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.