Foodie Friday: There’s Something About Ina

My Foodie Icon

The Fabulous Barefoot Contessa

Foodie Friday is my newest weekly series about all things food. What does food have to do with a parenting blog? Everything. Other than love and shelter, children rely on us to nourish them well and help them grow healthy and strong. Food fuels the body and feeds the soul. I love cooking almost as much as I love eating.  I will be sharing my own family recipes as well as advice and recipes from professional chefs. Foodie Friday won’t just be about recipes.  I’ll be discussing other aspects of food, such as sociopolitical issues related to food and American food culture, in general. As I dish about dishes and feed your mind, I hope you work up an appetite for some good eats!

To get this Foodie Friday started, I need to discuss my most important icon for all things foodie and fabulous. I’m talking about none other than The Barefoot Contessa.

Ina Garten is the Barefoot Contessa and if you’re not familiar with her, please set your DVR to the Barefoot Contessa program on Food Network. What I love most about Ina’s cooking style is that it’s simple and elegant. Sure, her recipes tend to lean in the hearty (read: fattening) comfort zone, but she can also whip up delicious recipes that are very healthy and lean. Her lemon and garlic roast chicken (minus the butter and bacon) has become a weekly staple in my house. I found myself watching her program years ago and I became fixated on her approach and cooking demeanor.  She also has this soothing and reassuring voice, as if to say, of course you can cook that! Some people take issue with her suggestions for “good” products only, such as “good” olive oil or “good” salt, which I take to mean expensive. She also always suggests homemade chicken stock. As much as I value her culinary opinions, I also value my time and wallet much more. I buy decent quality products that aren’t expensive and I buy chicken stock.

Ina is not a formally trained chef and it shows. But that’s what I like about her since I’m not either.  Ina just really loved to cook and throw dinner parties, so she gave up her career working as a budget analyst in the White House to open a specialty foods store and catering service in the Hamptons. It became so popular that eventually Food Network sought her out for her own cooking show. As Ina would say, how fabulous is that?!?

In honor of my Foodie Icon and my new weekly Foodie Friday series, please try out this recipe for Ina’s Potato Leek soup, which is perfect for the cooler weather. I have made it at least a dozen times by now and I love it more each time I make it. It is a very easy soup to prepare and it is just delicious. One thing to note, I did tweak her recipe a little to add some additional garlic flavoring and I skip the crispy shallots she suggests. My motto in life is everything is better with garlic (and bacon, although there is no bacon in this soup but now that I think about it, that might be pretty damn good!). Anything in bold is something I suggest.


Ina Garten’s Potato Leek Soup (with Aimee’s added touch of garlic!)

2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch chunks
4 cups chopped leeks, white and light green parts, cleaned of all sand (4 leeks)
1/4 cup good olive oil
– Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 cups baby arugula, lightly packed
1/2 cup dry white wine + extra for serving
6 to 7 cups chicken stock
3/4 cup heavy cream
8 ounces creme fraiche
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese + extra for garnish

Instructions: Preheat oven to 400°

Combine the potatoes, leeks, and 20 cloves of garlic on a pan in a single layer. Add the olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and toss to coat the vegetables evenly. Roast for 40-45 minutes, turning them with a spatula a few times during cooking, until very tender. Add the arugula and toss to combine. Roast for 4-5 more minutes, until the arugula is wilted. Remove the pan from the oven and place over two burners. Stir in the wine and 1 cup of the chicken stock and cook over low heat, scraping up any crispy roasted bits sticking to the pan.

In batches, transfer the roasted vegetables to a food processor fitted with the steel blade, adding the pan liquid and about 5 cups of the chicken stock to make a puree.  Pour the puree into a large pot or Dutch oven. Continue to puree the vegetables in batches until they’re all done and combined in the large pot. You can also use a heavy duty hand held immersion blender and just mix it all in the soup pot. Add enough of the remaining 1 to 2 cups of stock to make a thick soup. Add the cream, cream fraiche, 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon pepper and check the seasonings.

When ready to serve, reheat the soup gently and whisk in 2 tablespoons white wine and the Parmesan cheese. Serve hot with an extra grating of Parmesan cheese and Crispy Shallots, if using. I just add good quality croutons instead of the cheese or crispy shallots.

Per serving: 375 calories, 8 g protein, 35 g carbohydrate, 22 g fat (10 g saturated), 46 mg cholesterol, 898 mg sodium, 3 g fiber.

Bon Appétit!