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Our Visit With the Barefoot Contessa

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Good morning. Julia Moskin recently went out to the end of Long Island to visit with Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa and quarantine kitchen queen, who has over the course of the past two decades become one of America’s most popular culinary figures.

“As a reporter,” Julia wrote for The Times, “I had spent a lot of time over the same years wondering exactly how a wealthy white woman with no special culinary skills or television shtick built such a diverse and devoted following. At her house, the answer was revealed in the first five minutes. ‘I find cooking hard,’ she said. ‘I’m not a trained chef. I love cooking, but it is not easy.’ ”

Ina Garten’s just like us, then — though of course she’s nothing like us. That’s the secret sauce. Julia’s is a delightful profile and helpful, too, with some smart Thanksgiving recipes from Garten that may suit this year’s smaller-than-usual holiday needs: cacio e pepe puffs to start the meal, say, followed by a Tuscan turkey roulade (above), with puréed potatoes with lemon and a platter of charred carrots. (As a bonus, take a look at the video tour of her kitchen that Garten gave our Vaughn Vreeland after Julia went on her way.)

In the here and now, though, it’s Wednesday, traditionally the day of the week at NYT Cooking when we encourage cooking without a recipe, off a simple prompt in this space, an act that celebrates improvisation while building your confidence in the kitchen.

So, maybe consider making freestyle lamb patties run through with beets? You’ll need ground lamb and a couple small beets, some onion, garlic and bread crumbs, an egg and some neutral oil, a few tablespoons of yogurt and a salad to eat with the finished dish, something green and salty and acidic.

For the patties, peel and grate enough of the beets to have about half of the quantity of lamb. Peel and dice an onion, and as much garlic as you like. Combine all this in a bowl with a scrambled raw egg and enough bread crumbs to bind everything together, then form small patties and put them in the refrigerator to set, as your oven heats to 350. Salt the patties when you’re ready to cook, then fry them in a hot pan slicked with oil, a few minutes a side, until they’ve got a little crust on them. To finish, place the patties on a pan in the oven until they’re cooked through, 10 or 15 minutes. Serve under a drizzle of yogurt, with the salad.

Or, if you’d prefer an actual recipe? Try this lentil and orzo stew with roasted eggplant. Or these chicken paillards with Parmesan bread crumbs. Maybe some serious potato skins? It’s never not a good time to cook sheet-pan crisp tofu with sweet potatoes.

Many, many thousands more recipes to cook this evening or on some evening soon are on NYT Cooking. (Here’s everything you need to know about Thanksgiving.) Go browse our digital aisles and see what strikes your fancy. Save the recipes you want to cook. Rate the ones you have cooked. And you can leave notes on them, too, if you like, either for yourself or for the benefit of your fellow subscribers.

Because yes, you need to be a subscriber to do all that. Subscriptions are what makes all of this possible. I hope if you haven’t already that you will subscribe today.

And please don’t hesitate to reach out for help if something goes sideways along the way, either in your cooking or our technology. We’re at cookingcare@nytimes.com, and we will get back to you.

Now, before we get out of the kitchen, do take some time to read Brett Anderson in The Times, on how America’s Indigenous communities are thinking about the Thanksgiving myth this year, “in the midst of a national reckoning over race, and a global pandemic that has landed with particular force on marginalized communities of color.”

Also, I think it’s worth it to read Priya Krishna on the particular difficulties of trying to cook a zero-waste meal right now. And you should absolutely take solace in Tejal Rao’s article about the cooking burnout so many of us are feeling in advance of the holiday. It’s a balm, actually. It gives me the strength to go on. I’ll be back on Friday.

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