Cooking for Jeffrey – book review

If you follow blog you know that I’m a huge fan of Ina Garten, The Barefoot Contessa.  I have all of her books and cook from them often.  I had to get her newest book Cooking for Jeffrey as soon as it hit the bookstore.  I wanted to share my thoughts, what I have already cooked from the new book and what I plan to cook next.

Ina fans know that Ina loves to cook for everyone but her number one is her husband Jeffrey.  The book has the most adorable pictures of them when they were first married and as always, Ina shares her philosophy on cooking and her journey from her early days of trying to impress friends with complicated French dishes to her discovery of simple, well-prepared fresh and delicious meals that allow you to spend time with friends and family rather than spending all of your time in the kitchen.

I have heard many people say that when you buy a new cookbook, you’re doing well if you get a couple of good recipes out of it.  With The Barefoot Contessa, I always get way more than that and this book is proving to follow the rule.  As soon as I started flipping through, looking at the pictures and reading the recipes I wanted to get cooking!

I started with a simple but delicious appetizer – popcorn with chipotle pepper and Parmesan cheese.  As Ina would say “How easy is that?”.  Spicy and delicious too.  I used her parmesan roasted zucchini as a side dish – we love zucchini so I was happy to have a new preparation. On Sunday I tweaked Ina’s salmon pizza by using flatbread crusts instead of pizza dough (cut both the prep time and the calories).  I also made the leek and zucchini frittata.  (I’ve made frittatas using her recipes before and I love them – sort of a cross between an omelet and a quiche.

Samantha had a playoff soccer game on Monday and Keith needed to be at a paddle tennis game shortly thereafter so he needed something he could eat while watching the game.  I made a variation of the tarragon shrimp salad she features and gave it to him as a sandwich.  (Interesting because Ina had pretty much converted me to roasting shrimp but this book suggests cooking the shrimp in water.  She flavors hers with Pernod but I used lemon juice and white wine as I’m not a big fan of that anise flavoring.)  Another winner!

As for what I plan to make next – these are on my list soon:

  •  chipotle sweet potatoes (I’m actually going to combine elements of her recipe with elements of my spiced sweet potatoes for Thanksgiving.)
  • maple-roasted carrot salad (this one has goat cheese and Marcona almonds – two of my favorite salad additions)
  • Anna’s tomato tart (that will have to wait until next summer when tomatoes are back in season)
  • moroccan grilled lamb chops
  • roasted salmon tacos
  • and of course, desserts!  They all look amazing but the frozen hot chocolate is high on my wish list.  (The devil’s food cake with coffee meringue buttercream that graces the cover doesn’t look half bad either!)

If you want another cookbook with accessible recipes that use readily available ingredients that will make you and your friends feel good, make room on your shelf for Ina’s 10th book.  I don’t think you’ll be disappointed!  My only disappointment is that Ina is coming to Baltimore to speak at the Hippodrome and I have already been scheduled for a mandatory business trip to Texas while she is here.  😦



On cookbooks

I have an insatiable appetite for cookbooks.  I started counting my cookbooks one day and got up to 200 and stopped.  I have general cookbooks that I use for research, cookbooks from restaurants, cookbooks by particular cooks, cookbooks by ethnic specialty, cookbooks by food category, the list goes on.  Part of the reason I like to have so many is that it gives me lots of ways to find inspiration.  One of the best ways to feed my habit is used book sales.  I have found some wonderful cookbooks at used book sales and at very reasonable prices.

Yesterday we visited the Smith College Book Sale.  They always have a great selection and you never know what you’ll find.  I sent Samantha to check out the kid’s table (I insisted that we buy a few of the old, original Nancy Drew books!) while I checked out cookbooks and needlepoint books.  I found a few interesting things in each area.  I picked up a Japanese cookbook and one on grilling but my two favorite finds this year are books that look really interesting and unusual.

The first attracted me because the cover is so beautiful.  It is called The Artist’s Table and it was published in 1995.  The subtitle is A Cookbook by Master Chefs Inspired by Paintings in the National Gallery of Art.  Those Master Chefs include Julia Child, Joel Robuchon, Paula Wolfert, Alice Waters and others.  The paintings are reproduced in the book and include paintings by Manet, Matisse, van Gogh, Monet, Gaugin and more.  The recipes are arranged into menus and include an Onion Tart by Julia Child, a Grand Shellfish Platter with Saffron Mayonnaise by Jeremiah Tower and Warm Chocolate Tarts by Patrick Clark.  I will probably never make the Roasted Saddle of Rabbit or the Wild Boar but I feel like if you get a few good recipes from a cookbook, it is worth it and I’ll enjoy looking at the gorgeous pictures over and over again.

The other fun additions is Dining by Rail, The History and Recipes of America’s Golden Age of Railroad Cuisine.  The first section of the book is all about railroads, dining cars, etc.  It is followed by recipes from specific railroads.  If you have traveled by train in recent years and looked at the slim offerings in the Amtrak “Dining Car”, it is amazing to consider the gourmet fare that used to be offered to train travelers.  I look forward to spending some time with this book as well.

Of course, shopping makes one hungry.  For last night’s dinner I turned to another recent acquisition.  This one came from one of my birthday shopping outings with my nieces.  For their birthdays we visit a local independent bookstore, The Ivy Bookshop. It is a delightful store and although it isn’t big, it is exceptionally well stocked with quality books in every department.  My nieces get to select a book they want and then I supplement their selection with a book I think they might enjoy.  It is a fun way to spend time together and hopefully encourage a lifelong love of reading.  While they make their selections, I roam around trying to resist temptation from multiple fronts.  I caved when I saw 660 Curries.  My husband and I love Thai food and Indian food and the book made its way into the pile for purchase.  Keith suggested that I make something from it for dinner and I decided on Chicken Tikka Masala – one of my favorite Indian dishes.  This one is not for the faint of heart.  It involved making garlic paste, ginger paste, grinding a mix of toasted spices to make Garam Masala and a special trip to Wegman’s for ghee.  Happily the efforts were rewarded by a delicious complex combination of flavors that were not overwhelmingly spicy but nicely balanced.  My mom joined us and we decided to make the balsamic strawberries again.  She loved them too and the evening was only slightly marred by the fact that when Samantha climbed on the counter to get the sprinkles down for her ice cream, she knocked a glass jar of anchovies out of the cabinet and it broke.  Nothing like the combination of broken glass, fish oil and the smell of anchovies to put the cap on an evening!

A friend sent me email last night about a new cookbook she is enjoying, A Kitchen in France by Mimi Thorisson.  She raved about it and the online reviews that I saw echoed her enthusiasm.  My middle niece has a birthday coming up so temptation awaits on my next birthday shopping outing!  I’ll keep you posted!