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Nov 29, 2012 02:00 PM

Ina Garten - FOOLPROOF

I snagged FOOLPROOF at Costco and made two superb dishes from it after Thanksgiving. Looks to be a winner if all the recipes are this good.

The first was a pasta. I've never done a Penne with Vodka. I was in the mood. So I tried it. Simple, though unlike many similar recipes, it took a while because after some prep on the stove, you bake the sauce in the oven for 90 minutes. Wow, was it incredible. I could not resist adding some pancetta but I am sure it would be great w/o as well. Even better the next day. This is already in my repertoire, I made it three days later!

The second was a very simple salmon with 'melting cherry tomatoes'. I had my doubts, as it was so simple. But I was cooking for fish people and did not have a lot of time. You grill the salmon. At the same time, you cook down cherry tomatoes with onions, garlic, basil, balsamic... then pour it over the salmon. It was a really simple sauce, yet something about the way it paired with the salmon (not my favorite fish by a long shot), we all agreed it was very special. I will make this one again as well.

I've never seen her show, and only have one other book of Ina's, BACK TO BASICS, which I have come to love quite a bit. I am going to have to dive into a lot of her recipes.

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  1. Good to know! Those recipes do sound very delicious. I've always had wonderful luck with her recipes! I enjoy her show, I don't have the Food Network, so I don't get to catch it often, but I enjoy watching her - she's very soothing for some reason!

    I'm second in line at the library for this book! I just put a request in for it. I like to check cookbooks out first - then, perhaps I'll buy if I really like what I see. :) We're on a budget, so it's super nice to do that right now!

    6 Replies
      1. re: tiffeecanoe

        I'm in line too. Now I really can't wait to get my copy!

        1. re: tiffeecanoe

          I was able to download it as a kindle book from the library. Nice book.

          1. re: Mother of four

            Thanks for the tip- I am also on hold for the kindle edition.

            1. re: Berheenia

              I am really enjoying going through it. Just a heads far the recipes that sounded interesting,to me, were all online. I have no intention of buying another cookbook,so this was wonderful.

            2. re: Mother of four

              Oooh! I'll have to check our e-library! I always forget to do that with cookbooks.

          2. You're not missing anything by missing her show. Her on-screen persona is more than a little on the pretentious side.

            But I agree that her recipes are true to form & trustworthy, unlike many other tv cooking personalities.

            29 Replies
            1. re: Bacardi1

              Pretentious? Really? I don't see that at all.

              1. re: wincountrygirl

                She's no Martha Stewart, but I do find it annoying when she says things like "use GOOD vanilla" or "GOOD XXX" ingredient, as if her recipes will be totally sullied by the masses who buy their staple ingredients at Costco.

                1. re: biondanonima

                  Oh, for God's sake, people have been saying "use GOOD vanilla" since the beginning of time. My grandmother said it. My girlfriend said it. Her mother said it. I've been saying it as long as I've been cooking and shopping, which precedes my knowing about Ina by at least two decades.

                  Oh, and my last bottle of GOOD vanilla--which will probably outlast me, btw--came from Costco.

                  1. re: Jay F

                    exactly. Since the invention of that nasty artificial flavored stuff every one says "use good vanilla" because if you use the fake stuff the recipe will be ruined.

                    It the same with "good" olive oil, "good" chocolate, etc. Once there were lots of the poor substitutes or fakes out there is became pretty common place for a chef or recipe to make note that you don't want to use them for this particular dish.

                  2. re: biondanonima

                    Ha Ha - I can see that side of Ina as well sometimes, but seriously, my best ingredients come out of Costco. I do like her show - Would love to get that confident in my cooking.

                    1. re: JerryMe

                      That was my point, I guess - good ingredients ARE available to "the masses" nowadays (thanks in part to retailers like Costco), so most people probably already have decent stuff in their cupboards. Her persistent reminders to an audience that no doubt knows the difference between real vanilla and the fake stuff come off sounding snooty rather than informative.

                      1. re: biondanonima

                        I use Nielsen-Massey, and if people ask me for a recipe, I specify the brand of vanilla, chocolate, etc. I used. (I've had people complain, and I'm sure she has too, that theirs weren't as good as mine, and act like it was my fault.) Important if you really want to replicate what I made. She can't do that I imagine, so that's probably why she's saying GOOD ... she wants people to get the same results she does after all the work she's gone to testing the recipes.

