on April 30, 2004
With an extensive cookbook collection, it is rare for me to make more than one or two recipes out of a single cookbook. This book would have to be the exception to that rule. I would highly recommend this book to any of you. I have a large family, the recipe sizes do not intimidate, and do not require doubling for our family gatherings. Ingredients are high quality, and fresh. I have made the Pecan Squares and taken them to work, handed out the recipe to nearly everyone. The Maple Oat Scones have been made approximately a dozen times, and are always a hit! Veggies roasted in the oven? Incredible. Buy it, you won't be disappointed.
For those who haven't had the pleasure of shopping at Ina Garten's specialty food store in the Hamptons The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook delivers - literally. Some 160 gorgeous photos plus Ina's favorite recipes fill the 252 pages of this indispensable kitchen reference.
As Martha Stewart writes in her Foreword, Ina is unique. "There is a freshness in cooking, a total lack of finickiness, a reliance on the freshest and best, and a casualness that I know will be appealing to everyone who uses her book." How true!
Ina stresses freshness, noting that after several weeks in Provence where she found radishes and carrots with "soil still clinging to them," she determined to base her cooking on ingredients from local sources. A lesson for us all.
Hosting a cocktail party, she decided, was not much fun if she spent all of her time running back and forth to the kitchen to get hot hors d'oeuvres out of the oven. So, she does everything possible to be sure that she does not leave the room. For instance, she has a table with all the drink fixings on it, and appetizers that can be served at room temperature so everything is either out or ready to pass when the first guest arrives. Thus we find common sense and uncommonly good appetizers from Roasted Eggplant spread to Guacamole to Smoked Salmon Sandwiches.
Her soups are splendid, most of them starting with sauteed onions "to give a sweet, rich flavor to the stock." Parker's Split Pea Soup, which Steven Spielberg said tasted just like his mother's, is rich, hearty and beautifully presented topped either with toasted croutons or diced smoked ham.
The joy Ina finds in cooking is evident in all of her dishes. She's a cook who makes simple food very, very special.
- Gail Cooke
on February 3, 2002
This is a visually beautiful cookbook. Some of the recipes are less-than-basic, but worth it -- I have gotten "best ever" reviews on a couple recipes. Certain recipes however are hit or miss and require a little ad-libbing. For example the salmon with fennel was missing something, beef bourgonion sauce reduced to nothing, the coconut cream cheese frosting yields twice the amount necessary (even if you dump the frosting on!) and the guacamole requires at least double the spices.....(the cupcakes and the guacamole by the way, are both excellent as is the whole chicken.) I don't know - maybe they got tired in the test-kitchen before they finished the book. Still worth the purchase - when it's good it's great.
on February 20, 2004
This first cookbook by Ina Garten, the founder and once owner of the Long Island catering and upscale deli, 'barefoot contessa' is a delightful cross between the high end Martha Stewart 'Entertaining' and the very local and very Southern 'The Lady and Sons' by Paula Deen. By delightful coincidence, all three have shows on the food network. This book shines by being more accessible than Martha Stewart's work for large scale entertaining and by being more selective in its recipes than Paula Deen's books. Deen and Stewart's works both have their virtues, but Garten shines in making the best of its particular strengths.
Both Stewart and Garten claim Julia Child as a culinary godmother, and both do us a service by making Child's style of food easier to make for the non-foodie.
The greatest value of Garten's selection of dishes and her recipes for same are that they were all prepared at 'the barefoot contessa', so there is no question that the recipes work. This claim is boldly made on the dust jacket. I will add the opinion that since the dishes were a staple of Garten's store and catering business, they were popular with a fairly discriminating clientele. Having seen pictures on Garten's TV show of 'the barefoot contessa', I can see the store's customers probably had pretty high expectations of their food purveyors.
I can back this observation up by the opinion that I find almost all of Garten's recipes very appealing, reasonably healthy, and reasonably easy to make. This is so true that I expect this will become my first choice book when I simply do not know what I want to make, and do not want to spend a lot of time, or at least a lot of effort in the preparation.
That said, I have to recommend this book as both an excellent first cookbook and an excellent resource for entertaining. By being restaurant and catering recipes, most recipes have the added virtue of being able to remain appetizing after 8 hours in a chilled display case. There are very few prepared or commercially processed ingredients and there are very few expensive and delicate ingredients like foie gras or truffles.
I found a few gaffs, mistakes which Ms. Garten's food network on screen talent have repudiated. My favorite geek Alton Brown, my hero Mario Batali, and my imaginary sweetheart Sara Moulton have all reputed the folklore that salt toughens cooking beans. If this were a teaching cookbook or a book by a reputed culinary authority, I think less of the book, but Ms. Garten has succeeded in her primary goal. Another weakness is the 'glossary of kitchen terms'. A single picture defines each of only six terms. I'm sure that these pictures may be of some value to amateur cooks, but the simplest of sentences in explanation would have made them 100% more useful.
As I have suggested above, Ms. Garten has not given us a replacement for Martha Stewart's classic. In a discussion of a crudite platter for example, Ms. Garten gives us a three thinly texted pages while Martha gives us eight oversized pages packed with recipes and step by step lessons.
