Garten Cookbook Simplifies Fancy Cookingold

Ashley Matuszak / The Pioneer

Ashley Matuszak

“Barefoot Contessa–How Easy is That?” is Ina Garten’s seventh cookbook in 11 years.

Her simple, straightforward approaches to cooking elegant food any day of the week make this book a must have for any home cook who could use a few new ideas.

Ina Garten is now known for her show, “Barefoot Contessa” on Food Network, where she hosts dinner parties for all her friends in her lavish Hamptons home, while giving viewers elegant and easy recipes that can almost always be made ahead of time.

However, cooking was not always Ina’s career choice. Formerly a White House nuclear analyst in the 1960s, Garten worked in the White House writing energy policies for President Gerald Ford.

Ina also attained a pilot’s license in the early 1970s, and expressed interest in aviation. It wasn’t until a trip to France with her husband Jeffrey Garten, the Dean of Yale’s School of Management, where she fell in love with French cuisine and started cooking at home.

Garten got her start in the food business when she bought a specialty food store in upstate New York called “Barefoot Contessa” in 1978, and was the owner until 2004.

Garten herself is not a trained chef—she describes herself as a home cook who learned everything by reading, researching and watching others.

Garten’s food is best described as simple dishes, but with the best of class. Garten makes earthy, comforting meals with fancy touches, like roasted beef with balsamic vinegar reduction, sliders (miniature hamburgers) with French Swiss cheese , and mashed potatoes with basil and garlic puree.

Her small, yet clever approaches to remaking classics is really her forte. Her reinvention
of familiar favorites makes Garten her own kind of original.

“How Easy is That?,” just like her other books does include a few fancy French entrees, like foie gras with roasted apples and French mussel bisque.

Garten’s scientific background comes through in some of her recipes, especially in baking, which is more of a precise process than cooking.

Garten explains how cold butter is absolutely necessary when baking biscuits, because the milk solids need to evaporate, creating steam that makes the biscuits fluffier. These little factoids make her recipes and techniques more informative.

Knowing why a recipe asks us to do something seems important to Garten, who takes time to explain each part of certain processes to the readers.

Although this book has several new recipes, there are also updated versions of recipes from her old books. An example would be “Jeffrey’s Roast Chicken,” husband’s favorite dinner, revamped with white wine and using homemade chicken stock and the chicken’s drippings
for the sauce.

“How Easy is That?” is filled with several shortcuts and small tricks to make high-class dishes in minutes.

Garten shares her favorite tips to adding extra flavor to every meal, like adding fresh herbs or lemon juice to a dish at the last second.

Garden is also the “make ahead” expert, and shows readers how to properly store pre-made food and leftovers.

One of most impressive part of the book is the desserts section, where favorite
confections like red velvet cupcakes have a recipe easy enough to remember by heart, along with a delicious (and easy to make) looking Italian plum tart.

Desserts are hard to often categorize as “easy,” because they often require precise measuring and exact cooking times. Garten simplifies the whole process by breaking every step down, while explaining the why’s and how’s of the process.

The best part about Garten’s new book in comparison to her others is that the recipes actually are easy.

Some are definitely time consuming, but Garten does a great job in making the recipes easy to understand.