November 17, 2010
Ina Garten’s new book sold out before her signing began. Williams-Sonoma left nothing to chance, organizing myriad fans into tidy lines that snaked out of South Coast Plaza’s interior onto the sidewalk.
The much loved host of the Food Network’s “Barefoot Contessa” thinks the easiest parties are the most fun – not just for the host but for everyone. She has written seven cookbooks, and “Barefoot Contessa: How Easy Is That?” (Clarkson Potter, $35) is the latest.
I spoke with Garten fan Nichol Hibbard, a food blogger from San Dimas, who was standing at the long line’s midway point. She had arrived two hours early and thought she’d be closer to the front.
“Ina taught me about easy entertaining,” she said, adding that her first few dinner parties were disasters. “She showed me that the hostess should have fun and not be stuck alone in the kitchen. I love her fresh takes on classic dishes. She turns up the volume on flavors: If something is chocolate, it should taste like chocolate, not sugary.”
Lucky me, I talked with Garten in Williams-Sonoma’s quiet back office before the event. We chatted about her newest book and noodled about cooking, some of which focused on Thanksgiving. I soaked up a little of her quick-to-laugh joviality and took pleasure in her warmth and kindness. Here is what she had to say:
Q. Are you still amazed by the vast numbers of fans at book signings?
A. My first thought: Who are all those people waiting for?
Q. What is the most common question or comment from fans?
A. Where’s Jeffrey? I tell them that someone in the family has to work. Often they comment, ‘Oh, I love you, and I love your Spinach Gratin’ – or some other dish that is their favorite.
Q. Why do you think your fans adore you?
A. I’ve given them something that makes them feel good about themselves. Believe me, if you cook, everyone will show up. One friend suggested that the message on my phone should be: I love you. Now come to dinner.
Q. What tips do you have to make Thanksgiving easier and more fun for the host?
A. Two things. One, never make something that you have never made before. It’s too stressful. Two, plan really carefully. Everything doesn’t have to be made at the last minute. Make some things a day or two ahead, some things in the morning. Everything doesn’t have to be served hot. Serve some things room temperature. And be sure to make some things that are really simple to make. The thing that is really going to impress people is that you have a really good time.
Q. So what side dishes from the new book would be great for Thanksgiving?
A. The Roasted Butternut Squash is delicious, and I love the Garlic-Roasted Cauliflower with toasted pine nuts.
Q. When you were writing this book, was there an ‘aha’ ingredient that piqued your interest?
A. Truffle butter. I buy it online and keep it in the freezer. I use it on popcorn, pasta and under the skin of the turkey. It’s about $6 for a 3-ounce container. And it’s good white truffles – really high quality. Another great revelation was risotto. I like to take classic fare and make it easier. I didn’t want to stand at the stove and stir and stir and stir. So I made it in the oven in a Dutch oven. It is really delicious. You cover and bake it for 45 minutes, then stir for two to three minutes.
Q. Oh, I can hardly wait to get my hands on some of that truffle butter. What is the easiest recipe in the new book?
A. The easiest dessert is the Mocha Chocolate Icebox Cake. Almost everyone remembers the old-fashioned dessert made with chocolate wafers and whipped cream. I updated the idea, adding Kahlua and cocoa powder, plus thin crisp chocolate chip cookies. I layer it and put it in the refrigerator overnight. Done.
It’s so good that men put their heads on the table and weep.
Q. What do you eat at home when you’re exhausted and don’t want to cook?
A. (Much laughter) A bowl of oatmeal, or maybe a grilled cheese sandwich and some tomato soup. (More laughter)
The truffle butter that Ina Garten mentioned is available at dartagnan.com.
Ina Garten was born on February 2nd, 1948 according to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ina_Garten
February 2nd, 1948
2 + 2 +1+9+4+8 = 26 = her life lesson = what she is here to learn = Communication. Enthusiasm. Charisma. Personality. Popularity. Celebrity. Appearance. Image. Camera. Photos. Photogenic. Photography. Speak. Talk. Verbalize. Articulate. Orator. Public speaking. Conversation. Message. Information. News. Reports. Headlines. Broadcasting. Show. Television. The media. The press. Newspaper. Radio. Talk radio. Telephone. Phone call. Mail. A letter. A post. E-mail. Send. Announcements. Publicity. Publicist. Spokesperson. Adoring fans. Autograph. Signature. Personalize. Audience. Applaud. Applause.