not love her? And I don't have to tell you which Ina voted for.


Emiline said...

I'm BACK! Missed your blog.

Well, I guess she'll have plenty of leftovers for the next couple of days.
Chicken breasts have bothered me for quite awhile. They taste like NOTHING.
I prefer the bone-in, skin-on, like you. They're impossible to find here, unless you buy a whole chicken.

Sue said...

I speak for the entire cyber community - well, maybe Cynthia and me - when I say we missed you.

It is quite amazing that chicken breasts on the bone are so hard to find. But if you wanted a tasteless, boneless, skinless thing, they're on every street corner.

Cynthia said...

Yes, we did miss her! And she saw the guys from the Cranberry Juice campaign, how cool is that! :)

I love me some Ina!

Sue said...


The sad thing is that that was the highlight of Emilie's trip, although it is pretty cool. And she was very clever to get a picture of them...

Colleen said...

I love this episode! I've seen it a few times and always watch the whole thing because the borscht and caesar sandwich always look so delicious! However, I have to admit that I have made the cupcakes and they were horrible...great frosting, but horrible cupcakes. Like eating dry, crumble cocoa powder. The only disappointment I've ever gotten from Ina.

Sue said...

Hi Colleen,

Wow! I'm so glad you told me about the cupcakes. Maybe Ina never really tasted them, because she only uses them as a "vehicle" for the icing, which DID look amazing.