                    2. re: biondanonima

                      It's not whether you get the ingredient at Costco or Shop Rite, but if you buy pure vanilla extract as opposed to imitation, Joe's mayo as opposed to Hellmans, etc. Because bad vanilla will totally mess up a recipe. It's not pretentious, but it is annoying already!!!

                      1. re: wincountrygirl

                        Does anyone know why "Mexican Vanilla" is so much better than what we get here? I get a bottle every year and won't use anything else, it is insanely good.

                        1. re: Tom P

                          I don't know why but it is fantastic. I like Tahitian vanilla too but the Mexican is the best!

                          1. re: Tom P

                            years&years ago my girlfriend was a travel agent and went 'somewhere' (?) in Mexico on business. knowing I'm a fanatic in the kitchen she brought me 1 clear vanilla and 1 almost black vanilla. bottles were maybe 2oz. each. they were phenom!
                            no idea why so good or where she bought, years later asking her she couldn't
                            remember :(

                              1. re: Tom P

                                i'd be very weary of Mexican vanilla. Most of it is either synthetic or uses coumarin, a highly toxic ingredient.

                                @Divo - There is no such thing as "clear vanilla". Again, synthetic.

                              2. re: wincountrygirl

                                Cook's Illustrated has said on multiple occasions that artificial vanilla was indistinguishable from pure extract in cookies and therefore fine for baking (although they warned against using it in things that see no heat or only slight heat, such as custards), so not every pretentious self-appointed cooking authority agrees that artificial extract is the work of the devil. In one CI test, the cookies made with artificial vanilla scored higher than pure vanilla extract:

                                Honestly the idea that wood pulp can, in some cases, successfully masquerade as something vastly more expensive is, in my opinion, one of those wonders of manufacturing that borders on magic. Right up there with animal hooves becoming a dessert... but less stomach-churning!

                                1. re: willownt

                                  There is another one: "Natural Vanilla Flavor", which, according to 60 Minutes, is often made from the juices from the beaver anal gland. Not joking.

                                  1. re: willownt

                                    Well, imo CI is the most pretentious of all :=)

                                    1. re: willownt

                                      Yes! People like what they like and many like that artificial flavor. Christina Tosi from Momofuku Milk Bar actually calls for artificial vanilla in many (all?) of the recipes in her cookbook.

                                      edit: I meant to reply to willnt

                                      1. re: willownt

                                        Yes! People like what they like and many like that artificial flavor. Christina Tosi from Momofuku Milk Bar actually calls for artificial vanilla in many (all?) of the recipes in her cookbook.

                                    2. re: biondanonima

                                      She is most likely referring to the cheap Imitation Vanilla Extract, and not directing towards costco or any big box shop brands which is labeled Pure Vanilla Extract.

                                  2. re: Bacardi1

                                    I don't find her pretentious, just insanely wealthy. She's selling that fantasy, really.

                                    The fantasy of being so rich that one can live in a multi-million dollar estate in the Hamptons, not work - except to plan your next trip to Paris, and have all the time in the world to cook in your professionally equipped kitchen, is what her show is really all about.

                                    So she talks about "good" vanilla, and for that matter "good" saffron and "good" lobster that you'll be throwing into that Lobster with Saffron Salad you're making as a quick, casual lunch for neighbors dropping by after yachting.

                                    Ah, the life!

                                    1. re: EarlyBird

                                      I don't think she was fabulously wealthy when she first started the show/cookbooks. Upper middle class for sure, but not fabulously wealthy. If you look at her house, the one w/ the old shingles, not the new "barn" she shows on her newer episodes, it's not a big house, and it's obviously old. The kitchen was formica countertops.

                                      Now, yes, she is wealthy, because of her hard work.

                                      ETA: She opened her shop in the Hamptons in 1978. I'm pretty sure real estate prices back then were not nearly as high as they are now.

