Thursday, November 13, 2014

My food porn crush

There's a kitchen in there somewhere.
We're back -- after an interstate move, retirement, a new grandchild and successfully navigating the Oregon Department of Motor Vehicles!

And Because I Said So Kitchen is open for business -- again. Still haven't figured out where my Pyrex storage dishes are -- and few hundred other things -- but we're up and taking nourishment once again.

So I have to confess the object of my latest food porn crush -- Ina Garten, aka, The Barefoot Contessa. It all started this fall when, on almost on a daily basis, I would lose interest in unpacking our 18 zillion moving boxes around 4 p.m. every afternoon and collapse on the living room floor with a diet Coke (no furniture at this point so the floor it was), capable only of watching the Food Network.

And there was Ina (I can call you Ina, can't I?), gliding effortlessly through her wonderfully appointed kitchen in the Hamptons whipping up all kinds of tasty things for family and friends, punctuating her culinary efforts with the words "buttah" and "How easy is that?" This all looked pretty darn good to a person currently living out of a cooler on the patio until the new refrigerator was delivered.

And, so, to celebrate the resurrection of BISS Kitchen, I went out and picked up a couple of Barefoot Contessa cookbooks -- "How Easy Is That?" and "Make It Ahead." I cracked open "How Easy Is That?" first.

Now, the premise of this book, says Ina, "is all about saving you time and avoiding stress [with]. . . . tried-and-true Barefoot Contessa recipes that are easy enough to make but still have all that deep, delicious flavor that makes a meal so satisfying."

The key, she says, are easy ingredients that can be found in well-stocked grocery stores (take note, please), plus easy shortcuts, easy techniques, easy menus and easy recipes. As a chronically over-ambitious cook, I can totally dig this. SOMEBODY needs to keep me in check.

And so, after inviting The Mom Unit and some friends over for dinner Friday night, I ripped into The Barefoot Contessa's Rich Beef Barley Soup.

BISSKitchen Adventure of the Day: This recipe uses oxtails instead of stew meat (or whatever -- since this was my first run at beef barley soup, I wasn't quite sure what my options were), for extra richness, Ina says. I was game for this. I've seen oxtails in the meat section before.

Exx-cepptt-tttt for now. Four stores later, no oxtails.

Now Portland is no culinary backwater, so certainly someone, somewhere has oxtails. The meat guy at Safeway suggested Barbur World Foods, a bit of trek at rush hour, so I got home and let Google work its magic.

Eureka! I found oxtails in the most awesome meat department in the world at New Seasons Market (five minutes away!) and had them put two pounds aside for me. I only share this because sometimes "easy ingredients" aren't so easy. Be prepared to do some sleuthing or work with your favorite meat counter and pre-order.

Love you, New Seasons!
BISSKitchen Upshot: Probably one of the best soups I've ever made -- and I've made my share of soups. It's a perfect late fall-winter comfort food -- rich (thanks, oxtails!), a little peppery, delicious. It's quite simple to make -- perhaps a little labor intensive in the chopping (and shopping in the case of oxtails) department -- but a minor detail: Put on some jazz, pour yourself a glass of wine and get over it.

Chop, chop: Leeks, onions, carrots, celery.
And, puh-leeze, use the oxtails!

Caveat: I used fresh chopped garlic this time around but sometimes, if I'm in a hurry, I use this little Trader Joe's gem, which can conveniently reside in your freezer when not in use. Comes in basil too!

And, finally, the BISSKitchen rating -- on a scale of 1 (well, THAT was interesting) to 5 (I'll just keep the rest for myself, thank you), the Barefoot Contessa's Rich Beef Barley Soup gets 5 Bovine Bravos.

Just think of it as your secret weapon against winter this year. Why? Because I said so.