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Let the Contessa tease taste buds
book review of Barefoot Contessa's newest cookbook

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Visit the Photo Place
Date published: 11/21/2012

BY BEVERLY MEYER

Here she comes again, Ina Garten, that is, with another beautiful cookbook, this one with the encouraging word "foolproof" as its motto.

Likening the process of cooking with confidence to driving a car, Garten insists that everyone can do it, it's just done more easily with more experience.

With seven previous books to her credit--each one a glossy, full-color photograph-laden showpiece--the Barefoot Contessa can pretty much count on No. 8, "Foolproof: Recipes You Can Trust," being an equal success.

In addition to the scores of recipes that are at once doable and sophisticated, Garten adds a dollop of advice at the beginning of each section of this visually appealing volume.

Ten foolproof tips for cooking kick off with "read the entire recipe before you start." Otherwise, she reminds readers, you could find a caveat that trips you up right at the get-go, like discovering those beans needed to soak overnight.

Jazzing up your party's cocktail hour may begin with the how-to on serving a delicious cosmopolitan or rossini paired with any of a number of tasty appetizers: Parmesan crisps, caramelized bacon bits, mustard and gruyere batons, to name three. These tasty finger foods are surprisingly simple to make yet add a posh tone to your entertaining.

For meal starters, Garten includes easy tzatziki with feta, gazpacho with goat cheese croutons, winter minestrone and garlic bru-schetta and more. There's a recipe for homemade chicken stock that will come in handy and hollandaise sauce, and an easy tomato soup with grilled cheese croutons that will give the children a grown-up take on an old favorite.

Answering 10 questions relating to "Can I freeze it?" (like freezing the cookie dough, not the cookies, and baking right before using) leads into dishes like lobster mac and cheese, penne alla vecchia bettola, jambalaya and Sicilian grilled swordfish. These upscale dishes are dumbed down for even the novice to master.

The section on vegetables sets up a memorable Thanksgiving (0r other holiday meal), with tips on how to cook a dinner that eliminates pressure on the cook. The turkey can be garnished with the likes of orange-braised carrots and parsnips, crispy roasted kale (easy!), sweet potato puree, truffled mashed potatoes, balsamic-roasted Brussels sprouts, and more.

There's always interest in dessert, and Garten offers about two dozen mouth-wateringly delicious ideas. The raspberry crumble bars spoke to me. Ah, bliss

The end of the book includes tips for setting the table, foolproof menus that draw upon recipes in her other cookbooks, and an index by ingredients.

If you aren't already a fan of this popular TV culinary star, the contents of this book--or one of her others--will tickle your taste buds.

Beverly Meyer:
Email: bmeyer@freelancestar.com