Gourmet's 50 Women Game Changers in Food: # 39, Ina Garten

I'm posting this week's game-changer Ina Garten a day in advance. I'll leave it up today and tomorrow and then post Darina Allen's Champ for St. Patrick's Day. 
I also thought I'd do this week's game changer a bit differently. Her story is out there on the net everywhere and most of us are familiar with her. 

For those who aren't, briefly: 

Ina Garten was born  Ina Rosenberg, in Brooklyn, New York, and raised in Stamford, Connecticut. Garten's mother refused her daughter's requests to assist her in the kitchen and instead directed her to concentrate on schoolwork. 
She met her husband, Jeffrey Garten, while visiting Dartmouth College. They married in 1968  and spent 4 years at Fort Bragg (Ina filled her time dabbling at cooking and actually got her pilot's license) while Jeffrey completed his military duty. Then they spent four months camping out in France. Ina has described this as the beginning of her love for French cuisine.
Returning to Washington, she honed her cooking skills, finished her schooling (got her MBA) and ended up working in the White House from 1974 to 1978 during the Ford and Carter administrations. She worked in the Office of Management and Budget on nuclear energy issues.
But she was not entirely happy with this work so on weekends, Ina threw dinner parties and soirées at her home and in her spare time, she bought, refurbished, and resold homes for profit. This gave her the seed money to buy a specialty food store in the Hamptons in New York. The store was named Barefoot Contessa. 
And the rest is history. Cookbooks, Food Network, you name it.

You might like to read this older 
interview with Ina Garten. It's good background. 

I found yet another interview in which she gave some wonderful advice on dinner parties. So true. I loved it.

1. "Simplicity is the key. The simpler it is, the more elegant -- like a great couturier dress."
2. "Entertaining is about connecting with people. It's not about the dinner, it's about the friends."
3. "It's not about impressing, but about making people feel good."
4. "I don't care who they are, when faced with a coconut cupcake, everyone's the same. Remember this about your guests: You bring your fun in your pocket, and if you're not having fun, it's no one else's fault."
5. "I have to really like the guests too; otherwise I end up resenting them. It's a lot of work to entertain. I do a column in Martha Stewart Living called 'Entertaining Is Fun,' but the truth is, it's not that easy."
Talk about recipe choices! No problem this week. Ina's one of my favorites and I've got her cookbooks, made and posted so many of her recipes I didn't know how to narrow it down to one. So I didn't. You're going to get a twofer today. One old, one I've never made before, but both brunch dishes. Don't you think brunches are the best? Fun giving them and fun going to one. 

First, the fruit, which I serve every Christmas morning to rave reviews. It has become a tradition and the photo is taken right from our Christmas table. The topping is so simple and so delicious, you'll want to use it over fruit all year round. Be sure to always have a bowl of extra topping on the table. For the kids, skip the limoncello. This is a fabulous surprise treat if you've got houseguests.

The second one, Ina's  Baked Blintzes with Fresh Blueberry Sauce, is new to me. Thought it was a super idea to make blintzes in "bar" form rather than individually rolled up crepes, especially if you're entertaining. Unusual and delicious. The blueberry sauce would be wonderful over ice cream, it's that good.

Fruit Salad with Limoncello
Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics

7 ounces Greek yogurt (recommended: Fage Total) 
1/3 cup good bottled lemon curd 
1 tablespoon honey 
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 
2 cups sliced strawberries (1 pint) 
1 cup raspberries (1/2 pint) 
1 cup blueberries (1/2 pint) 
2 tablespoons sugar 
3 tablespoons limoncello liqueur 
1 banana, sliced 
Fresh mint springs

For the lemon yogurt topping, whisk together the yogurt, lemon curd, honey, and vanilla and set aside at room temperature. 
For the fruit salad, carefully toss together the strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, sugar, and limoncello. Allow them to stand at room temperature for about 5 minutes to let the berries macerate with the sugar and liqueur. Gently fold the banana into the mixture. 
Serve bowls of fruit with a dollop of lemon yogurt on top. Top each with a sprig of fresh mint. 

Baked Blintzes with Fresh Blueberry Sauce
2008, Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics

For the batter: 

1 1/4 cups milk 
2 tablespoons sour cream 
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted 
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 
4 extra-large eggs 
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour 
2 tablespoons sugar 
1 tablespoon baking powder 

For the filling: 

3 cups (24 ounces) ricotta cheese 
8 ounces mascarpone cheese 
2 extra-large eggs 
1/3 cup sugar 
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest (2 lemons) 
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice 
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 
1 teaspoon kosher salt 
Fresh Blueberry Sauce (recipe follows)


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9 by 13-inch cake pan or baking dish. 
For the batter, place all the ingredients in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade and blend until smooth. (You can also use a blender.) Pour half the batter (about 1 3/4 cups) into the prepared dish and bake for 10 minutes, until set. 

Meanwhile, for the filling, whisk together the ricotta, mascarpone, eggs, and sugar in a large bowl. Add the lemon zest, lemon juice, vanilla, and salt and mix until thoroughly combined. Spread the cheese filling over the baked pancake. Carefully spoon the remaining pancake batter to cover the cheese. 

Return the pan to the oven and continue baking for 35 to 40 minutes, until the top is lightly golden and the filling is almost set. Remove from the oven and allow to stand 10 to 15 minutes. Cut the blintzes in squares and serve warm with the fresh blueberry sauce. 

