Ina Garten, owner of the renowned East Hampton specialty food store, Barefoot Contessa, knows all about good food and giving fun-filled parties. On NBC’s “Today” show, she shared some picnic-perfect recipes from her new book, “The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook.” Says Garten, “Entertaining is about recess; it’s about having fun, not just for the guests but also for the host.” Below, read an excerpt from her book, complete with recipes.
MANY YEARS AGO, I read an article by Craig Claiborne in which he said his most frequently asked question was “How you make up a recipe?” He replied that recipes evolve. If I remember correctly, he then went on to show how spaghetti and meatballs, which was popular twenty years ago, changed to pasta primavera.
Salads are a perfect place to start inventing recipes. They are easy to fix when they go wrong. When you’re baking a cake, you don’t know there’s too much salt until the cake is out of the oven. With salads, you can usually fix a problem by adding another ingredient; or you can sometimes just take one out.
Let’s take grilled salmon salad. Since we are near the ocean, I wanted to make a new fish salad for the store. The “old-fashioned” version is, of course, tuna salad. But there is no fresh taste, so I decided to start with fresh fish. Fresh tuna can be temperamental, so I made the salad with fresh salmon, which stays moist, tastes wonderful, and makes a beautiful salad. Rather than poaching it, I got the most flavor by grilling the fish and then breaking it up into large flakes. Then I chose vegetables and herbs that would add to the flavor rather than overwhelm it.
The sauce was next. An “old-fashioned” sauce is made with a mayonnaise and added flavorings. But the fish and vegetables were so colorful and light that I wanted to make a vinaigrette to complement the fish, not mask it, so I chose raspberry vinegar and olive oil. I tossed it all together and made one of my favorite salads of all time.
The recipes that follow are on the menu at Barefoot Contessa and you can make them easily at home. But be creative and let new ingredients and flavors evolve so you can make salads that will surprise you.
Excerpted from “The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook” by Ina Garten; foreword by Martha Stewart. Copyright© 1999 by Ina Garten. Excerpted by permission of Clarkson Potter, a division of Random House Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.