on April 2, 2004
Ina Garten has proven herself to be a permanant fixture in my kitchen. It is interesting the kind of feedback this book. Cooking purists often seem to get quite worked up about it. It is true, Family Style contains many recipes that you can find in many other cookbooks. And if you are looking for that cliche, the "if-you-could-have-only-one-cookbook," I would agree with the masses that that book would have to be The Joy of Cooking. But there are many reasons why you should have more than just that book, and here are a few:
Many complain that this book is a bunch of classics that they all know how to make anyway. But this book is great for young people or people of any age, who are trying to gather fool-proof classics. I am only 23 and like most people my age, I haven't developed a repetoire of chicken noodle soup or pound cake. So for me this book is perfect.
Secondly, Ina's recipes are nearly fool-proof. If you are the least bit competant in the kitchen you will fare well with these recipes. Some of my favorites in this book are the shrimp scampi, parmessan chicken, smoked salmon fritatta, corn pudding and an easy gravy recipe I use all the time. At the moment I am lunching on her broccoli and bowties. Not a unique recipe, but like I said before, one I didn't use before and no go to often.
Many people don't like having so many pictures in a book and call it a waste of their money but I prefer this. I want to see what I am going to cook and rarely buy a cookbook without photos, unless it is highly recommended, such as the Joy of Cooking.
I say take a good look at the recipes before you buy the book. If you are satisfied with the recipes you already have for these true-blues, skip it. But if you are still searching for that perfect recipe, give this book a go. You won't be disappointed.
on February 27, 2009
Having cooked recipes from all Ina Garten's cookbooks and loving the results almost always, I thought that I should write a review on this one as well. The following is something that I appreciate with most Ina's books, including this one:
1) As is Ina's trademark - the recipes are accompanied by gorgeous pictures so that you awaken your tastebuds before cooking and know what it will look like;
2) The instructions are easy to follow, no special equipment necessary and the techniques are pretty basic for even a beginner cook;
3) The ingredients are likely already in your pantry or are easy to find in any well stocked supermarket;
4) Most recipes include helpful notes on what can be prepped before your guests/family arrive at the table so that you can relax and enjoy their company instead of running around at the last minute;
5) Results of your culinary efforts are extremely tasty and will earn you compliments (not that that should be the primary reason for cooking, but it does help feeling that you are being appreciated);
6) Most recipes are so good that you will keep using the book over and over instead of trying a few things and the cookbook gathering dust on the bookshelf (I am speaking from my own experience - I own a lot of books that disappointed a couple of times and never were used after - this is not the case of this book).
My personal favorites: Lasagna with turkey sausage; Real meatballs & spaghetti (my husband rated this as "the best meatballs you ever made"), Linguini with shrimp scampi (easy and surprisingly fast recipe that looks and tastes ellegant enough to serve guests for a dinner party), Raspberry cheesecake (a showstopper - very attractive cake, not too sweet and light tasting with a nice citrusy raspberries), Coconut macaroons, Tiramisu (I have travelled extensively through Italy and this one definitely is up there with the best I tasted there).
All in all - while there may be some recipes I will probably never use(homemade marshmallows - sorry, I am European and after living in Canada for over 20 years still don't understand the fascination with marshmallows - must be part of a culture shock), there is enough of those that I will use again and again with outstanding results.
on February 21, 2004
This is Ina Garten's third cookbook. It leaves the caterer's shop and party platter to concentrate on meals, which do well made at home.
One of the first things I sense is that there is little difference in the style of menu in this book than there is in the first two. The second and more revealing aspect of this book is the degree to which it is visiting old material rather than trying to present something new.
There are three signs of this tendency in the book. The first is the number of references to sources of recipes in both classic cookbooks such as Julia Child's 'Mastering the Art of French Cooking' and recent, well known cookbooks such as Danny Meyer and Michael Romano's 'Union Square Café Cookbook'. Other cookbooks are quoted as well. The second is the appearance of patently classic recipes, which have appeared in many other books. Two of the most common are a recipe for a Caprese Salad (Tomato, Basil, and Mozzarela) and roasted leg of lamb. Repeating classic recipes like this becomes more of an issue in a book of this size (88 recipes) and price ($35 list). This book has very little new in the way of basic recipes to offer a person who already owns ten (10) cookbooks, let alone someone who owns over 200. The third is the number of recipes for relatively simple staple items which have the feel of being added to bulk up the page count. These are chicken stock, croutons, iced tea, mashed potatoes, and sautéed carrots. To be sure, each of these has some twist to offer, but that twist is a bit expensive at over $.40 per recipe. Especially given the fact that many of these recipes have appeared on Ina's Food Network show and are therefore available on the Internet on the Food Network web site for free.
