Posts Tagged 'barefoot contessa'

Shiny Brite Guide to the Best Hostess Gifts

‘Tis the season to celebrate! And chances are, you are doing plenty of party-hopping, with or without the kids in tow. That means you need hostess gifts in hand!

Here are some of of the things I plan to give (and hope to get):

I love these Star Wars Heroes & Villains Pancake Molds from Williams-Sonoma for hosts with a young family. For $19.95, parents can serve up pure pleasure in the morning. For another $10-$13, you could throw in a pancake mix!

Star Wars Pancake Molds, $19.95 @ Williams-Sonoma

Food gifts make great hostess gifts, especially if the gift is something your hosts can use right away, or at a later party. A gift pack from Stonewall Kitchen is just the thing if you are one of those organized parents who have time to plan ahead and place an order.

Chutney Collection, $20 @ Stonewall Kitchen

And if you’re like me, short on time and long on good will, you can head over to your local grocer and make your own gift pack with artisan jams, sauces, and fancy crackers. Pop it in a bag and voilà!

One of our favorite cookbooks this season is (in case you missed it), How Easy is That? by Ina Garten, otherwise known as the Barefoot Contessa. Wrapped up with a bow, this makes a lovely gift for your host to pour over after you leave.

For the swank cocktail party (sans children), my go-to hostess gift is a lush floral arrangement that he or she need only admire, and place. There’s no muss, no fuss, no taking time out to find a vase while the doorbell is ringing. Tell your florist what you want to spend, and if possible, pick out the flowers. You don’t have to spend too much to get something pretty. In Brooklyn, the place to go is  Zuzu’s Petals on 5th Avenue in Park Slope.

And if all else fails, in lieu of the predictable bottle of wine, try this gorgeous bottle of Hendrick’s gin tied with a white bow:


Hendrick's Gin




Weekly Menu: November 7th-13th

Whoa. This morning, we are in recovery. First, the time-change, which comes around and throws me for a loop every year (though at least we’re not running the NY Marathon today). Second, we had a big, fun dinner party last night. Not the kind that goes into the wee hours; since we all have kids, the party wound down at about ten. This was the kind that everyone looks forward to all day — all week — long, the kind where everyone throws themselves into the play/conversation/dinner/drinks, and is truly filled with regret when the night is over.

The wreckage

The star of the dinner party was the Baked Fontina fondue thing that Melisa made from the new Barefoot Contessa cookbook, How Easy is That? After that bad boy came out of the oven in its cast iron skillet, and people started dunking baguette in with religious fervor (myself included), it occurred to me that we needn’t have bothered with the rest of the meal (grilled flank steak with Tony’s Marinade, Scalloped Potatoes, steamed green beans).  I was wrong. Everything was a hit, and chased by the Birthday Cake from Momofuku (not to mention the Cornflake Cookie — my favorite), it was a massive, massive overdose, but oh so right. Ah.

Oh, wow.

This morning the house has been restored to its tidy self, with no indication of the evening in evidence save for the dishwasher that needs to be unloaded and an unfortunate scuff on the floor from where I dropped (and broke) a giant serving platter. The kids are disappointed that the table is back to its small round size, and we are disappointed that the night is behind us. Alas.

On to the weekly menu

Sunday: I hate to even put this in writing, because every time I do someone gets sick, BUT I think we’re doing China(town) today for some steamed pork buns after we cheer on the marathoners this morning. And since we are in recovery, we are going for the Rotisserie Chicken, leftover Scalloped Potatoes, and Roasted Broccoli for dinner. The rest of the week, I’m trying to dial down the dairy quotient.

Monday: Inspired by Dinner: A Love Story: Shrimp and Angel Hair Pasta

Tuesday: From Everyday Food: Fresh Flavor Fast: Chicken & Basil Stir-Fry

Wednesday: Burrito-world of some sort

Thursday: Pasta Carbonara

Friday: Roast Cod over Leeks & Tomatoes (from Everyday Food: Great Food Fast)

Saturday: Exciting evening out for a friend’s birthday. The kids will do pizza.

Related Links:

Currently Obsessed with…Barefoot Contessa’s Baked Fontina

Everyday Food: Family-Friendly Recipes from the New Cookbook

Currently Obsessed with…. Barefoot Contessa’s Baked Fontina

Barefoot Contessa's baked fontina

Hello, cheesy goodness.

Despite the fact that we’ve eked out every possible last bit of summer this year — extra trips to the beach, extended sandal-wearing, and more ice cream cones on bonus warm, sunny days — fall‘s come anyway, and here we are at Halloween. Which means we’re all wanting comfort food. When I asked the kids this morning if we should turn our CSA share butternut squash into soup for tonight, they said, “Yes, Yes! We’ve never seen squash turn into soup before!” (It’s roasting in the oven right now.)

We have a couple of dinner get-togethers coming up, so we’re on the lookout for yummy-sounding-but-simple fall dishes, and have been perusing Ina Garten‘s new (and unfortunately-titled) Barefoot Contessa cookbook, “How Easy Is That?” Lots of tempting recipes. But I’m obsessing over her baked Fontina, which sounds easy and utterly delish. I can see us bringing it to the table in our cast-iron skillet and having everyone (kids included) dig in with hunks of crusty baguette.

Shouldn’t everyone have this in their near future?

Barefoot Contessa’s Baked Fontina

Serves 4 – 6

Ina says “It’s like a fondue in a cast-iron pot — you throw everything in and it’s ready in six minutes.” (Don’t hate me, but, how easy is that?)

