Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Start the Year Barefoot!

The Barefoot Contessa has a recipe for success--living life! Amen to that! Can you believe this celebrity chef and author was once a nuclear policy analyst under Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter? She went from the most high-powered chem lab in Washington, rubbing elbows with policy makers to studying Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking like a college text book and experimenting in her kitchen.

So what do nuclear policy and French cooking have in common? Intrinsic value! "What interests me is flavor. How can I bring out the intrinsic flavor of what's already there?" says Ina Garten, the real name of the Barefoot Contessa. It's about getting back to basics for this "barefoot" chef. Does she really walk around barefoot? Stay tuned..

Ina first discovered cooking when she got married. As a kid, her mother would tell her to get out of the kitchen and to go study. That's what kids were supposed to concentrate on--studying. Once she was married, Ina considered it a privilege to finally cook, and anything she wanted.

So why did she leave Washington? "I left because I wanted to have fun. And that wasn't fun". So when she bought her first tiny shop (400 square feet) in West Hampton in 1978 on a lark, she literally worked around the clock that summer. Cooking is her passion so it's not entirely work. The food shop she had just purchased was already christened "The Barefoot Contessa" (named after the 1954 film starring Humphrey Bogart and Ava Garnder. She kept the name.

Eventually Ina moved across the street to a 2,000 square- foot space and later to East Hampton to a 3,000 aquare-foot store that quickly became a focal point of the trendy, celeb-filled summer community.

In 1996 she sold the shop to her chef and manager. Then she hit a rut! What to do? In following the best advice, she decided to write a cookbook. Ina listened to her customers. In reviewing other books by chefs, The Cake Bible, and How to Cook Everything, she found them daunting. Ina took the art of recipe books to the next level and simplified it. "I wanted you to look at the photos, look at the recieps and say, 'I can do this.' "

Ina wisely sifted and refined all her recipes until she was sure the recipes worked and were easy to follow. Her first book was The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook in 1999. Her latest book, Back to Basics where she focuses on the process, is her sixth book and on the New York Times bestsellers list.

Her most recommended recipe in the new book is the roasted tomatoes. To overcome the cardboard like taste, she cuts them in half, drizzles tomatoes with good olive oil and aged balsamic vinegar and slow roasts them until the flavors are caramelized and concentrated. I'm already salivating.

To prepare a really fabulous dinner for guests, the Contessa suggestes a roasted capon, tagliatelle with white truffle butter, which is so easy you can't believe it, and roasted carrots. To uncover this secret recipe and the tenets of classical cooking, get the book!

Speaking of the book, each one has advanced the goal of Ina Garten. She loves her work and is loving life.

This New Year, let's follow the in the footsteps of the Barefoot Contessa and live life with passion! SALUTE!