Tonight I decided that my hands-down, all-time favorite cookbook(s) are The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook and The Barefoot Contessa Parties.
These are the books that I would buy for anyone who was just starting out with cooking (and that may very well be you!) They are not terrific books for a pro-chef, but this site isn’t about being a pro-chef. They are just books with absolutely terrific recipes that taste delicious and that you actually want to make again. Far and away, I have cooked more from the Contessa cookbooks than any other. And I actually repeat recipes with these books, something I rarely do with the others.
If you are considering buying them, I’d start with just the epynomous (I’ve always wanted to use that word): “Barefoot Contessa Cookbook.”
This one is organized by course: appetizers, soups, salads, dinner, vegetables, desserts, breakfast, and party food.
I will now list everything I’ve made from this book and grade the results:
Roasted Eggplant Spread: B (Fine, not her best)
Guacamole: A+ (The best guacamole I have ever had)
Sun-Dried Tomato Dip: A+ (So good, I make double batches to save for later)
Beets with Orange Vinaigrette: A- (I made this last year at passover; great if you like beets)
Curried Couscous: A (A great recipe that lasts for days and makes many a’meal)
Indonesian Ginger Chicken: A- (A lot of work but great results)
Perfect Roast Chicken: A+ (My favorite recipe from this book; see Passover pics)
Turkey Meat Loaf: B- (The shapelessness was off-putting, but the flavor still great)
Roasted Carrots: A (So easy and so delicious; see Passover)
Outrageous Brownies: B (I was so revved to make this, I was bound to be disappointed with the results; but Lauren loved them…just too rich for moi).
Coconut Cupcakes: A+ (Right up my alley. I loved them.)
Pecan Squares: A+ (I brought these to my office last semester and became the office champion. They did drip and make a mess in the oven, though).
Peach and Raspberry Crisp: A+ (Also delicious; great in summer)
Orange Yogurt: B+ (Lauren thought this was gross; but it was a nice healthy alternative)
The Barefoot Contessa Parties! book has equally great recipes and is organized by season and sub-seasonal themes: SPRING–Sunday Breakfast, Pizza Party!, Jewish Holiday, Academy Awards; SUMMER—Canoe Trip, Lunch in the Garden, Happy Birthday!, Outdoor Grill; AUTUMN—Football Party, Autumn Dinner, Not Thanksgiving, Afternoon Tea; and WINTER—New Year’s Day, Snow Day, Valentine’s Dinner, Fireside Dinner.
Here’s another list of what I’ve made and how it turned out.
Sour Cream Coffee Cake: A (Actually, Alex made this after we fought over whether she could make it or not and it turned out great!)
Tropical Smoothie: C- (The worst recipe in the BC cookbooks I’ve made; see post from 7 weeks ago)
Garlic Roasted Potatoes: A+ (One of her best; see Passover pics)
Pasta, Pesto, and Peas: A++ (Oh my God, this is so good. Just thinking about it makes me hungry. But basil has to be in season. But when it is, watch out!)
Lemon Cake: A+ (Another one right up my alley; I love lemony desserts and this one took the (no pun intended) cake).
Tomato Fennel Salad: B- (Good, not my favorite)
Apple Crostata: C (The one complete failure I had with these books; it still tasted fine, but came out completely wrong)
Lemon Bars: A (Mmmm, lemon bars)
Chicken Chili: A+ (A terrific recipe; one I will definitely make again)
Chocolate Chunk Cookies: A (Also good and yummy)
Just flipping through the books to write this piece: there are so many recipes I want to try! I really love these books. They’re the most practical, most winning, and most consistent cookbooks I have. I don’t work for Ina Garten (the real name of the BC) so you know you can trust me. And trust me, these are great books.
Which begs the question: what are YOUR favorite cookbooks? Feel free to do a similar recipe-by-recipe review; I’d be most grateful.
9 thoughts on “My Favorite Cookbook(s)”
Aside from my own recipe files (compiled largely by my ex-food-writer mom), I really like Desperation Dinners by Beverly Mills and Alicia Ross (great 20-minute dinners), The Cook’s Bible by Christopher Kimball (the guy who publishes the fabulous Cook’s Illustrated magazine), and the one I find myself taking off the shelf the most (either to cook with or just to read), Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by the amazing Marcella Hazan.
And Marcella’s spaghetti carbonara recipe is my ace in the hole.
Cook Something by Mitchell Davis is the cookbook that started it all for me, showing me that there was a way to eat and cook that did not involve frozen meal kits or dishes made with cans of condensed soup. I bought it when I started grad school and now it’s completely dog-eared because I keep returning to nearly every recipe again and again. It’s just that good.
It’s intended for beginners, but instead of aiming simply to help beginners get by, it aims to covertly turn them into lifelong foodies. At least that’s what it did to me. :)
As for favorite recipes in it: Five years after I bought the book, the Curried Carrot Spread is still my ace in the hole for potlucks and dinner parties.
It seems to me that Mark Bitman’s “How to Cook Everything” haa begun to take the place of Julia Child’s “The French Chef” for a lot people just getting their very own kitchens. It’s a geat reference manual and a suprisingly entertaining read for such a large book.
The book that started it all for me was Jacques Pepin’s “Today’s Gourmet” way back in sixth grade. Yep I was a little PBS foodie pipsqueak…
You must be reading my mind, Adam. I was reading your challenge last night and said to myself: “I wish Adam would poll everyone and ask what everyone’s favorite cookbooks are.”
While you didn’t ask what everyone elses favorites were I thought I would tell you some of my own:
Dining by Fireflies: Unexpected Pleasures of the New South, The Junior League of Charlotte
The Joy of Cooking
The French Chef Cookbook, Julia Child
Martha Stewart’s Hors d’Oeurves Handbook
The French Laundry Cookbook, Thomas Keller
Moosewood Cooks at Home
The Joy of Cooking
Madhur Jaffrey’s Indian Cooking
Dana Carpender’s Low-Carb cookbooks (my husband is on Atkins, and these books have been a godsend!!)
I have made a couple things from er books, to have people begging me for my “secret” recipes. The BBQ Chicken is a good example. A friend of mine has cooked alot from her book, I find that the dishes are usually B+ or better.
Better Homes and Gardens’ New Cook Book.
The Agnes & Muriel’s Cookbook.
The Grit – Athens Cookbook.
Something by Nigella Lawson.
The Zuni Cafe Cookbook.
Why would you buy a book from a woman who wears the same robin’s-egg-blue shirt with an upturned collar in every episode of her TV show? So she can buy another shirt?
Just kiddding. Sort of. The recipes sound good, though.
Also, good job on the blog. I’ve been reading for a while now.
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