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
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.