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I don’t normally review cookbooks, but I’ve actually cooked a lot of dinners and snacks from this one, so I figure why not share my thoughts?
This is yet another book of recipes from the uber-popular Ina Garten. All of the recipes in here relate to Garten’s husband, Jeffrey, in some way or another. Mildly entertaining stories about their courtship and marriage are sprinkled throughout the book. But the recipes, of course, are the most important part.
The book is divided into six sections: 1) Cocktails, 2) Soups, Salads, & Lunch, 3) Dinner, 4) Vegetables & Sides, 5) Bread & Cheese, and 6) Dessert. There is also a list of “Jeffery’s Favorite Dishes” in the back, followed by a section on Garten’s basic pantry items (i.e., a few pages of fancy Williams-Sonoma-type pictures that make you think you desperately need a food mill, a juicer, a knife sharpener, and every single ALL CLAD pan in existence, even though, psst, you absolutely don’t.)
I’m not gonna lie: the recipes in here are delicious. I still haven’t found one that is even a hint of gross. Rigatoni with Sausage and Fennel…da bomb. Skillet Roasted Lemon Chicken…delish. Herbed Goat Cheese…get out of here with that goodness.
The problem is, the reason all these foods taste so good is because they are LOADED with cream and butter and oil and cheese. It should be illegal to cook like this. And somehow I always end up feeling guilty when I eat her food–like there are going to be consequences for all that tasty. (Oh wait, there are. It’s called heart disease.) Sometimes the food is so rich I feel like I can’t even finish it. After a few bites my body’s like, “Hm, I don’t know about this next one. I just don’t knoooow.” But then I cram it down my throat anyway. At which point it becomes an intestinal issue. Another good title for this book would be Totally Worth-it Diarrhea. Or maybe How to Gain Five Pounds of Stomach Fat in Three Days.
Anyway, there are a lot of good recipes in here. The woman knows how to cook, straight up. But just prepare yourself for significant stomach discomfort and third-trimester-level bloating. I spent about a month cooking from this book and then decided the pleasure just wasn’t worth the pain. I still think about that goat cheese, though…
I have made only one item so far, and that is the peach cobbler! My family loved it ; it was my first time making peach cobbler and I had no problems. The recipe was easy to follow; the cooking time for me was different in my electric oven.
This month, the cookbook discussion and dinner party group that I lead met to enjoy and discuss selections we cooked from Ina Garten's 2016 cookbook, Cooking for Jeffrey: A Barefoot Contessa Cookbook (Clarkson Potter publishers).
Butternut Squash Hummus Herbed Fromage Blanc
Lentil and Kielbasa Salad Asparagus and Fennel Soup
Brisket with Leeks and Onions Roasted Italian Meatballs Roasted Ratatouille Creamy Parmesan Polenta Chipotle Smashed Sweet Potatoes
Bourbon Honey Cake
I've flipped through many a Barefoot Contessa cookbook in my bookstore adventuring, but I'd never found a volume to be so compelling as to demand a purchase. I decided to go out on a limb and picked up Ina's newest release to give it a fair review, thinking with this many successful cookbooks under her belt there must be something to her recipes right? No publisher is going to keep giving you book contract after contract if your recipes fall flat.
I'm very glad I took the gamble; Cooking for Jeffrey: A Barefoot Contessa Cookbook provides page after page of tasty things to make in the kitchen and lovely pictures to accompany. As one of the dinner party guests mentioned, her recipes are well structured and very detailed, making them easy to follow for inexperienced cooks. She relies on ingredients that are relatively easy to source in American markets. And she has drawn from a great mix of ethnic influences for her recipes.
With regard to the recipes our group cooked and sampled, my favorite was the Asparagus and Fennel Soup, as well as the Ratatouille served over the Polenta, and the Lentil and Kielbasa Salad (which I never thought I'd enjoy and which has this unique but surprisingly delicious pairing as it is served over herbed goat cheese spread on crackers). Perhaps the only criticism I can muster for Ina's latest cookbook is that most of the recipes were seemingly oversalted, especially the hummus and the meatballs. Luckily our member chefs spotted the excess of salt and scaled it back during dinner prep, but if they had followed Ina's recipes as written it would not have been a happy ending. So go forth and Garten it up, but pull back on the salt.