Who do you want to be when you grow up? Please tell me I’m not the only “grown up” that ponders this question constantly. I’m always daydreaming about my future self…
I dream of being a super-smart, put-together, classy lady, crazy successful on the home front. One day, my friends and family will call me “the hostess with the mostest”, and their calendars will be marked up with my frequent dinner parties. My wish is to have elegantly-casual themed soirees, where veggies and dip become “crudités”, and each event is accompanied by a signature cocktail and/or eye pleasing tablescape. My butcher, friends at the fish market, and cheese shop clerk will know me by name, and my weekly orders will be ready for pickup when I walk in.
In a nutshell: I want to be Ina Garten.
Ina Garten’s culinary training began with a long stay in France and an adoration for Julia Child’s The Art of French Cooking. Once she returned to the states with her husband, Jeffrey, she continued to practice her skills at home by hosting frequent dinner parties, however she never pursued formal culinary training or a career in the culinary arts. In fact, she worked under the Ford and Carter administrations in Washington D.C. in the 1970’s.
Ina answered “the call” when she purchased and began running Barefoot Contessa, a specialty foods store in the Hamptons. The business grew, and she received notoriety in the late 90’s for her first cookbook, The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook. Her popular Food Network show began in 2002, which gives fans a more detailed look at a day in the life of Ina Garten.
A typical episode of Barefoot Contessa revolves around a menu; more often than not the theme of the episode relates to a dinner party, however she sometimes plans for an intimate dinner for two with Jeffrey. Though the episodes take place in her own kitchen, she often ventures to pick up several ingredients, allowing viewers to see where, and how, she purchases her items.
Guests usually arrive early, but always eager, to Ina’s gatherings. She serves everything with perfect timing, and every planned detail is just right, down to the floral arrangements and china. One of the most admirable qualities of Ina as a hostess is, she is never running back and forth from the kitchen to the party; Ina Garten properly prepares and organizes her menu items so she can partake in her own event and spend time with her friends and family.
Below is Ina Garten’s recipe for Caramel Sauce, a deliciously sticky concoction you can use “as is” on ice cream, with apples, or even in a hot cup of coffee. The recipe made enough for me to store in a squeeze bottle, so you may even have enough to incorporate into a larger recipe, like Caramel Bread Pudding.
Copyright 2005, Ina Garten
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/3 cup water
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Mix the water and sugar in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan. Cook over low heat for 5 to 10 minutes, until the sugar dissolves. Do not stir. Increase the heat to medium and boil uncovered until the sugar turns a warm chestnut brown (about 350 degrees F on a candy thermometer), about 5 to 7 minutes, gently swirling the pan to stir the mixture. Be careful – the mixture is extremely hot! Watch the mixture very carefully at the end, as it will go from caramel to burnt very quickly. Turn off the heat. Stand back to avoid splattering and slowly add the cream and vanilla. Don’t worry – the cream will bubble violently and the caramel will solidify.
Simmer over low heat, stirring constantly, until the caramel dissolves and the sauce is smooth, about 2 minutes. Allow to cool to room temperature, at least 4 hours. It will thicken as it sits.