                                      1. re: juliejulez

                                        When I say she's fabulously wealthy and a member of the idle rich, I am not taking anything away from her. She undoubtedly worked very hard to get there and earned every penny of it. Her husband Jeffrey is a very successful investor and economics advisor, and surely he is no stranger to very hard work, either.

                                        But now that she's made it, her show is as much a vehicle for viewers to fantasize about her wonderful lifestyle as it is about the food. (Count me among them.) No doubt she and her producers are aware of that.

                                        1. re: juliejulez

                                          Old houses can be the most expensive ones in the eastern part of the country.

                                        2. re: EarlyBird

                                          I don't see her show or recipes that way at all. She does a lot of very basic things, roasted veggies are a staple side dish in myriad forms, roasted meats, baked goods that anyone can make with basic ingredients. Saffon? I bought a huge jar at Costco for 30 dollars. Hardly a princely sum.

                                          And not work? She owned and ran a speciality food market, and now has her own tv show and writes cookbooks. I wouldn't call that not working. She used to work for the State Dept before bought the store.

                                          I think some people just can't over the fact that both her and her husband have been successful .

                                          1. re: rasputina

                                            I'm with you. I love Ina. Pretentious - in my book that's Giada!!

                                            1. re: rasputina

                                              It seems as if you believe I'm envious of her success or am trying to diminish it. Not at all. She's surely worked very hard in her life to enjoy the level of wealth she enjoys today. See my response to Julie above.

                                              I'd love my "job" to be spending a few weeks at home filming a cooking show, going into Manhattan to talk to my agent about my next cookbook, experimenting and writing about food and flying to Paris regularly for inspiration. She's living a wonderful, rarified life, and that's what her show's "brand" is ultimately about.

                                              Oh and she's a great cook. I love her style of food. Sophisticated without being fussy.

                                              Also, no offense, but when she talks about "good saffron," she is not talking about stuff that comes in a huge jar for $30.

                                              1. re: EarlyBird

                                                That sounds like a lot of work to me. People who are highly successful as she is tend to be obsessive about the quality of their work. My understanding is that's exactly how she is when it comes to testing and perfecting recipes, and some of the feedback in this thread seems to indicate that's true. (I cook without recipes, or use them just for inspiration, so I don't have any personal experience.)

                                                She followed her passion, which was food and not government, and really anyone can do the same (fame not guaranteed).

                                                1. re: foiegras

                                                  It doesn't sound like hard work to me. To her credit, she's put herself in a situation where she can have the lifestyle she enjoys. Good for her.

                                        3. Thanks for the update! I love all of the Ina cookbooks I own and find they are simple and approachable. I even love her "Parties" cookbook. Her orzo salad is a winner at summer events.

                                          The melting tomatoes sauces sounds really intriguing- do you think it would be good with others meats/fishes? pasta?

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: foodieX2

                                            I think it would be a very good pasta sauce. Again, very simple! Just a few ingredients. (I don't have it in front of me but will try to post them later...although I don't think I mentioned any above.) And I imagine it would be good with various fish. There was something special about the combo with the salmon, though...

                                            1. I love Ina. BAREFOOT CONTESSA is the only FN program I continue to like. But the one recipe I've made thus far from FOOLPROOF wasn't really that foolproof.

                                              I made the tomato soup (p. 56), following the instructions to the letter, and it came out more like an onion soup with tomato flavoring (and coloring, of course). The proportions were 3 cups of onions (2 onions) to 1 28-oz. can of tomatoes to 4 qt. chicken stock (I just checked the book to make sure I was correct), and it was a very onion-y soup.

                                              I thought, maybe this is just a taste issue, and Ina likes onions more than I do, so I tried it again with two 28 oz. cans of tomatoes, one onion, and the same amount of stock, and it was much better.

                                              I'm going to try "my friend Kevin's" 1770 House Meat Loaf (p. 129), but I'm going to cook the onions until they're soft, soft, soft before I add them to the meat mixture. The mac and cheese with lobster also calls to me, as well as all the soups and bean dishes.

                                              18 Replies
                                              1. re: Jay F

                                                I've made many of Ina's recipes and have loved almost all of them. I love the depth of flavor in very simple recipes. I've had 2 winners from the new book. The pumpkin donuts were easy to whip up and a big hit. I also made the lamb shanks and orzo. I did sub short ribs for the lamb but it was phenomenal. I can see serving it for a dinner party or just for a cozy dinner. I can't wait to make the salmon with cherry tomatoes. It's next on my list.

