Cookbook book club – Ina Garten “Barefoot Contessa – Foolproof”

The first meeting of the “Food for Thought” cookbook book club focused on Ina Garten’s “Barefoot Contessa Foolproof” cookbook.  Club members were asked to select and cook recipes from that cookbook.

I set up the meal in a “progressive” style, meaning each course was served in a different location of the house.  The group gathered in the family room for appetizers, in the dining room for the main entrée and sides, and dessert was served in the living room.  This gave it a fun twist. 

As each club member described the dish they made, they were also asked to categorized the recipe’s complexity on a scale of easy, medium or difficult, and briefly explained the preparation process.

The appetizers consisted of a good mix of nibbles.  I made the cheddar crackers.  I eliminated the jalapeno and chipotle chili powder, opting for chives and dill replacement to accommodate my non-spicy palate. The crackers have a rich, savory flavor.  I assigned the recipe to the “very easy” category, as long as you have a food processor.

Cheddar crackers

Cheddar crackers

Terri made the Tuscan mashed chickpeas with the grilled bread.  It was delicious and had perfectly balanced flavors.  It made a good quantity – perfect for a party.  She assigned the recipe to the “easy” category, as long as you have a food processor – I see a trend.

Tuscan mashed chickpeas

Tuscan mashed chickpeas

Terri also made the easy tzatziki with feta.  She paired it with pita triangles and a variety of Mediterranean olives and pickled peppers.  The tzatziki was light and fresh tasting.  She also assigned this recipe to the “easy” category.

 Easy tzatziki with feta

Easy tzatziki with feta

We moved into the dining room for the main entrée and sides.  I made the crispy mustard-roasted chicken recipe.  I’ve made this dish a few times for the family and modified it slightly based on my experiences.  For example, I use boneless, skinless, thin chicken breasts instead of bone-in chicken.  I also add the juice of one lemon to the mustard and wine mixture.  This cuts down some of the heavy mustard taste.  I termed the recipe “easy-medium” on the difficulty scale.

Crispy mustard-roasted chicken

Crispy mustard-roasted chicken

Sharon made the Provencal tomatoes as one of our side dishes.   It tasted of the essence of summer with all those fresh herbs.  She assigned this recipe to the “easy-medium” category.  She commented that you need to use fresh breadcrumbs – dried just won’t cut it.

Provencal tomatoes

Provencal tomatoes

Pat made the crispy english potatoes.  The potatoes were perfectly crisped using a par-boil first, then roast cooking technique.  The pancetta adds a nice smoky flavor to the potatoes.  It was a perfect side for the chicken.  She termed the recipe in the “easy” category.

Crispy english potatoes

Crispy english potatoes

To cap off our main meal, I also made balsamic-roasted Brussels sprouts.  I’ve never made or eaten Brussels sprouts before, but wanted to try them and thought this was the perfect environment for experimentation.  The recipe is “super easy” to make.  The combination of balsamic and the pancetta really enhanced the baby cabbages’ flavor.

Balsamic-roasted Brussels sprouts.

Balsamic-roasted Brussels sprouts.

During dinner, I prepared five quick questions for each club member to answer.  The questions covered the topics of favorite and least favorite foods, food allergies, and preferred celebrity chefs.  The answers to these questions not only gave us good dinner conversation, but also offered us some ideas for future meetings and any special accommodations for various members.  We also discussed any dishes we were afraid to cook and found out that we can learn from each other’s cooking expertise.

Finally, we moved into the living room for dessert.  Susan made a lemon cake that was not only moist and delicious, but also beautiful to the eye.  She categorized the recipe as medium difficulty.  She commented that the recipe might be easier for those with a stand mixer, since the preparation involves alternating batches of ingredients.

Lemon cake

Lemon cake

I also made the chocolate peanut butter glob cookies.  They are a decadent cookie that has chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, pecans and walnuts.  Definitely not a recipe for someone with nut or peanut allergies.  I categorized this recipe as medium difficulty.

Chocolate peanut butter globs

Chocolate peanut butter globs

The chocolate peanut butter glob cookie recipe was true to its yield and made 24 decent-sized cookies.  I packaged them up as our take-home treat for everyone to share with their families – or not and keep for themselves!

Take home treat - cookies!

Take home treat – cookies!

In total, nine dishes were made from Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa recipe collection.  All were delicious.  It was a beautiful meal with plenty of variety.

Nine Ina Garten dishes were made!

Nine Ina Garten dishes were made!

All in all the first meeting of “Food for Thought” cookbook book club was a success.  Everyone enjoyed themselves and the food.

Our next meeting is scheduled for late April.  Pat is hosting.  We’ve selected Bobby Flay for our next celebrity chef focus.  I’m looking forward to our next gathering and already salivating thinking about the delicious dishes the group will create!

What’s your favorite Ina Garten, Barefoot Contessa recipe?

Have you made any of these recipes that the cookbook club made?

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