While Ina Garten needs no introduction today, in the late ’90s she was fresh on the national scene, reinventing herself from specialty food and catering entrepreneur to cookbook author. At the time, Ina didn’t know if she could write a cookbook that anyone would read (let alone cook from) or if she’d even want to embark on such a solitary endeavor.
Thankfully for those of us who love her easy and elegant vibe, Ina took the plunge: The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook first hit bookstore shelves in 1999, and now it has been re-released exclusively in Costco warehouses. Press releases teased four new recipes and insightful make-ahead tips that only Ina can inspire. I stalked the shelves of my local Costco until I spotted the new cover with the familiar name.
What’s New in This Edition?
This edition of The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook contains a brand-new introduction written by Ina herself. She also shares four new recipes that are only available in the Costco edition of this cookbook: Roasted Shrimp Panzanella, Overnight Mac & Cheese Gratin, Brown Butter Skillet Cornbread, and Avocado & Fried Egg Tartines. Not only do all four of these sound and look delightful, but each one also has the signature Ina influence, elevating the flavor or presentation without doubling down on the effort involved.
I’ve already professed my love for shrimp dishes, so when I turned to the book’s bonus recipes and saw tender pink shrimp, crusty bread cubes, juicy tomatoes, and salty feta in a shallow bowl, my heart leapt. I had to give the panzanella recipe a try.
My Honest Review of Ina’s Roasted Shrimp Panzanella
Ina’s shrimp panzanella recipe predictably starts by toasting cubes of bread until brown and crusty. Then you add cucumber, bell peppers, red onions, tomatoes, and capers to the toasted bread. Pour in a garlicky red wine vinaigrette (make sure to use good red wine vinegar, of course) and toss until the vegetables and croutons start to soak up the seasoning. Finish the salad with oven-roasted shrimp, peppery arugula, and cubes of feta cheese.
This panzanella is everything Ina does right. Every bite has a rainbow of color and variety of texture and flavor, from the sweet roasted shrimp and the crunchy vegetables, to the creamy feta to the briny capers. Panzanella can err on the side of too dry if the croutons haven’t soaked up enough dressing or end up too soggy if the opposite occurs. To combat this, Ina instructs you to moisten the veggies and bread first and then add the rest of the vinaigrette later.
Ultimately, the two stand-out elements — one of which Ina highlights in her headnotes — are the roasted shrimp and the capers. Roasting shrimp intensifies the crustaceans’ flavor instead of diluting it, as often occurs with boiling or steaming. The capers provide an unexpected pop of pickle-y flavor — a trick I’ll be adding to chopped salads from now on.
If you don’t already have The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook on your shelf, hurry to get one of the new Costco copies before they sell out. It’s an updated take on a classic Ina cookbook that I’m sure to be pulling off my shelf and using time and time again.