                                                1. re: foodie06

                                                  I really wish you had not told me the pumpkin donuts were good :)

                                                  1. re: foodie06

                                                    I've been embarrassed to tell people that my go-to beef bourguignon recipe is Ina's (though I shouldn't be!). I've served it at a lot of dinner parties.

                                                    1. re: emily

                                                      I just made her beef bourguignon dish, and I followed it exactly. It came out a bit watery... is that how it's supposed to be? I've had beef bourguignon in Paris, and it wasn't like that. Do you cook it anymore than she does to thicken it up? I even added extra butter/flour combo but ended up simmering add'l 45 min to make thicker, but just wasn't too happy with the consistency. Just wanted your opinion since you've made it many times. Thanks in advance!

                                                      1. re: spicychow

                                                        Well, I usually make the filet version for dinner parties. It definitely does not come out watery. I honestly don't remember if I cook it longer, but I did have a problem with the butter/flour combo once when I didn't blend it well enough and the sauce didn't thicken.


                                                    2. re: foodie06

                                                      Saw your post and had the cookbook and some short ribs. We had it for supper last night and it was wonderful. I wondered about subing red for white wine and changine the rosemary but thought better and followed the recipe exactly escept for the meat change. Definately a keeper. Thanks for the suggestion.

                                                    3. re: Jay F

                                                      I wonder if that was a misprint, Jay! They happen. I agree, that sounds way too onion-y. And even Ina 'lies' about cooking times for onions, they all do. 5-7 minutes? No way. There was a great NYTimes article about this, savaging all the famous cookbook authors about time cheats so the recipes seem shorter/easier.

                                                      That meatloaf looks great. Please let us know if you like it.

                                                      1. re: Tom P

                                                        I'm so glad, Tom, that you agree with me re: onions. I thought I must be crazy, compared to how little time TV chefs spend cooking their onions.

                                                        I just sent Ina an e-mail about the soup. Let's see if she responds.

                                                        1. re: Jay F

                                                          Actually, Jay, the article was in Slate. It's great. Let us know if Ina responds!


                                                          1. re: Tom P

                                                            Thanks, Tom. Interesting article.

                                                            I've known it takes ~45 minutes to caramelize onions ever since my mother started making Julia's French Onion Soup in the '70s (and even Julia adds 1/2 t. of sugar to speed the process up a bit).

                                                            I don't think the onions need to be caramelized for the meatloaf. My issue is that I can't stand biting into a crunchy onion, and most recipes don't allow enough cooking time for even softened onions, so if I'm going to put onions in meatloaf (which I generally don't), I'm going to cook them longer than recommended.

                                                            1. re: Jay F

                                                              Jay, I often put raw onions in the meatloaf and either grate them on a box grater or process with garlic, egg and spices. Works well to add flavour and does not have raw onion taste at all - no crunchy pieces to bite into either :)

                                                              1. re: herby

                                                                There's no selling me on raw onions, herby. I wouldn't grate onions with your nose, nor put them in the Cuisinart.

                                                                1. re: Jay F

                                                                  LOL Jay. I do agree with herby... I grated onions for the first time this year, as I am exploring the world of the Tagine, and in those dishes the onion is grated. It makes it so soft and wet and good. But I had a roommate in college who also could not ABIDE the crunch of onion. So I understand. It will horrify you to know that my family ate sweet onions like apples.

                                                                  1. re: Tom P

                                                                    Yes, I first started grating onions with tagines too so wonderful!

                                                                  2. re: herby

                                                                    I used to do the raw onion thing but I discovered it's much more flavorful to saute the onions and garlic first.

                                                                    1. re: wincountrygirl

                                                                      one tip i read somewhere really worked for me - finely slice the onions, sprinkle a pinch of salt and microwave for like 4-5 minutes on a paper plate or bounty . The microwaving dries up the sliced onions a bit and speeds up caramelization for beautifully browned onions.

                                                              2. re: Jay F

                                                                I also thought I was doing something with onions! Now I know better.