Ms. Garten's book does outdo Martha in one regard, at least for people living in the New York metropolitan area. Her tables of sources for both food and equipment is very thorough and up to date. My only objection is her many references to Eli Zabar's breads and stores. Once would have been quite enough. An even better suggestion would have been to rate the suppliers in the list at the end of the book.
I highly recommend this book to anyone, especially as a first cookbook for people living in the New York area.
on September 16, 2002
This is a great cookbook filled with recipes you actually would want to eat. They are simple to follow and don't have too many ingredients. I've made so many things from her books and everything has been delicious. You will not be dissappointed in this book.
on July 13, 2003
This is my favorite cookbook. Everything I've made so far has been lovely enough to serve guests, yet unfussy to prepare. Recipes focus on fresh, in-season foods enhanced with seasonings or sauces rather than drowned in them. (Although look elsewhere for low-fat cooking.)
This is "welcome to my house, relax, eat this simple yet delicious food" food rather than "look, you're so lucky to be in my house eating with me, because I'm chic and trendy, and I'm using obscure ingredients" food.
on May 27, 2001
As a private chef who used to work in homes in East Hampton, I was not impressed with the selections described in this book. I was expecting more Entree salads such as those which I used to purchase at the Barefoot Contessa... instead, this book contained almost common sense recipes with no educational value... Great for a novice cook... not worth the time for a chef.
on February 9, 2000
This is a lovely cookbook, beautiful photos, very clear recipes, but I have to admit that I was disappointed enough to send it back. After reading the reviews, I was anticipating something on the order of the Silver Palette series, which are my favorite cookbooks, but this one was too simplistic for me. As some others have commented, there are not very many recipes given the size of the book and none of them struck me as very new or interesting. In sum, this is probably a great cookbook for people who are "quick-cooks" but for those of us who like to delve into our cooking a bit more, it falls short.
on November 14, 2003
This is a very good book, which I enjoyed very much. The recipes in here includce, Pecan Square, Raspberry Tart, Hummus, Roasted Tomato Soup, Roasted Vegetable Torte, Orange Granola with fruit and nuts, White Hot Chocolate, Guacomole, along with many others.I haven't tried a lot of recipes from this book, but I have tried the Provencal Potato Salad and Hot Chocolate, both of which our French exchange student just loved, and Homemade Granola, which my brother loves to eat for breakfast and snacks.A favorite of the whole family is the PEcan Shortbread, which a guest exclaimed that we must give her the recipe.It was also a hit with my grandmother, who has lost her sweet tooth. But since shortbread is not overly sweet, she loved these cookies. The hummus is also excellent, and is my favorite recipe for it. Another favorite is the Cranberry harvest Muffins, with hazelnuts and figs (I used dried figs, fresh were hard to find and too expensive) I also love a lot of pictures in books, and good descriptions, which the Barefoot Contessa gives. The only reason I gave it four stars was because I didn't like the scones very much. I made the Strawberry Scones, and the Barefoot Contessa is supoosedly famous for these scones, but it was too salty with not a lot of sugar and the dried strawberries were lost in the batter. But I did enjoy this book very much, and I love her other two. But I can't wait to try other recipes friom this book.
on January 24, 2002
I didn't think I really "needed" another cookbook, with my own experience of more than forty years of cooking, and a grandmother who was a professional chef, but all it took was one look at this book and I was hooked! It's the best, most interesting, and inspiring cookbook I've seen in years! (I just wish I'd discovered it sooner!)
Ina Garten's approach is so fresh and relaxed, and she makes cooking for guests sound so easy and like so much fun, that the reader cannot help but become caught up in her enthusiasm. Although she emphasizes that advance preparation takes the stress out of entertaining, her idea of preparation is far more casual than the start-the-meal-five-days-in-advance program many of us adopted twenty years ago when we first "discovered" Julia Child and became dedicated "French chefs." She is not afraid to suggest that you put together a beautiful and creative assortment of dessert pastries purchased from a local vendor, instead of trying to make something spectacular with homemade puff pastry dough; she provides loads of helpful hints to head off potential disasters (put the red cabbage you shred in advance for the Vegetable Cole Slaw into a separate plastic bag so that it doesn't turn the other vegetables pink); she indicates when you can save time by using commercial frozen products; and she gives wonderful tips about how to arrange the guests around the dining table so that you don't end up with separate groups at each end having separate conversations.
Garten uses the freshest ingredients, and she is often inspired by what's available in her local market. She shows how to adapt some old favorites, such as Eggplant Caviar, to more health-conscious diets by roasting, rather than frying the ingredients. And the results are delectable. Her updated version of Beef Bourguignon, Indonesian Chicken, Kitchen Clambake, and Tuna Nicoise Platter are fabulous. The Roasted Carrots and Potato Fennel Gratin are delicious, and she even has inspired me to try Crispy Roasted Brussels Sprouts, which I once swore I'd never eat again, once I became a grown-up. This is a terrific book, sure to inspire even the most jaded or experienced cook. I just wish I had found it about twenty years ago!