Cooking with Ina Garten
Cooking with Ina Garten may be a fantasy for many, but I do it almost everyday as I watch her on tv.
It was about five or six years ago that I really wanted to get into cooking. Being a designer, cooking is just another creative outlet. I love to entertain and decorating the table just wasn’t enough.
You would think I would be a good cook, right? Right? Alas, growing up I didn’t learn any great cooking skills. Unless you consider overcooking everything to mush or shoe leather. My mom always had a meal on the table at dinner, our breakfast was made and our lunches packed to go (for me and my dad), but, dinner was never a showstopper. It seemed that it was more important to eat “all your food”, not leave the table until you “ate all your food” then clean the table and do the dishes. The flavor of the food was not really talked about, ever. It didn’t help that I was a really picky eater. I didn’t like vegetables and would eat my food one thing at a time. It drove my parents crazy. They would always say, “try a bit of something else with it…blah blah”. Mom’s liver was the worst. It was sooooo tough that I would pour myself a huge glass of milk, take a big bite of liver and swallow it whole with the milk. Bleeeeecht….that makes me quiver just thinking about it. I would often fill my mouth with food I didn’t like, spit it into a napkin and go to the bathroom and make the toilet eat it instead. I liked candy, ice cream and Coco Puffs (I ate them for breakfast for two years straight) and I hated pizza until I was about 11 years old. How odd.
So, not being shown how to cook or learn about food was a real downer for Punkin and my kids. I mean I did cook food, french toast, macaroni and cheese, meat, noodles, rice and veggies. Actually, Punkin was a pretty good cook.
I think when I started drinking more wine and really noticing the flavors and nuances of it that I started to notice flavors in food as well. I needed a more sophisticated palette and I needed to stop drinking the wine directly from the bottle.
So, Food Network became my school.
Rachael Ray, Bobby Flay, Giada De Laurentiis and Paula Deen became my teachers. My favorite teacher of all was and is Ina Garten, The Barefoot Contessa!
In the beginning I thought her name was “in a garden” and I thought that her mother and father must have loved gardening and named their daughter after their passion. Hey, it beats “in a brothel”!
My teachers have taught me well, Punkin doesn’t cook often and there is always someone wanting my food. I actually have a picture of Ina and her husband, Jeffrey, in my kitchen in a beautiful silver frame. Punkin came in one day and asked who it was, he said they looked familiar, but couldn’t put his finger on it. When I told him Ina and Jeffrey he just looked at me like I grew a second head…”what…Ina and Jeffrey are like family”, I said. I watch Ina every evening for an hour, she is in my house more than anyone I know, plus it makes me smile.
Ina’s style does not stop at her food. Her interior style is simple, yet elegant with a Belgium flair. I have a notebook where I have researched her favorite things, her kitchen and barn design, plus all her cookbooks and have a dream of making my kitchen like her barn. When I had a pipe leak four years ago under my kitchen tile, my dream was to recreate it, somehow, someday.
I know that her color in the barn is Farrow & Ball Light Gray, she used Ceasar stone in dark gray in her kitchen and the barn uses Peitet Fossil Belgian Stone. Her accents, including her appliances are either white, stainless or wood. The only things I have in my kitchen that are Ina inspired are the John Boos butcher block cutting board, glass canisters that I keep flour and sugar in, one All-Clad fry pan, a large white Le Creuset stock pot and a white utensil crock, however mine contains the wood and stainless together, for shame. Check those items off the Ina dream kitchen list.
I have also learned the secrets to how many dishes begin and that is with the right tools…just like design. You don’t need a lot of fancy equipment, just simple basics. Like so many of my teachers say everyday, buy the best product or food item you can afford and that will help you get to a higher level of cooking. I’m not saying that turkey you just hit on the side of the road is bad because it is free, its probably really darn fresh, but if you can’t run one down where you live, buy the best you can afford.
However, it is Ina’s recipes and the way she entertains that thrills me daily. I can watch her shows over and over and never get tired of them. The simplicity in Ina’s style is so unlike my own, but I crave it as a designer and as a cook. The way Ina takes a flavor and amps it up so you know what the dish is as you bring it to your mouth. If you see sprigs of lemon or thyme on the platter you know there is lemon or thyme brought out in the flavor of that dish. Simple, elegant and stylish…just like me.
Cooking with Ina Garten is wonderful, drinking with her would be my fantasy. Her pomegranate martini recipe is one of my favorites…it’s a more sophisticated twist on a cosmopolitan. One of my mottos, “anything in a martini glass looks classic and classy”…even wine from a box!