Roasted Figs with Caramel Sauce
1½ cups sugar
1¼ cups heavy cream
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
24 to 30 large fresh black figs
6 tablespoons sliced almonds, toasted (see note)
3 cup of water and the sugar in a
medium heavy-bottomed saucepan. Cook
without stirring over low heat for 5 to 10 minutes, until the sugar dissolves. Increase the
heat to medium and boil uncovered for 5 to 7
minutes, until the sugar turns a warm chestnut brown (350°F on a candy thermometer),
gently swirling the pan to stir the mixture. Be
careful—the melted sugar is hot! Watch the
mixture constantly at the end, as it will go
from caramel to burnt very quickly. Turn off
the heat. Stand back to avoid splattering and
slowly add the cream and vanilla. The cream
will bubble violently and the caramel will
solidify; don’t worry. Simmer over low heat,
stirring constantly, until the caramel dissolves
and the sauce is smooth, about 2 minutes.
Allow to cool to room temperature, at least 4
hours. It will thicken as it sits. Store at room
Preheat the oven to 450°F. Place a wire baking rack on a sheet pan.
Cut the hard stem off each fig and cut each
one in half through the stem. Place all the
halves cut side up on the baking rack. Roast
the figs for 10 minutes, until they’re tender.
When the figs are done, heat the caramel
sauce (I do it in a microwave) just until warm.
Place the figs in dessert bowls, drizzle each
serving with a tablespoon of caramel sauce
and sprinkle with the almonds. Serve warm.
Note: To toast nuts, place them in a small dry
sauté pan and cook over low heat for 5 to 10
minutes, tossing often, until evenly browned.
To make in advance, cut the figs and place
them on the wire baking rack. Ten minutes
before serving, put the figs in the oven and
warm the caramel sauce.
est cookbook, Barefoot Contessa How Easy Is
That? (Clarkson Potter). Her seventh book, it
features more of Garten’s creative recipes,
with an even higher focus on simplicity.
During the meal, we have a chance to talk
about inspirations for her latest work, her
plans for future projects and more.
“For this book, I thought, ‘I’m really going
to challenge myself to see if I can make every
recipe on one page with simple ingredients,’ ”
Garten says. “I really believe that people can
go to a grocery store, buy perfectly good
ingredients, come home and make something
really simple that is absolutely delicious.”
From budgets to biscotti
Writing cookbooks, Garten points out, is
really her third career. In the late 1970s, she
and her husband, Jeffrey, worked in the White
House—she as a nuclear energy policy analyst, he as an international trade and economic expert for several administrations. She
enjoyed her day job, but a bigger pleasure was
the weekly dinner parties she planned and
prepared for friends. Feeling restless, Garten
came across an ad for a specialty food store in
the Hamptons, the swanky enclave of summer homes and estates on eastern Long
Island. She visited, made an offer on the spot
and in 1978 found herself the owner of
Barefoot Contessa. The name is believed to
have come from a 1954 movie starring Ava
Gardner. Its elegant, earthy connotation
would prove apropos.
Garten had no formal culinary training
but immersed herself in the business, devouring cookbooks, finding mentors and handling
every chore in the shop. Over the next two
decades, she expanded Barefoot Contessa
from one modest room to a 3,000-square-foot
emporium with nearly 50 employees preparing food and helping customers. Again feeling
The Ina Garten
The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook
Barefoot Contessa Parties!
Barefoot Contessa Family Style
Barefoot in Paris (2004)
Barefoot Contessa at Home
Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics
Barefoot Contessa How Easy
Is That? (2010)
•All recipes courtesy of Barefoot Contessa How easy is tHat? (clArkson potter).
restless, she sold the business to two employees in 1996 and dabbled in other activities,
including a Barefoot Contessa website.
In 1999, Garten decided to write a cookbook based on the popular foods featured in
the store. The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook
was an instant bestseller, eventually selling 1. 2
million copies. She has come out with a new
cookbook about every other year since (see
“The truth is that after the first book I
thought, ‘Oh, I’ve used all my recipes,’ ” Garten
recalls. “Then I thought, well, actually I hadn’t
because I had a lot of experience being a
caterer and preparing things for parties, so
that was the experience for the second book
[Barefoot Contessa Parties!]. After that I
thought, ‘OK, that’s it, I’m done, I really don’t
have anything else.’ And the third book came
along and I thought, ‘I want to do things you
could serve family style that would be good
for home cooking.’ ”
Her inspirations come from her trav-
els—a fresh food market in Paris, where she
has a home—and by just browsing fine food
shops in the Hamptons, Manhattan or wher-
ever she happens to be. “I start with some
kind of remembered flavor or something
special,” she explains. More books are on the
way, though details are under wraps at this
point. “The irony is that I could sit down
right now and make a list of 100 recipes that
I’d like to test,” she says.
About 10 years ago, the Food Network
came calling with a proposal for a show.
Garten politely said no, not feeling that the
format was right—until the producers agreed
to film the program in her home, where the
intimate setting captured the essence of the
Barefoot Contessa. “I declined doing the TV
show for years because I couldn’t imagine
why anybody would want to watch,” she
laughs. “And now I’ve been doing it for eight
and a half years and I still don’t know why
anybody wants to watch!”
“Anybody” adds up to 16 million monthly
viewers, the Food Network reports.
NOVEMBER 2010 The Costco Connection 29
Sticking to basics
What Garten doesn’t have are any immediate plans for expanding her business into
products beyond foods. She gets lots of
pitches: kitchen tables, accessories and so on.
That’s no surprise, given the popularity—and
potential—of the Barefoot Contessa brand.
“Somebody even wanted me to do a line of
clothing,” she discloses with a laugh. “I wear