Monday, February 16, 2009

Back to Basics

I love Ina Garten. Although I've only experienced limited success with her recipes, I love her show on Food Network. She makes the sorta food I want to eat. She's not overly chipper ala Rachel Ray, sexpotty like Giada or overly geeky like Alton Brown. No, she's the kind of woman I imagine being good friends with. I imagine her as friendly, smart and extremely generous. So this might be why I always refer to her cookbooks first whenever I decide I want to cook something up for myself that I'm unfamiliar with.

I own almost each of her cookbooks and they all live in my tiny kitchen so I can quickly refer to them. Even so, I wasn't feeling overly inspired by any of them lately. But Ina recently came out with a new cookbook called Back to Basics that I thought looked awesome. So awesome that I bought it was a gift for food buddy Caroline and was a little sad to give it away. So E bought it for me as a Xmas gift so I had a copy of my own.

I found a yummy sounding butternut curry soup inside and have been wanting to try it for a while now. It looked very simple and easy. And since I had a day off from work, I figured I might as well give it a whirl. I also decided that I wanted dessert too and was craving chocolate mousse. My craving is odd given the very bad experience I had with chocolate mousse in the 8th grade.

My 8th grade French class was having a party, and I was given the task of making chocolate mousse. How I ended up with this task is beyond me, because I had no clue how to make it. But sure, I told the teacher I'd give it a shot if she gave me a recipe for it. Too bad the recipe she gave me involved things that a 13 year old knows nothing about, such as brewed coffee, cognac and an ice bath. All I can say is that the mousse was a disaster and turned into lumpy chocolate soup sans coffee, cognac and ice bath. That was the first and last time I made chocolate mousse until tonight.

I, being an Ina devotee, checked to see if she had a recipe for chocolate mousse and she did. It, of course, involved two different types of alcohol. Given my experience with Ina's tiramisu and the sheer amount of rum in that dish, I decided that I'd use a different recipe. I wanted something fairly simple but with a slight depth of flavor. I looked in my Betty Crocker cookbook and found a recipe that involved a total of four ingredients: chocolate chips, sugar, egg yolks, whipping cream. And while the recipe was idiotically simple (why didn't my French teacher give me this recipe to make?!?!), I was afraid the taste would be dull as well. I decided to improvise a bit and added instant espresso to the cream I had to heat as well as some good vanilla extract too.

What resulted was an incredibly rich and light mousse with the exact depth of flavor I wanted as a result of the espresso and vanilla. Yum! It's the sort of thing that you can't eat a lot of, but boy, you really wish you could! Thanks Betty Crocker Cookbook!

So back to the curry butternut was simple, simple, simple. Roast cubes of butternut squash, onion and apple until they're soft and cooked thru, run it thru a food mill (or a blender in my case), add to chicken stock, sprinkle with curry, salt and pepper and garnish with coconut, banana and cashews.

I liked how easy the soup was to bring together, although I hate, with a passion, cutting the squash. It's just so boring to me and seems like it always takes forever to peel and cube. So I roasted and pureed and soon dinner was ready. E dressed the greens I purchased with a simple oil and vinegar dressing and I pulled out soup bowls.

The soup was nice. It was sweet because of the butternut squash. The curry flavor wasn't as apparent as I had hoped though.

I wonder if I'll always be kinda lukewarm about the actual outcome of my Ina Garten recipes. I mean, I love her so much, but everything I'd ever followed of hers, turns out eh. It's good but never great. Perhaps I love Ina so much, too much that nothing will ever live up to my expectations. Maybe I need to start building a lower pedal stool in my head for my Ina. I'll think about it...