1 1/2 pounds Italian Fontina, rind removed and 1-inch-diced

1/4 cup good olive oil

6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme leaves

1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary leaves

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 crusty French baguette

Preheat the broiler and position the oven rack 5 inches from the heat.

Distribute the cubes of Fontina evenly in a 12-inch cast-iron pan. Drizzle on the olive oil. Combine the garlic, thyme, and rosemary and sprinkle it over the cheese and olive oil. Sprinkle with the salt and pepper and place the pan under the broiler for 6 minutes, until the cheese is melted and bubbling and starts to brown.

Serve the baked Fontina family-style — right out of the oven in the pan with bread for everyone to dip.


Recipe of the Week: The Barefoot Contessa’s Tagliarelle with Truffle Butter

D'Artagnan White Truffle Butter

D'Artagnan's White Truffle Butter, $8.99, from

OK, it’s been a while since our last Recipe of the Week post, but here we go. Our New Year’s Eve dinner was inspiring!

We tried a new Barefoot Contessa pasta recipe — Tagliarelle with White Truffle Butter, and we did a basic green salad with a lemon-y vinaigrette to accompany. Ina Garten (aka the Contessa) is a perpetual fave in our house for her simple, satisfying meals. (And it doesn’t hurt a bit that she’s a big fan of butter in copious amounts.)

We’ve been cooking and entertaining a lot lately, and so for New Year’s Eve (of course going out wasn’t even on the table…), we wanted something easy but that also felt special. Ina‘s secret ingredient of white truffle butter — decadent, unusual, and absolutely packed with flavor — made the meal.

The recipe is technically Tagliarelle with White Truffle Butter, but you can substitute egg fettuccine for the tagliarelle, and that’s what we did. Find D’Artagnan’s White Truffle Butter at specialty foods shops or online at

Short version, here’s the recipe:

Heat heavy cream until it comes to a simmer, then swirl in the butter with some salt and pepper until the butter melts. Lower the heat. Boil the pasta (it’s fast-cooking, so this recipe is really made in a snap) and reserve some of the cooking liquid. Drain the pasta and add it to the truffle-cream mixture. Add cooking water if necessary (we found we didn’t need to.) Garnish with chopped chives and shaved Parmesan. Here’s the full recipe from the Food Network.

We were so busy oooh-ing and aaah-ing over the dish that it didn’t occur to me to snap a photo for this post until we’d already eaten it all up — but at least you have a visual for what to look for when you shop for the special butter. This pasta would make an excellent dinner party dish — it’s both easy and impressive.


Do you have a favorite Barefoot Contessa recipe? Or did you cook something for New Year’s Eve that you thought was delicious? We’d love to hear….

Recipe of the Week: Birthday Sheet Cake from Rick Bayless

It’s birthday time at our house!  Jasper is turning five and Magnolia is turning three (more on the emotional highs and lows of the passage of time later).

Every year, we vow to NOT host TOO MANY KIDS at the party.  What’s too many?  Well, probably more than 8.  And then, the birthdays sneak up on us, and we panic and end up combining the two birthday parties (the kids birthdays are a week apart), and that, plus family and parents, adds up to more like forty guests.  Oh, martha.

We aspire to the drop-off party, where we tell parents to just leave their kids with us and go out for a nice adult lunch.  Alas, we chicken out every time.  Maybe next year.

So this year’s cake is inspired by the terrifying thought of giving forty guests a sugar high.  It serves 20-24, if you can cut 3 inch slices.  Math has never been my thing, so I’m counting on Melisa to pull this off.  We’re using a Texas Sheet Cake from Rick Bayless‘s Salsas That Cook.  We considered adapting the Bareass’ Flag Cake or her Birthday Sheet Cake shown here (both in the Barefoot Contessa Family Style ), but decided for some Texas memories.

The pros: there is no cooling time before frosting, and it is easy to transport or present (and easier than frosting 20 cupcakes).

The cons: there is alot of sifting

Special equipment: a 18 x 13 x 1 in pan

For the cake:

10 TBSP unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch slices

1 1/3 cup water

2/3 cup vegetable oil

2 large eggs

1 egg yolk

2/3 cup buttermilk

1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/4 lbs powdered sugar (about 5 2/3 cups sifted)

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

For frosting & topping:

8 TBSP unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch slices

6 TBSP milk

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 pound (about 4 1/2 cups sifted) powdered sugar

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

optional: 2 cups chopped pecans

1) Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter & flour the sheet pan

2) For the cake, combine the butter, water, and oil in a small saucepan. Stir over medium heat until butter melts, then remove from heat

3) In a small bowl, beat together eggs, egg yolk, buttermilk & vanilla

4) In a large bowl, sift flour, powdered sugar, cocoa, baking soda & salt.  Add the butter mixture and beat thoroughly with a wooden spoon until well combined. Add the egg mixture and beat for a couple of minutes (you can use a power mixer if you like)

5) Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 20-25 minutes, until the center springs back when lightly touched.

6) While cake is baking, prepare frosting (don’t start before the cake goes into the oven because the frosting needs to be warm when it goes onto the warm cake).  In a small saucepan, combine the butter & milk.  Stir over medium heat until the butter melts, then remove from heat and stir in vanilla.  Into a large bowl, sift together the powdered sugar and cocoa. Pour in the warm milk mixture and stir to combine.

7)  When the cake comes out of the oven, let it stand 3-4 minutes, then dollop the frosting over it.  Use a spatula to spread it gently over the cake.  Sprinkle pecans if you choose.

8) Cut the cake into 3 inch squares, and serve

This is what it looks like:

The finished, and decorated, product

Some party-goers didn’t want to wait for the birthday song:

In the end, everyone was happy:

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