A Barefoot Contessa Cookbook
Ina and Jeffrey have been captivating our attention for years via her Food Network’s Barefoot Contessa show. I am a huge fan and many of her recipes have become staples in my home. I was at the American Library Association Annual Conference this summer, and was thrilled to get my hands on an advance copy of this cookbook. (Thanks, Sharon Parker!)
Jeffrey doesn’t cook, like some TV cooking show husbands, but he often makes appearances; he goes shopping (at times a bit hesitantly, remembering occasions when he bought the wrong thing,) or meets up with Ina at restaurants or the beach or best of all, at home.
Ina dotes on Jeffrey, and he on her – their relationship is one of the things I like best about the show. Me and a gazillion other fans, to be sure. I, too, have a husband who doesn’t really cook (okay, he makes incredible pizza but I generally make the dough, the sauce, shred the cheese and then he puts it all together and cooks it in the pizza oven he built in my backyard.) But what I really relate to is Jeffrey’s appreciation for everything Ina cooks because that is how my husband makes me feel. too.
Garten proclaims herself a home cook, but someone who owned a gourmet food shop for twenty years feels like a bit more than just a home cook to me. I do understand what she means; she doesn’t make fussy or difficult food, she prepares food that people actually like to eat at home. All of her cookbooks are wonderful and prior to this one, I would have been hard pressed to pick a favorite, but this book is truly outstanding.
It’s more than just the recipes, which are always fabulous. This book is her love letter to her husband and it shows on every page. The pictures are enchanting, including a wedding photo (they’ve been married more than 40 years!) I loved all the stories about their lives together, too.
The only quibble I have is a recipe for Roasted Meatballs, which cook for half an hour in the oven and then are transferred to a pot of marinara sauce FROM A JAR. A good jarred sauce, Rao’s is recommended, but I’m sorry, I really object to this. In the time those meatballs are cooking, you could easily make your own sauce with scarcely more work than opening a jar.
Slam a couple of cloves of garlic with a knife, thrown them in a bit of olive oil until you can smell them, dump in a can of tomatoes, a little salt and crushed red pepper and if you like, a pinch of dried oregano and you are off to the races. If you want to get fancy, dice a small onion and sweat it first, then do the garlic and tomatoes. Throw in some fresh basil when you’re ready to serve and trust me, you’ll never open another jar of sauce again. This is really a pet peeve of mine, I just don’t understand why anyone buys sauce in a jar. There seems to be some sort of fear about it and the feeling that you have to cook sauce for hours, but that’s just silly. You can make a really simple, delicious sauce in the time it takes you to cook your pasta. Or your Roasted Meatballs.
Also included are some really terrific staples like Skillet-Roasted Lemon Chicken, Brisket with Onions and Leeks, and Peach Cobbler. Then there are some newer dishes, like Roast Chicken with Radishes, Kale Salad with Pancetta and Pecorino, Salmon Tacos, and Fig and Goat Cheese Bruschettas, which are incredible.
I’m sure there will be some people who feel like Ina has stepped back to the 1950’s housewife here, and maybe she has a little, but let’s not forget that Cooking for Jeffrey is her tenth cookbook and Garten has never been “just a housewife.” She is a superstar, and I am happy to admit that I am a fan.
10/16 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™
COOKING FOR JEFFREY by Ina Garten. Clarkson Potter (October 25, 2016). ISBN 978-0307464897. 256p.