There is an up side to this book, especially for people with few cookbooks and little time to watch the Food Network.
First, as with the earlier books, these recipes are typically easy to make with virtually no expensive or difficult to find ingredients.
Second, the book has a recipe index, something that every cookbook should have.
Third, the book has a healthy number of breakfast food recipes. This would seem to be the main feature which sets it apart from the other two books and which places it 'in the home'.
Fourth, a large percentage of recipes are for desserts. If one has no interest in having a dessert book laying around, this book will put you in good stead with recipes for some classics like key lime pie and angel food cake plus some very good special event desserts such as an American Flag cake. If you want the read deal on desserts, I strongly recommend Wayne Harley Brachman's latest book, 'American Desserts'.
Ina Garten' three books together will run you over $100 list price. For less than $20, you could get an excellent general purpose cookbook such as 'The Joy of Cooking' or 'James Beard's American Cookery' with over 1000 recipes. The extra tariff buys you the cachet of recipes from a well-known culinary celebrity who should know what she is doing to keep things both simple and economical in the kitchen. You also get full page, average or less than average quality photographs of all recipes and chatty commentary on the recipes from Ms. Garten.
Basically, Ina is simply running out of original material, just like her Food Network colleague Paula Deen, whose second cookbook also had a lot of filler. The difference is in the relative price Ms. Garten and Ms. Deen are charging for leftovers.
Again, this is a good book if you simply do not own other cookbooks and you can get it at a good discount. For the rest of us, I give it only four stars so you think twice before buying the name, again.
on January 20, 2004
This is a fantastic book, as are all of Ina's books. True, this one is easier, but the title indicates family style, which means delicious and simple to me. However, there are some exotic recipes, like Tequila Lime Chicken, Saffron Risotto with Butternut Squash, Espresso ice Cream, and a few others, but mainly it's updated classics. And there are many in here that I would make again. The Penne with Five Cheeses is delicious (you can substitue light cream for all of that heavy cream in a pinch and make sure your oven is completely clean to avoid smoke from the 500 degree temperature. We cleaned ours and we had no problem), the chocolate mousse was what my mother described as 'just like mothers.' And my grandmother was famous for her chocolate mousse. All of my friends love the jam thumprints, and my brother's favorite kind of pancakes is now is Banana Sour Cream (the lemon zest in it makes a great addition). The French toast has a great addition of fresh orange zest, and makes a quick breakfast. My dad's favorite is the Orange Pound Cake. He can't get enough. He brought a slice to a friend at work and she said that she wouldn't mind one bit if I made that cake every day. It is our favorite cake to bring to new neighbors, new babies, and the sick. A friend of my mom's just had a baby and we brought her this cake, in which she and her husband literally ate in two days. But my favorite would have to be the Saffron Risotto with Butternut Squash. My mom and I both agree that it is just such a comforting and delicious meal. It's just so good. All in all, a great book.
on February 10, 2003
Sure some of Family Style's recipes are basic-- but that's Ina's style. A direct quote from one of her books states that her food is " familiar, but better than you remember". Her first two cookbooks contain the most basic of basic recipes-- things like Roast Chicken, Lemonade, Apple Crisp, Chocolate Cake, Apple Cider, and even a cup of Coffee are all included. How is that so different from Iced Tea, French Toast and Blueberry Muffins? The answer is, it's not. Ina's recipes are hardly, if ever, outlandish. She works at writing recipes for good tasting, approachable, cook-friendly food. That's the point of her work. The food isn't poles apart from food most of us grew up with (other than the fact that it's a hundred times tastier)-- but should she put goat's cheese in her fish and chips, so that she could claim her recipes "different"?
I personally think Ina to be a terrific cookbook author. I've tried several recipes from her newest book-- Thumbprint Cookies, Banana Sour Cream Pancakes, and Chicken and Biscuit Stew to name a few-- and, as I expected, all were terrific. And when it comes down to it, that's all I expect from a cookbook.
on February 6, 2003
I don't normally write in to review books, particulary cook books, but this one is an exception. I am an avid gourmet cook and I'm always looking for new cookbooks. However, I hate investing in them because I usually only end up making one or two recipes out of each book and it feels like a waste of money. Within two weeks of getting the Barefoot Contessa book, I had made almost half of the recipes - to raving reviews from family and friends.
The recipes are easy and fabulous and they can easily be served for a low-key family dinner or a special dinner with company. While they could be considered gourmet, none of the recipes call for exotic ingredients which means everything is already in your pantry or readily available at the grocery store. What I particularly like is that Ina offers menu suggestions in the back of the book so all of the planning is already done for you.
