cookbook of the week: Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics

12 Nov

I know I have mentioned multiple times my love for Ina Garten, aka, The Barefoot Contessa. I knew I wanted to highlight one of her cookbooks but I was really struggling with which one. I own four of them, love them all and would like the ones I’m missing (hint, hint).  I decided on Back to Basics because it is her most recent so the recipes are more top of mind.


You really can’t go wrong with any of her books. I have yet to have one of her recipes fail (I am knocking on my fake wood desk right now).  Her cookbooks feature beautiful photography, awesome tips on entertaining (she’s a pro) and the recipes are so good, you won’t need to do a trial run with them before using them for company.  Scouts honor.

I’m not going to write much about her  Food Network show, because that would make this the longest post in history. However, many of the recipes in this cookbook she has done on her show and I learn even more tips on the preparation and have the pleasure of seeing what the process looks like.

One more thing before I get back tot he book. I find Ina very fascinating. Did you know she worked at the White House? In budgeting and finance? She’s a smart cookie. She took over a specialty food shop in the Hamptons and now has turned the brand into a household name. Well, at least in my household.  Plus – she just seems so nice! Maybe she can come over for dinner when  Lynne Rossetto Kasper is here. That would be an awesome dinner party. I might just throw in Eric Ripert for some eye candy.


Okay, so I mentioned the photography, the tips and the recipes (which I’ll spend more time on in a minute), but I also wanted to point out the special sections she adds in this book. She includes information on making a menu, how to arrange flowers like a pro, how to set a table like a pro, 10 no-cook things to serve with drinks, and the top 10 flavor boosters. I’ve found this book to be a great resource and many of the tips within the recipes I’ve used in my everyday cooking.

I will say I think a lot of her recipes are more appropriate for more than 2 people unless you 1/2 the recipe or like a lot of leftovers. With that said, if you are having some friends and family over, turn to Ina.

Here are some of our favorite recipes from the book so far:

  • Roasted Butternut Squash Soup (recipe below)
  • Coq au vin
  • Celery root & apple puree (not something I would normally think to make, but it was great)
  • Fresh Lemon Mousse
  • French Chocolate Bark (warning: this can be highly addictive)

What I’m looking forward to making:

  • Granola Bars
  • Chicken Bouillabaisse
  • Wild Mushroom Risotto
  • Pappa al Pomodoro
  • Honey Vanilla Pound Cake

Actually, I would try anything in this cookbook. I know it will be delicious. Ina does not disappoint.

Here is our favorite recipe from the book. Brette is normally a squash hater, but loves this soup. He requests it. I love when he requests easy recipes.


as written by Ina with comments by Jen

Serves 4 to 6

3 to 4 pounds butternut squash, peeled and seeded
2 yellow onions
2 McIntosh apples, peeled and cored (any apple you have will be fine, but I think the softer ones are best)
3 tablespoons  olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 to 3 cups homemade chicken stock – boxed or canned is fine and vegetable stock works just as well.
1/2 teaspoon curry powder

CONDIMENTS: – these make the soup. We use coconut, cashews and scallions and they make such a difference.
• Scallions, trimmed and sliced diagonally
• Shredded coconut, lightly toasted
• Salted cashews, toasted and chopped
• Raisins
• Banana, diced

1. Preheat the oven to 425°F.

2. Cut the butternut squash, onions, and apples into 1-inch cubes. Place them on a sheet pan and toss with the olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Roast for 35 to 45 minutes, until very tender.

3. Meanwhile, heat the chicken stock until it’s simmering. When the vegetables are done, place them in batches in a food mill fitted with the medium blade. Process and pour back into the pot. (Alternately, you can also place the roasted vegetables in a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Add some of the chicken stock and purée.) When all of the vegetables are processed, place them all in another pot and add enough chicken stock to make a thick soup. Add the curry powder, salt, and pepper to taste. Be sure you use enough salt and pepper to bring out the curry flavor. Serve hot with condiments on top of each serving. – I do this all in one big pot with an immersion blender.



7 Responses to “cookbook of the week: Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics”

  1. Willa November 12, 2009 at 6:22 pm #

    Great choice. I have Back to Basics and Barefoot in Paris. I really need to put them to more use. I encourage any Costco members to check there for the books, I got mine at a super price there.

  2. Liza November 12, 2009 at 11:19 pm #

    I heart Ina. I have made many of her recipes and loved everyone. Go ahead and try the granola bars – they are delish!

  3. Fav Sista November 13, 2009 at 9:28 am #

    Curious…what do you do with the celery root and apple puree? Is it a dip? I am intrigued. What do you dip in it? I love the soup recipe and will try that one. I have tried others and my most recent did not turn out well due to bitter parsnips. Will try yours as it is “sans” parsnips!

    • jen November 14, 2009 at 9:07 am #

      Joan – I served it as a side dish along with a roast chicken. It would also be great with pork. It makes a great bed for things.

  4. Jackson November 13, 2009 at 8:24 pm #

    I’m sorry to say I do not care for Ina. I have watched her show and I find her irritating most of the time. Sorry Jen. That being said her food looks good and I am going to try the recipe you posted.

  5. The sister-in-law November 20, 2009 at 9:39 pm #

    I. too, am an Ina fan. She just seems so geninue and her recipies are very simple and taste great.


  1. food for thought: foods you used to hate « She said. She said. - November 4, 2010

    […] I can not get enough squash in my life. I love it. I’ve been making my favorite butternut squash soup, roasting chunks of delicata squash with olive oil, salt & pepper, making a few versions of […]

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