When I decided to write this blog there was NO QUESTION as to which book I would feature first. I declared to my entire family “Barefoot Contessa Family Style” by Ina Garten was the clear choice because it was the first cookbook I fell in love with – I mean REALLY IN LOVE!
Several days later after finishing a family meal at a Chinese restaurant, my fortune cookie confirmed my choice: Chinese food is traditionally served “family style” with something for everyone – your good work will soon be rewarded. That, my friends, was my sign that without a doubt, Family Style is the first featured cookbook, because, as the fortune said — with the variety and types of recipes offered — it definitely “offers something for everyone.”
This book was published in 2002 and is, as they say, “an oldie but a goodie.” When I first laid eyes on this book I wanted to cook everything in it — truly the makings of a favorite cookbook — and to date, I have yet to ever find a not-so-great recipe or to be disappointed.
When you open this book there is a beautiful picture of a table set for
Ina really MAKES these recipes and KNOWS them inside and out. You can TRUST that it’s going to turn out and look really close to what’s pictured in the book. Her mantra is always to use a few high-quality ingredients for great tasting dishes that are easy to make. A simple strategy, which is easy to implement, and one that has brought her much success.
This is my GO-TO COOKBOOK!
And the recipes have been my family’s favorites for years.
My son recently came home from college for the very first time. When I asked him what he wanted for dinner on his first night home and he requested the Five Cheese Penne Pasta featured in this book. This recipe involves penne pasta, heavy cream and five kinds of cheese – need I say more? This is a fancy mac-and-cheese that is unlike anything I have ever had made, which is saying a lot because I have made A LOT of mac-and-cheese recipes, including Martha Steward’s famous “Perfect Creamy Mac and Cheese”.
The Chicken Stew with Biscuits is a recipe you could bring or make for anybody for any occasion. I have made it for families with new babies, when someone is returning home from the hospital, and even for funerals. It’s basically a deconstructed chicken pot pie with a biscuit instead of a pie crust. Who doesn’t love that? I actually can’t think of anyone who wouldn’t. The recipe calls for you to cut the biscuits out in circles (I used a glass cup to do this because I didn’t have a round cookie cutter) but my friend just ripped up the dough and threw it on top and said it worked perfectly. This is a go-to recipe for any occasion that won’t disappoint.
Linguini with Shrimp Scampi is another one that most people would love with its light citrus and garlic sauce which is simple but filled with flavor. I brought this dish to someone who had a baby (checking in advance that there were no seafood allergies) and she said “Thank God for this dinner. I could not eat another lasagna”. It’s light lemony and so easy to throw together. (I double the sauce on this one because who doesn’t like more sauce.)
Ina also has some seriously great vegetable sides in this book. She has a way of kicking up the vegetables with additional ingredients that really enhance the flavors to the point where even kids will eat them. Her Mashed Butternut Squash; Roasted Winter Vegetables (which I make all the time); and Parmesan Roasted Asparagus are all simple ways to introduce tasty vegetables into your meals.
There are lots of great sweets in this book is well but one of my favorites is the Orange Pound Cake. Its really unique with the orange flavor (she has a lemon version in her “Barefoot Contessa At Home” book). Perfect for a brunch, snack or dessert this recipe makes 2 loaves so you can share one or throw it in the freezer for another day.
All in all, I would say if you don’t own this book, you definitely should!