The Barefoot Contessa with Ina Garten
Pack And Go Party
Pita Stuffed with Tabbouleh and Shards of Feta
Roasted Shrimp Salad
Ultimate Ginger Cookie
What could be more fun than going on a picnic with Ina? AND in her own back yard. (Do you think she and Jeffrey might set up the tent later?)
I can’t wait to see what she’s making. And I really hope TR is one of the guests. Just imagine him all stretched out on the picnic blanket…
I like how she often counts things off at the beginning of an episode. This time it’s what picnic food should be:
I LIKE the music. It’s jazzy.
Ina asks if anyone REALLY likes fancy parties. SHE prefers casual get-togethers. She starts with her Ultimate Ginger Cookies. (I guess Tyler hasn’t gotten around to these yet.)
She measure 2¼ cups flour into a sieve over a bowl. She stirs it lightly first. Ina tells us as not to tamp down the flour as we measure. Good point.
If you pack the flour into the cup, you’re increasing the amount of flour - possibly even by spoonfuls. So handle the flour gently as you measure. As I think about it, the only ingredient you ever want to pack into a measuring cup is brown sugar. Oh, chocolate chips too, so you don’t have to feel bad about sampling them on their way to the mixing bowl.
To the flour, Ina adds 1 teaspoon baking soda, 2 teaspoons “really good” cinnamon. 1½ teaspoons cloves, ½ teaspoon ground ginger, (this is going to be some spicy meatballs, I mean cookies) and ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg, WHICH SHE DOESN’T GRATE FRESH…which I will never understand.
Ina says the balance of spices is important and you don’t want one spice to overwhelm the others. She adds ¼ teaspoon salt, which she says brings out the flavor in sweet things the same way that it does in savory. Ina sifts all the dry ingredients together.
I KNOW that noone else on the planet agrees with me and that I’m the only one in the universe who doesn’t add salt to sweet things, but I don’t care. I can TASTE it and I don’t like it. Actually, now that I think about it, it is funny because I love sweet things with savory stuff. I could eat a prune in any stew or orange juice in any reduction. But I cannot abide salt in sweet baked goods. Yet when I taste others’, I’m not as bothered as when I add it to my own…Go Figure!
In another bowl, Ina adds 1 cup of brown sugar to ¼ cup of flavorless oil. I would use safflower oil here, which I always keep in the fridge to prevent it going off. In fact, the only oil I DON’T keep in the fridge is my tasteless light-colored supermarket-quality olive oil that I use when I want to extend my beautiful Spanish olive oil.
Ina adds 1/3 cup of unsulfured molasses and beats that together. She breaks an egg onto the counter (uck! egg all over the counter) and then into a separate little bowl. She pours that into the running mixer. Then, on low speed, she adds the flour and spices. Ooh, she’s adding a surprise in the middle – crystallized ginger. She chops it into a small dice. She’s using 1¼ cups of crystallized ginger! She beats it into the batter.
Ina scoops out the dough with an ice cream scoop and rolls it into a ball and then into sugar. She places the balls on the cookie sheet and presses them flat. They will bake at 350°F for 12 minutes. I always use an ice cream scoop too. It ensures that each cookie is the same size.
I have a lovely friend, who takes a much more casual approach than I do to cooking – and life. HER kids don’t run screaming from the room when asked if they want to help with the baking. She keeps cookie dough in the freezer and can’t be bothered to defrost it. I was present one time when her kids hacked off pieces of the frozen dough and threw them on a baking sheet. (And not a proper baking sheet either – it was the bottom of a broiler pan that comes with some ovens.)
There were blobs of cookie dough; there were triangles and misshapen lumps! They were all different sizes and shapes. I had to put my fist in my mouth to keep from exclaiming over the haphazard nature of the baking that was going on! And when they came out, some were crisp, some were chewy, some were a bit burned and…the kids just loved them!
I understand the need for freezing cookie dough, but I approach the whole thing a little differently. I would scoop the dough into identical balls, open-freeze them and then pack them into a plastic bag to be used as needed. Um, I better stop now, because I know I’m sounding more and more like Martha Stewart every minute. (The bad parts of Martha Stewart, not the good ones.)
Back to Ina, she calls her friend Barbara (on her blackberry) and asks if she can pick up some peaches from the farm stand, which will go perfectly with her cookies. (Conveniently, there is a camera standing by Barbara when her phone rings.) Oh, she’s bringing individual bottles of champagne too.
Ina takes out the cookies. Gorgeous. AND every one is perfect. She has a little taste. Hmmm.
