Cookbook: Make It Ahead by Ina Garten
Overall Impression: Make It Ahead is a great cookbook for sophisticated entertaining.
Ina Garten fans everywhere should be celebrating because another book is out! And when it comes to entertaining, no one does it better than Ina. In this latest cookbook, Ina takes her 20 years of running a specialty foods store; her extensive knowledge of which dishes can be prepped, assembled, or cooked ahead of time; and her 15 years writing cookbooks, and she answers the most common cooking question she hears — can I make it ahead?
You might want to buy this cookbook just for the “10 Make-Ahead Tips for Parties,” the "10 Tips for Safely Storing Food," and the “Make-Ahead Menus" alone. Alongside mouth-watering photography, Ina outlines suggested menu ideas for summer breakfasts, a birthday brunch, ladies who lunch, a holiday dinner, an anniversary dinner, and more!
Ina also never ceases to surprise me. She opens the cookbook with a dog biscuit recipe. Whole Wheat Peanut Butter Dog Biscuits is the first recipe in the book. Well, good to know Ina’s thinking about our four-legged friends.
Bruschettas with Sautéed Chard, page 61
Recipes I Tried
- Bruschettas with Sautéed Chard, page 61
- Make-Ahead Turkey Gravy with Onions & Sage, page 103
- Baked Polenta with Mushrooms & Blue Cheese, page 174
- Leek & Artichoke Bread Pudding, page 178
Cooking from Make It Ahead
Swiss chard is one of my favorite leafy green vegetables. This didn't always used to be the case, but now I know how to prepare it. My family loves it so much that we actually planted and grew our own swiss chard and froze it. I used my chard for Ina's Bruschettas with Sautéed Chard and loved it. I absolutely love simple recipes using a handful of ingredients. You don't expect much, but then are pleasantly surprised. I love bruschetta and make it all the time when entertaining. I'll definitely be making this one in the spring when chard is in season again and plentiful.
Baked Polenta with Mushrooms & Blue Cheese, page 174
Now, to me, Ina will always be the one who cooks with full fat for full flavor. Some of her recipes are rich, decadent, and fall in the category of overindulgent, but hey, you only live once right?
This Baked Polenta with Portobello Mushrooms and Blue Cheese was just that. Rich, creamy, luxurious and dreamy. With each bite, I couldn't help but think, "Oh my goodness ... I love you, Ina." For me, this is one of those recipes that people will talk about and remember always. Serve this with some crusty bread and you will have a crowd pleaser for sure.
Leek & Artichoke Bread Pudding, page 178
Last but not least, I made Ina's Leek & Artichoke Bread Pudding, and it's absolutely fabulous. I tested this recipe a few weeks before Thanksgiving and have actually already made the recipe twice more — and then I made it a fourth time for Thanksgiving. I knew this stunning and delicious recipe would make a statement and my dad would be okay that his favorite stuffing recipe with sausage was not on the table. I also made Ina's Make-Ahead Turkey Gravy with Onions & Sage. She puts two tablespoons of cognac or brandy in her turkey gravy. This is why I love her.
Recipes I Want to Make Next
- Truffled Chicken Liver Mousse, pg 32
- Cauliflower and Celery Root Soup, pg 54
- Zucchini & Goat Cheese Tart, pg 85
- Roast Chicken with Bread & Arugula Salad, pg 95
- French Chicken Pot Pies, pg 98
- Slow-Roasted Spiced Pork, pg 106
- Moroccan Lamb Tagine, pg 111
What Could Be Better
Honestly, I felt like some of the “make-ahead” recipes were a bit of a stretch, like the recipe for Caesar Salad with Blue Cheese and Bacon. This recipe instructs you to wash and spin-dry the romaine lettuce and to prepare the dressing up to three days beforehand. If you think of it this way, pretty much everything can technically be make-ahead. I think her Roasted Vegetable Lasagna is a better example of a make-ahead dish. Here, you assemble the entire lasagna and "refrigerate for up to one day or freeze for up to three months." Then you defrost, if necessary, and bake before serving.
But overall, I'm thankful that Ina helps us realize that we can prep a lot of ingredients beforehand (cutting, marinating, storing), which definitely saves time and makes for more effortless and easy entertaining.
This is a cookbook from Ina Garten, so you know it's good. The recipes have been thoroughly tested and the results are fabulous. I now have several recipes I can whip up if I have to entertain and some new family favorites I know I will be cooking in my kitchen for years.
Find the book at your local library, independent bookstore, or Amazon: Make It Ahead by Ina Garten
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(Image credits: Alice Choi)