It’s Thursday, and while that means everyone is just one day away from the weekend, it also means it’s time to throw back — to an earlier period in Food Network’s history. Check back on FN Dish every Thursday to find the latest #tbt of your favorite chefs and get a retro look at their earliest days on TV.
Before Ina Garten was known as the Barefoot Contessa, she was working in Washington, D.C., at America’s most famous address: 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. While at the White House, she focused on nuclear energy policy; it wasn’t until later that she learned she was destined for a life in food. In 1978 Ina and her husband, Jeffrey, bought Barefoot Contessa, a specialty food shop in the Hamptons on Long Island. After years under Ina’s leadership, the once-tiny store had been transformed into a thriving business with dozens of employees and a stellar local reputation. She eventually sold Barefoot Contessa in 1996, but the nickname stuck with her, so much so that her first Food Network show premiered with that title in 2005.
When it comes to cooking, Ina has a passion for creating feasts that are at once familiar and fancy with the best, freshest ingredients available, which is something she’s tried to instill in her fans as well. Each week on Barefoot Contessa, Ina highlights a theme, event or ingredient that’s particularly relevant to her, and she features it in recipes that are not only accessible and easy to prepare but deliciously satisfying as well. Some of her most lauded dishes include Engagement Roast Chicken, Mac and Cheese and Beatty’s Chocolate Cake, but she’s known to create dressed-up plates as well, like Salmon with Lentils and Croissant Bread Pudding. No matter the cuisine and meal, however, Ina’s sure to incorporate can-do techniques and handy tips to help viewers re-create her recipes with ease.
My Great-Aunt Doris made the best rugelach. A nurse who preferred baking to hospital work, Aunt Doris never turned down an opportunity to help cater her charity functions, Temple’s holiday dinners and family gatherings.
Her instinct to feed continually vexed her sister, because no matter how clear my grandmother was that the dinner party menu was entirely handled, Doris would show up with a Saran-covered platter of freezer strudel or rugelach. At the end of the meal, my grandmother would be forced to watch as her guests gobbled up the party-crashing treat and ignored her own carefully selected pastries.
Because I grew up a country away from my Aunt Doris, I only got to see her once or twice a year. As soon as we landed in Philadelphia, however, she’d march me up to my grandmother’s apartment (they lived in the same building), slip an apron over my head and pull a stool over to the counter so that I could help her roll the dough. We’d make cinnamon twists, Mandelbrot and rugelach.
Her fame may be relatively quiet — she doesn’t have a line of cookware, there isn’t a namesake restaurant — but make no mistake: Ina Garten is a powerhouse celeb chef.
Fans know her story well: From a White House budget analyst to specialty food-store owner, her path to stardom has been slow and steady. In 1978 she bought the Barefoot Contessa in East Hampton; after 20 years she quit and sold it to the employees, only then embarking on cookbooks. Her first was published in 1999.
Now, with her eighth cookbook (Barefoot Contessa: Foolproof ) out and her show entering its 11th year, the publicity-shy chef has plenty to dish about.
This Saturday marks France’s answer to the Fourth of July, Bastille Day. If you can’t make it to Paris to catch the fireworks over the Seine, unleash your inner Francophile at home with a French-inspired feast. Some of our favorite classics — like cheesy onion soup and rich beef bourguignon — don’t exactly lend themselves to balmy July temperatures, but our Food Network stars have plenty of summer-appropriate recipes with French flair.
Ina Garten, who has an apartment in Paris, loves to put her own spin on the dishes she enjoys there, like this Zucchini Gratin from her Barefoot in Paris cookbook. Melissa d’Arabian, whose husband is French, creates lots of recipes inspired by France that always have her no-fuss, affordable touch. Bobby Flay trained at the French Culinary Institute in New York, so even though he’s the king of all-American burgers and anything grilled, many of his recipes are rooted in France.
The James Beard Foundation announced the final nominees for the 2012 James Beard Awards at an event in Las Vegas today, and Food Network has not one but three reasons to celebrate: Ted Allen and Ina Garten are nominated for Best TV Food Personality/Host and Chopped has been nominated for Best Television Program, In Studio or a Fixed Location.
Alton won’t be the only Food Network chef making an appearance on stage. On Friday, May 4, James Beard Award-winning chef and Food Network Iron Chef Michael Symon, along with four-time James Beard Award-winning correspondent Martha Teichner, will co-host the annual James Beard Foundation Book, Broadcast & Journalism Awards Dinner.
Soup and bread are one of the most natural pairings I know. Truly, what goes better with a bowl of warm, belly-filling soup than a roll, hunk of baguette or even just a slice of basic, buttered toast?
The trouble I so often run into is the fact that I buy lovely loaves of bread to go with my batches of soup and inevitably end up chucking the last third of the loaf as it’s gotten too stale to be eaten. For someone who tries to keep the grocery budget in check and prevent food waste, this can be an awful blow.
Happily, there is an answer to my bread-waste issue and it’s found in (another) pot of soup. For centuries now, frugal Italian cooks have been reviving those day-or-two-old bread ends by adding them to the soup kettle. They work to thicken the soup, give it a silky consistency and generally manage to transform a humble vegetable broth into a sturdy, substantial potage.
Now that Thanksgiving has passed, there’s no way to deny it: The holiday season is here. I, for one, welcome the onslaught of parties, cookie exchanges and evenings spent shopping and wrapping gifts. There’s something so joyful and cozy about the many moments of celebration that will be folded into the next four weeks.
With so much packed into so little time, there’s never been a better time for project cooking. It’s just good sense to invest a few minutes over the weekend in a pot of something filling that can be quickly reheated for dinner one night and lunch the next day.
What’s more, in this season of entertaining, having a recipe tucked in your repertoire that is simple enough to prepare but sufficiently elegant to add to the buffet at your holiday open house is a very good thing.
Right now, I’ve found that the recipe that checks all these boxes is Ina Garten’s Chicken Bouillabaisse. It comes together in just a few steps, and dirties just a plate, a Dutch oven and a food processor or blender. The bulk of the time the recipe demands is hands off. You can relax (or prep that next batch of cookie dough) while the oven does the work and fills your home with warming scents. All this and more is what makes it perfect for The Weekender.
Alton Brown has teamed with Welch’s and Zagat to introduce the Taste of Harvest Guide for 2012, which includes a free downloadable guide for picking fresh, local and seasonal foods to encourage and excite people about eating produce. Fitness Magazine featured this must-have eating guide and spotlighted Alton’s love for the fall harvest, when nutrients and flavor are at their highest levels. The guide encourages shopping at farmers’ markets for fresh items to prepare at home and finding restaurants that are offering seasonal fare.
On weeknights, getting dinner on the table is more a matter of survival than it is an act of creativity. Monday through Friday, I rely on the same 10 or so meals to keep us fed. These are the things I know by heart and can make without consulting books or a website for measurements or cook times.
When the weekend rolls around, I’m ready to stretch my culinary legs a little bit and try something beyond my standard turkey burgers and roasted broccoli, delicious though they may be. Don’t get me wrong — I’m not cooking up 10-course gourmet meals, but I do try to pick at least one recipe per weekend that requires a bit more time and energy. Around these parts, we call that dish The Weekender.
This last Sunday, we had plans to gather with friends for dinner. My promised main dish needed to be portable, made with poultry and outrageously delicious. The recipe that fit the bill? Ina Garten’s glorious Chicken Pot Pie.
This Sunday, the six remaining Food Network Star contestants face not one, but two all-star personalities — Rachael Ray and Ina Garten. So we just have to ask the question: Who would you rather cook for?