Review of “The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook”

This is part of a twelve-part series where I review Ina Garten’s cookbooks. Check back each week for the next installment in the series! The reviews will drop every Thursday afternoon at 1:30 PM.

We all love the Barefoot Contessa, also known as Ina Garten. The East Hampton, NY chef and lifestyle celebrity has been entertaining audiences since the early 2000s. But many fans of her Food Network show may not realize that she got her start as the owner of a specialty food store on Long Island. While the store has since closed its doors, the name, Barefoot Contessa, lives on through Ina Garten and her cooking show and cookbooks.

Ina Garten and Barefoot Contessa burst onto the scene in 1999 with the publication of her first cookbook entitled The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook.

With a foreword by Martha Stewart, the cookbook quickly led Barefoot Contessa to become a household name. Within a couple of years, Garten’s cooking show began airing on the Food Network and here we are almost twelve cookbook later!

I would argue that this cookbook is different than the other ones in tone. It’s almost as though she was trying to impress her readers and live up to “The Hamptons” stereotype. The narratives are filled with pretentious sentences that I don’t think are reflected in her others books. It’s almost as if her intended audience with this book was exclusively for summer home owners on ritzy coasts.

Many of the recipes promote the “summer is perfect on the Hamptons” trope by mainly benefitting people who have grills or access to fresh seafood and local farmer’s markets. What is strange to me is I think if my first foray into Ina Garten had been this cookbook, I don’t think I would be as big of a fan. Granted, I have only cooked one recipe from this book so far (see here), but all the recipes just come off as too fancy and aren’t really relatable to me.

That said, now that I am older and have had more experience with “early Ina” I feel more confident with the recipes in this book. That said, overall many of the recipes are for more seasoned palates and cooks. Another difference between the recipes in this book and some of her other is that many of the recipes are designed to be used for entertainment, so the scale of the recipes is a lot larger (in fact, her first three cookbooks feature recipes that could feed a couple handfuls of people). Many recipes in this book feed 8 as opposed to the 4 to 6 that is common in the later books.

Some highlights from this book:

  1. Sun-dried Tomato Dip
  2. Gazpacho
  3. Grilled Salmon Salad
  4. Lobster Potpie
  5. Turkey Meatloaf
  6. Kitchen Clambake
  7. Potato-Fennel Gratin
  8. Outrageous Brownies
  9. Croissant Bread Pudding
  10. Maple-Oatmeal Scones

I can’t wait to try some more of these, however I almost feel obligated to wait until summer because the food just lends itself to that season.

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