Fresh Blueberry Sauce: 


3/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (3 oranges) 
2/3 cup sugar 
1 tablespoon cornstarch 
4 half-pints fresh blueberries 
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest 
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice


Combine the orange juice, sugar, and cornstarch in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. When the mixture is translucent and thickened, stir in the blueberries and simmer for 4 to 5 minutes, just until a few berries have burst but most are still whole. Stir in the lemon zest and lemon juice and cool. Yield: Makes 2 cups. 

Join Mary from One Perfect Bite and all the other participants in this fun series.


  1. A lovely salad! Very fresh and delightfully lemony.



  2. Forget "gamechanger", Ina is practically an institution! And with good reason...her recipes are always amazing. This fruit salad sounds super delicious!

  3. OK, admission. I've never made a blintz!! crazy, right? Had 'em but never ever made one myself. They are good... great little recipe and I think she does a bang up job with her cookbooks... I love them. I also love that she did an about face with her life and succeeded beyond her wildest dreams (although didn't Martha have a lot to do with the fame?). On the other hand, people who are really good at one thing translate the skill gene to other things... at least that's my opinion. great piece, Barbara!

  4. She's a classic, alright! I love Ina's comments on simplicity, entertaining and fun. Pretty amazing that she got her pilot's license too!

  5. I just saw Ina do the blintz and am inspired--just need a few guests to help us eat it! I love her cooking and her style--and her sweet relationship with Jeffrey.


  6. I love her advice, and her diverse background... I've made a few of her recipes, but I just realized the other day I don't own any of her cookbooks. Which one should be the first?

  7. Great post, love Ina Garten, I too have all her books and watch her show whenever it is shown on Sky TV.

  8. What a fantastic post, I adore Ina!
    The Limoncello-topped salad looks like a perfect way to welcome spring. :)

  9. Who doesn't love Ina??? I like your recipe choices, I've never tried either one before.
    It's amazing how universally beloved Ina is considering she is so humble and sweet!

  10. Great to learn more about Ina. The lemon yogurt topping sounds lovely and the blintzes look very yummy.

  11. Great post, two fabulous recipes! Ina really is amazing.

  12. I know Ina and it was good I've learnt a little bit more about her. Fage yogurt is the leader in the market of yogurt here in Greece and for a reason. Personally I believe it has the best yogurt I have ever tried and believe me I have tried many brands including American while I was studying in your beautiful country. These recipes look very beautiful and judging from the ingredients they are a true success!

  13. You know I love Ina and who doesn't. Mostly I like her style of entertaining and how she teaches us about making guests feel special. It's more than food that makes Ina so appealing.

    Great choices Barbara. Love anything with limoncello and I use the fruit salad recipe often.

  14. Ina is a favorite at our house.
    We were just talking about making blintzes for brunch so it will be fun to give this recipe a go.

  15. Hi Barbara,

    I enjoyed reading the wonderful advice Ina shares for hosting a dinner party.
    Thanks for sharing, the fruit salad with the limoncello, yumm and have never made a Blintzes, so look forward to trying this.

    Have a good weekend

  16. Ina has never steered me in the wrong direction!

  17. I LOVE Ina - I think almost everyone does! the recipes you picked are fabulous - so glad to be following :)
    Mary x

  18. Such a lovely post about Ina! She is an extraordinary women…with such a mild manner! Your blintzes with the fresh blueberry sauce look so elegant! Nicely done!

  19. Ina is probably the single most inspiring person I can think of...what a remarkable life! Not to mention, her food is always fantastic! :)

  20. Great time of the year to be thinking of fruit salads. Yummy!

  21. The blintzes look incredibly delicious! I never saw them cooked this way either! Leave it to Ina. I can't wait for blueberries to come into season - this is going to be first on the list!

  22. My favorite fruit salad has bananas, blueberries, strawberries, mint and a shot of amaretto. This lemon yogurt dressing sounds very good.

  23. Lovely post - and it absolutely makes me hungry, as well!

  24. I love all her recipes...Her food is so elegant and delicious!!!That looks amazing!

  25. These both sound absolutely perfect - especially this time of year. Thanks for sharing them both!

  26. I am still waiting for my invitation to the Hamptons to hang out with Jeffrey and all of Ina's fabulous gay friends. I'd like to be Ina.

  27. There were some tidbits about Ina that I did not know, so thank you for mentioning them. I love most of her recipes and these two look delightful! Yes, I love brunch food too :)

  28. What a lovely post, Barbara. The salad and the blintzes are classic Ina and are, of course, delicious. I love that the salad come from your Christmas table. It really looks beautiful and would be a perfect way to start a special day. I hope you have a wonderful holiday weekend. Blessings...Mary

  29. I enjoyed your write up...her tips for entertaining that you highlighted are so true. I think this is why we all love Ina so much. I love the recipe you chose. I've never made it, but plan to...it sounds perfect....Greek yogurt, lemon curd, honey...delicious.

  30. I'm such an Ina fan. Her recipes are just so reliable...and delicious. :)

  31. blintzes are always fun, and that fruit salad is the epitome of an ina recipe. lovely post, barbara!

  32. Haha I'd never thought of doing more than one recipe when I was stuck for choices! Brilliant idea. And I enjoyed reading your story and the recipes you picked.

  33. Ina Garten is amazing. I have some of her cookbooks and have enjoyed her show. You didn't mention her voice at all in your story, which I think too bad. There is something about how she speaks that is so mesmerizing. It doesn't matter the subject. She could read phone numbers from the yellow pages and I would be transfixed by her.

    Your quotes are typical Ina G and I love them. Great story!

  34. I knew she'd pop up in your list somewhere! Just didn't know when. These recipes are perfect for spring!



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