Ina grates orange zest on her microplaner for the shrimp. She adds that with 2 tablespoons of orange juice to a bowl. She adds a cup of “good” mayonnaise. It’s not necessary to make your own, Ina says. IF you are serving this outside, I would NEVER use a homemade mayonnaise. Few things are as perishable. You need something that has a few stabilizers and, yes, preservatives.
Salt (I would add less) and pepper go in with a tablespoon of white wine vinegar. She stirs that all together. Next, she adds prepares a ¼ cup of chopped red onion and ¼ cup of chopped dill with 2 tablespoons drained capers and sets that aside.
Barbara had found the peaches. They’re HUGE.
Ina thought to roast shrimp for shrimp salad after they began roasting chicken for the chicken salad at the Barefoot Contessa shop. Good thinking!
She peels and deveins the shrimp. (She has nice hands.) Ina puts 2½ pounds of 16/20 count shrimp on a baking sheet. (It’s just as well that she’s having a picnic in her backyard, because after buying all that shrimp, she won’t be able to afford a vacation.)
She “drizzles” over olive oil and sprinkles over salt and pepper. She mixes that together well and spreads the shrimp out in a single layer and roasts them at 400°F for 6 to 8 minutes until pink and firm and barely cooked through.
Ina puts the shrimp in a big bowl while still warm (not hot). She spoons over most of the sauce. She notes that she always adds the sauce to the shrimp not the other way around. That way she can moderate the amount of sauce she uses. And it’s good to have a bit of extra to add just before serving.
Using an enormous spoon, she mixes the shrimp with the sauce and then adds most of the vegetables. She “holds a little bit of the vegetables back” to sprinkle over the top before serving. She tastes for seasoning - “The best shrimp salad I ever had.”
For her tabouli, Ina chops an English cucumber, leaving on the skin. She calls them hothouse cucumbers. She chops one cup of scallions. She uses the white and green parts and adds that to the cukes. She halves 2 cups of cherry tomatoes. (Remember Rachael’s tip?)
Ina says she likes the idea of each person having his own picnic bag. It’s the same as when kids prefer individual cupcakes at a birthday party. I get that, but I think it’s just because Ina doesn’t like to share.
Ina loves that her friend is bringing individual little bottles of champagne, so each person has his or own. “Now that’s a party!” Barbara has no problem getting them. Those are HALF BOTTLES of Veuve? They’re big. That’s a lot of champers for each person. I really do hope they’re going to camp out after and not get behind the wheel.
To finish the tabouli, Ina puts a cup of bulgur wheat into a bowl and pours over 1½ cups of boiling water. She stirs in 1/4 cup of lemon juice, ¼ cup of olive oil and salt and just lets it sit for an hour. She adds it to the chopped vegetables with 1 cup of fresh chopped mint and parsley. She adds more salt and pepper and stirs everything together. Yum!
To package the tabouli, she cuts pitas in half. (White ones. I didn’t know anyone still eats the white ones.) She spoons the salad in with big pieces of feta cheese. Fantastic. Plus her nails look sensational.
The shrimp salad looks luscious and AMAZING. She has a glossy orange mini-shopping bag for each person. She packages the shrimp salad in Chinese takeout containers. The tabouli pita goes into parchment paper and the cookies – THREE each - into glassine bags.
This is such an UN-GREEN presentation that it’s striking. I have no doubt that everything would taste just as good from a single big platter. If she were traveling even a mile or two, I could understand all this. But she basically could throw the food out of her back door into her guests’ mouths, so the need for all this trash eludes me. That goes for the HALF bottles of bubbly as well.
She adds a “good” napkin. I think they’re paper. Ina festoons each bag with a perfect piece of parchment paper, billowing from the top. It DOES look festive and grand, but, if it were me, I would grab those pieces of parchment paper 3 seconds after the guests removed them and run them back to the kitchen to be used again...and not as wrapping. (I don’t actually use parchment paper, but I would still try to rescue it.)
We learn that she’s packing 6 bags total. Ina puts them all out as Barbara and the other guests arrive. Everyone unpacks his bag – at the table, not on a blanket…no TR in sight. Jeffrey tries to steal some of Ina’s shrimp and she fends him off. I KNEW she didn’t like to share. Then they click champagne bottles (with straws) and the feast begins.
Adorable Jeffry says this is the greatest picnic he’s ever had and HE’S going to do the dishes. (Harhar).
Maybe I’ll count off a few things I loved about this episode myself:
Great pals to share it with.
But Leo needs to have a talk with the Contessa…or more likely her producers.