by Bridget O’Donnell

The last day of my vacation the weather forecasted rain so I reprioritized for indoor activities. Feeling somewhat rested, I made the decision to buy an additional 10 lbs of tomatoes to can from our local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture, an organization that supplies produce from one or more local farms), then went out into the field to glean cherry tomatoes before the end of their season. The next day, the rain held off until the afternoon, which allowed ample time to procrastinate or “switch out of vacation mode” if that sounds more relatable. We had breakfast, I went for a slow and muggy 6-mile jog, and then walked the dog (and kitten) before it started raining. After a much-needed shower I did some light cleaning and unpacked a few things from a trip to Great Sacandaga Lake in the Adirondacks (with our two cats and large dog!! Don’t worry, we had the same number of passengers when we left.). …Now, everyone who cans or has family that does knows that it takes time. This was no exception. Not quite Murphy’s Law but, like two opposing forces or repelling magnets, I found myself left with a couple of jars that were as determined to remain unsealed as I was to make sure they sealed. I had worked through lunch and by the time dinner became a thought, it was dark outside. With a pre-made thin crust pizza waiting in the refrigerator, I wasn’t too worried. Dinner should be ready in 15 minutes.

…Perhaps if I had the foresight to freeze the pizza before we left for our vacation, things would have worked out differently. A squinty-eyed inspection identified two, possibly three, different types of mold on what should have been a quick and easy meal. Obviously, I had to come up with something else to eat, fast. Hello, gleaned cherry tomatoes…

Title of Cookbook: Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics.

Author of Cookbook: Ina Garten                                    

What prompted you to check out this cookbook? 

Aside from the need to reimagine dinner, I’d been a little overzealous gleaning cherry tomatoes at the farm. As the week progressed, those colorful bursts of flavor impatiently continued to ripen on the counter (and some temporarily on the floor when the kitten decided to play a night game).  If we didn’t eat them (all) soon, picking them would have been a waste. So, tart equals pizza, right? In 2022, about the same time in the season, our CSA suggested a Tomato, Goat Cheese, and Caramelized Onion Tart recipe that had been adapted from Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics. Naturally, I was curious to see what the original recipe called for.

Bit of trivia: National Cheese Pizza Day was September 5 and National Pizza Day, February, 9, 2023.

What did you like about this cookbook (or recipe)?

Aside from its versatility, this recipe can be as colorful as you make it and the benefits of eating the rainbow are plentiful (refer to additional articles listed below).

The pages between chapters listing 10 helpful tips are a quick and interesting read, too.

What didn’t you like about this cookbook (or recipe)?

  • There are a number of rich/heavy recipes.
  • Suggested serving sizes are large.
  • For the laymen, like me, I was unfamiliar with some of the “traditional” recipes. In some cases they called for ingredients I prefer not to cook with. For others, I would have had to ask Google where to source ingredients or what practical substitutes might be.

Favorite recipes (that you tried from the cookbook/website):

Caramelized Onion and Tomato Tart (pg. 92).

Did you alter the recipe or make any substitutions?

The recipe was adapted from the original recipe, but I followed it fairly close the first time. This adaptation was sweeter than I prefer. Since then, I’ve experimented with every possible variable: crust, cheese, topping.

  • 2022 [Sweet] Tart – refrigerated pastry dough, 1 heirloom tomato, a mixed variety of cherry tomatoes, yellow onions cooked in white wine, crumbled goat, and grated parmesan cheeses.
  • 2023 Tart – frozen puff pastry dough, a mixed variety of cherry tomatoes, red onion cooked with olive oil, garlic and Italian spice, grated parmesan, and crumbled feta mixed into a shredded pizza cheese blend, and (chopped) fresh basil added before serving. Not bad at all.
  • 2023 Emergency Dinner using the left-over ingredients from the previous tart – 1 heirloom tomato, a mixed variety of cherry tomatoes, omit: onions, feta, and parmesan cheeses, add: sliced pepperoni and ground pork browned with minced garlic and Italian seasoning.

Would you recommend this cookbook/recipe?

Yes, I like the author’s back to basics approach. Keeping an open mind, Ina Garten is very prolific, and I might learn something from her other cookbooks, too.


Books –

Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics: Fabulous Flavor from Simple Ingredient / Ina Garten.

Greenfeast. Autumn, Winter / Nigel Slater. (“Naan, Mozzarella, Tomatoes,” pg. 62 might be another alternative to try.)

Websites –

Davidson, Katey and Hatanaka, Miho.  “Benefits of Eating the Rainbow”, medically reviewed December 18, 2020.,specific%20nutrients%20and%20health%20benefits

McManus, Katherine D. “Phytonutrients: Paint Your Plate With the Colors of the Rainbow.”, April 25, 2019.

Ocean Robbins. “Eat the Rainbow: Why Is It Important to Eat a Colorful Variety of Fruits and Vegetables?”, May 4, 2022.

Streed, Joel. “Eat the Rainbow for Good Health.”, July 21, 2022.

Vo, Nguyet. “Tomato, Goat Cheese, and Caramelized Onion Tart.”, updated June 19, 2023.

Quick Subject links to the Library catalog –

A Barefoot Contessa cookbook. – (Sorted by: Date)

Garten, Ina.

Seasonal cooking.

Diet therapy. (Vega, New Catalog)

Phytochemicals. (Vega)

Antioxidants. (Vega)