Monday, March 11, 2013

Ina’s Inauguration

Barefoot Contessa with Ina Garten

That title is a bit of a misrepresentation. This episode is about a LIBRARY Inauguration, not Ina taking office…although she would have MY vote…as long as the job involved some snacks and cocktails.

So...the inauguration is what The Barefoot Contessa is doing to the gorgeous (some might say lavish) library she’s just added to her house where a patio used to be. It adjoins her barn kitchen. I’m trying to figure out if it’s where that neat fire pit was that she used for additional entertaining space.

This large, vaulted ceiling-ed space was built to hold her cookbooks. I get that. I recently upgraded from a fairly tiny (but built by hand) bookcase to a pretty large (probably too large for the space) Mexican-style bookcase. (I have NOTHING else vaguely Mexican in my house – it was just the cheapest, biggest bookcase I could find.)

Just kidding. I stretched out that picture. It really looks like this:

It's for my most beloved and most used (and sometimes abused) cookbooks. I have a feeling that Ina would never put books that look like these on her new bookshelves: 


Anyway, Ina had this addition built and now she’s having a party with all the people that made it happen – designers, contractors etc. I’ve never had a huge renovation done, just smaller home improvement types things. But I’ve always been so fed up and po’ed by the end…that, not only would I NOT have wanted to invite all the makers of my misery over for some appetizers, I never even wanted to see them again!

But Ina is far more gracious than I and she’s having a whole crew of people over and serving them big trays of food that they can help themselves to.

This episode doesn’t warrant a blow by blow rundown, but there are a few noteworthy moments and points:

Ina makes an eggplant-less caponata with fennel and fig. Interesting. I can’t decide if I like figs (except in jam). There’s red onion and tomatoes too. Actually, this whole dish sounds like it has just too much going on. (Sorry, Ina. I won’t be making this for the nonexistent builders that I won’t be catering for.) Plus she’s putting SO MUCH salt in it. (I just looked to see what kind of reviews this recipe got and, not surprisingly, no one has reported on it yet. Just because a recipe has MANY varied ingredients doesn’t mean it will be good.)

Ina says she has to taste it to make sure there’s enough salt and pepper to balance the flavors. Yikes, I hope she has lots of water handy.

Ina’s Mashed Chickpeas is just a stepped-up version of a chunky hummus with the interesting addition of Parmesan cheese. Do Italians eat chickpeas with cheese? I have to suss that out...It looks like that’s not totally weird.

Ina adds 4 teaspoons of salt, which is one teaspoon for each can of chickpeas. I think that’s too much, especially with the cheese. Ina is serving the chickpea mixture in a big bowl surrounded by toasted bread (for people to crack their teeth on.)

Ina’s last platter is antipasto. The caponata is going in a bowl in the middle. Serve whatever you like, she says. She has peppadews, sausage slices, cucumbers, fancy huge marinated artichoke hearts and smoked mozzarella, which she drizzles with olive oil and freshly ground black pepper.

Ina says so often builders and contractors get to build stuff but they never get to enjoy it. Wull, yeah! It’s not exactly their house. She says she adores them all. COULD that really be true?  

She continues building her platter. Her major message here is that you should place big groups of things together and not put bits and pieces here and there. Ina likes blocks of color. I think she’s right. It’s more dramatic.

Ina finishes off the plate with branches of cherry tomatoes, which look real purdy, but are people really going to pull them off the branches? I guess after they’ve scraped their gums on the toasts, they can squirt cherry tomato juice all over the new beautifully upholstered couches.

Oh, this is going to be good! Ina is talking about tablecloths next. I’m really hoping she’s going to go over her squared-off-in-the-front tablecloth trick that she showed us when she organized a drinks party for her buddy Jack. I never got how she did it at the time and I looked everywhere for an easier explanation. I could never find one, but, hopefully, it will be clearer today.

I watch carefully as Ina puts a long white tablecloth on a long trestle table. Then she covers that with a shorter pumpkin colored one, laying it on the diagonal. That’s it? Darn! Ina’s not doing her magic corner trick. She corrals her glasses on a tray. (I do that!) She puts salad forks in a glass vase. Interesting, but no life lesson on tablecloth folding.

Her last platter is mussels served with a saffron mayonnaise. It’s a wonderful recipe, but is that a smart thing to serve around all those new fabrics and surfaces? People will be standing around and flitting back and forth and saffron is a real doozy of a stain. Plus won’t she have to place mussel shell garbage bowls around the room?

Ina gets all the food into the library. Then she chills the champagne in a huge white ceramic bowl, which is filled with water and ice. This is the champagne she’s serving.  (I’ve never heard of it, but it must be good. This IS Ina, after all.)

The guests have arrived. No Jeffrey. :-(  Ina says she has plenty of room for a lot more cookbooks. They’re all enjoying the food and drink. No one seems in danger of getting wasted, so I guess the perfectly pulled together room has some hope of staying like that for a while longer.

Ina ends with a toast, “Thank you so much for my gorgeous library. I love it…everybody worked on it and it was so much FUN.”  The crazy thing is I don’t think she’s kidding. And if she can find fun in living through a major renovation, then pulling together a partay for the folks who made it happen is the easy part.


The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

Maybe I should have offered a nice home cooked meal to the guy who renovated my kitchen and bathroom. We liked him, even if he was slightly insane, and he did a good job. Then again, for what we paid him, in cash and under the table, he can buy a much better dinner himself. (He wasn't a condo-board approved contractor, but since he's the super's BIL, he gets away with renovating everyone's apartments).

Some of those recipes were a bit odd, but cooking should be about experimenting and shaking things up. I just want to know if all that salt she used was "good" salt. :-)

Anonymous said...

As someone in the wine business, I'm always a little miffed when people don't want red wine in their homes for parties. So although Ina's only serving champagne, good for her for not worrying about the furniture!

Sue said...

Hey Rach,
That's a good point that you already paid the guy, so did you really need to feed him too? That just reminded me of that AWFUL movie, Under the Tuscan Sun. (The book was a bit better.) She fed the work people every night (and day?) and they dragged on (not) renovating her house. Maybe if she HADN'T fed them at all, her house would have been finished a lot sooner.

Ina DID say good salt, I think.

Hi Tom,
I didn't even think of that! Maybe that was why Ina only served champagne. She WAS worried about staining. We'll never know. :-(