Ina Garten, aka The Barefoot Contessa, and her cookbooks are already a source of guidance for basic recipes, but her show serves as my inspiration for more adventurous culinary efforts. Now that I’ve got the essentials down it’s time to branch out. I’ll choose a recipe from an episode of the Barefoot Contessa to try in my tiny New York kitchen. We’ll see if I can keep up with the Contessa!
Episode: “Ina’s Take Out”
The Set-up: A last-minute floral emergency has scuttled their lunch plans, so Ina is bringing her friend, Michael, ‘take-out’ at the shop.
The Menu: Roasted Shrimp with Thousand Island Dip, Sautéed Salmon & Lentils, and Pecan Bars dipped in chocolate.
0:30 – Ahh, springtime in the Hamptons.
1:00 – Ina gives me a heart attack by starting the Pecan Bars with “20lbs. of butter” j/k! A little slow this morning… I should have had a cup of coffee before I started watching not during.
2:00 – Helpful tip about using room temperature butter in baking. I always forget this step and end up with microwave butter – forgive me Ina!
4:00 – Cut to a montage of stem-trimming and ribbon tying at the florist shop…
5:00 – These pecan bars are no joke – my count is 9 sticks of butter so far. Might need more coffee to be sure.
6:00 – Ina says “Pea-can” like a Yankee (me too), my Texan friends would not approve. Apparently it’s “Puh-cawn” in the South.
10:00 – So. Many. Pecan Bars. I think she might have made enough for everyone in town.
10:30 – Chocolate ganache is happening people. This is about to get real.
12:30 – The flowers Michael just delivered look gorgeous – note to self: lilacs in a low vase when spring comes.
13:00 – On to the Roasted Shrimp. Mmm, fresh lemons.
14:00 – I think the last time I had Thousand Island dressing was in 1988 – I think she’s going intentionally retro.
20:00 – Now the Sauteed Salmon with Lentils. Examining my life’s work and realizing there’s a gap. Why have I never made lentils?
22:30 – Hooray it all goes in one pot! My kind of cooking!
24:00 – Salmon time. The old sear/sauté on the stovetop first, then roast in the oven trick. Brilliant. I think this recipe needs to go on the list.
28:00 – Michael is a lucky guy. This lunch looks delicious and he can rock a bright peony-pink sweater.
29:00 – The sweater clearly inspired the choice of flowers – Michael just gave Ina peonies! If making lunch = bouquet of flowers I am in!
29:30 – Aww, hugs. Annnd scene.
Room temperature butter – use it!
Lentils are not as scary as I thought.
Befriend a fabulous florist.
I made the Salmon with Lentils dish after watching the episode and was pleased to discover that the recipe really is as easy as Ina makes it look. It’s also small kitchen-friendly: 2 pans, 1 cutting board, 1 bowl, and a few basic kitchen tools are all you need.
The salmon preparation is very similar to cooking restaurant style steaks – sear in a very hot pan and finish in the oven – and the filets came out perfectly. I was initially suspicious of the vinegar in the lentil recipe, but I decided to trust Ina and boy am I glad I did. I was out of red wine vinegar, so I used white wine vinegar instead and I was really glad I did. A small splash really perks up the dish and nicely compliments the earthy flavors – don't skip this ingredient, you'll thank me. Extra bonus - I didn't tell Mike what I was making in advance thinking the lentils might spook him, but he actually really liked this pairing (even the lentils!) and requested that we make this a regular in the dinner menu rotation. I'd call that a success!
Give this one a shot for sure.