Most importantly, this book is family friendly. There is a section devoted to children's food including favorites like Mac and Cheese and Chicken Fingers. However, my girlfriend's 2-year old couldn't get enough of the Shrimp Scampi (one of the "adult" recipes) and that was enough to get her to buy the book too.
I highly recommend this book for anyone looking for easy, delicious recipes for all kinds of occassions.
on February 4, 2003
First off, let me say that I use this book often and, for the most part, I absolutely LOVE it. The first recipe I tried, Sagaponack Corn Pudding, was truly different from other corn pudding recipes I'd tried, living up to Garten's promise that it would not be bland - and it wasn't - nor was it too spicy. It had some added flavor thanks to cheddar cheese and fresh basil but those with less experimental tastes could leave out the basil (as I did when we had small children at dinner one evening) and it would still be delicious.
Another plus to this cookbook: Many of the recipes are not only family-friendly but easy to throw together. There are also plenty of dishes for vegetarians as well as meat eaters, making meal planning easy. Nearly every recipe I tried was wonderful, with the minor exception of the Chicken Noodle Soup (I prefer my recipe).
Now the caveat: If you like extremely exotic or unusual foods, this may not be the ideal cookbook for you. While there ARE recipes which are new and different (like the Saffron Risotto with Butternut Squash or a truly different and yummy Espresso Ice cream, better than any I've had thus far), MOST of the recipes are updated versions of familiar favorites..Rice Pilaf, Hashed Browns, Fried Chicken, etc. Professional or gourmet cooks may want something more challenging.
But I've had a hard time finding cookbooks which contain tasty recipes I can serve, night after night, and still keep my family happy and well-fed while minimizing my kitchen time. For those purposes, this one fits the bill. And if you happen to have any guests drop in at meal time, you can bet they'll be happy too!
on December 17, 2002
I absolutely love this book! The recipes are entirely in keeping with the title... these aren't fancy or earth-shattering innovations, so people who thrive on that may be disappointed (I seem to notice a trend among some of the reviewers who have posted). They're just really wonderful versions of honest, straightforward food. The recipe for chicken and biscuits is the best I've ever made, the chicken soup is outstanding, the roasted winter vegetables are lovely, and the mashed potatoes and gravy are absolutely sinful versions of old favorites.
As I'm sure you can gather from the previous list, these are recipes for things that you probably already know how to make... it's just that they're absolutely superlative versions of those things. (Much like the chocolate pudding from her Parties! book, if anyone has tried making that: it's just chocolate pudding, after all, but it's heavenly).
So here's my advice: if you're convinced that you already have the perfect recipe for every standard dish under the sun, this book isn't for you. If, however, you love good food and are willing to contemplate the idea that classic dishes could be even better, give it a try. I don't think you'll be disappointed. Furthermore, I think that this would be a wonderful wedding gift or gift to someone who's just starting out: why not begin life with a collection of wonderful recipes for comfort foods?
on October 29, 2002
Every recipe that I have tried from Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa cookbooks has been a success (and I really mean this). The Apple Crisp and Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk cookies from "Parties" are so requested that every family member has learned to make them. The cookies have been named the best cookies ever made by more than one friend. Her newest cookbook "Barefoot Contessa. Family Sytle" has arrived!!! With the same clear, simple instructions, beautiful pictures, and easy layout, this cookbook is full of so many favorite & potentially favorite foods (from a hearty chicken soup to a sophisicated lobster cobb salad - which looks very doable & delicious) that I predict it will be THE favorite cookbook in my kitchen.I have never found a cookbook in which there are so many recipes that I know I will be trying. If her prior cookbooks are an indication, all recipes will turn out to be delicious ( and actually the way they are pictured)! I have a group of teenage girls to feed tonight (including a few vegetarians). Pasta with sun-dried tomatoes or penne with five cheeses? That is the question. Thank you to "the barefoot contessa;" you have made me look forward to cooking again!
on July 11, 2004
I've had this book for over a year and have only cooked a few recipes from it. Today I stopped and asked myself why, considering I use her other two books almost religiously! A couple things I figured out
1) many of the recipes while they are simple, they require last minute sauteing or preparation while your guests are there. I think that's why her other books are great for entertaining -- the recipes allow you to spend time with your guests.
2) much of the book is taken up by recipes which you probably already know how to make (sauteed carrots, tomato mozzarella and basil salad, sauteed spinach, mashed potatoes, rosemary polenta, roasted winter vegetables, mashed butternut squash).
3) I'm a vegetarian, and many of the recipes are not vegetarian friendly.
There are DEFINITELY great recipes in this cookbook, and if you own Ina's other two books, definitely get this one. If you are buying your first Ina Garten cookbook, go for one of the other two.