Great Food Reads: Make It Ahead

Make It Ahead by Ina Garten

I have kept a tradition with two neighbor families of making potluck dinners every other month for over two years now.  E has been friends with most of them them for almost two decades now – which is scary but comforting at the same time.  Even though we have learned to split responsibilities and dishes for these gatherings, the hosting family often ends up working on a dish or two while we are all hanging out or playing with the girls.  That’s why we try to cook as many items as we can beforehand – to be able to enjoy each other’s company more those Sunday afternoons.  I’m very excited to have received a copy of Ina Garten’s newest tome, Make It Ahead.  It will definitely be put to use for our neighbor dinners, and beyond that.

Ina Garten has been a mainstay in the Food Network programming since 2002.  This longevity stems from her straightforward, delicious recipes that focus on good quality ingredients.  I respect all she has been able to achieve, being a self-taught cook: have her own gourmet foods store in the Hamptons, host several successful Food Network shows, and author bestselling cookbooks.

Make it Ahead

Make It Ahead is divided into seven recipe chapters, divided by course.  An eight chapter combines some of the eighty six recipes in the book into cohesive menus by theme.

  • Cocktails and snacks
  • Starters (salads, soups and appetizers)
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
  • Vegetables/side dishes
  • Desserts
  • Breakfast Items

Each recipe includes a brief headnote, tips on the margin, and most importantly, the instructions for finishing or reheating the made ahead dishes.  Almost all of them include pictures, photographed by Quentin Bacon.

Photo supplied by Clarkson Potter

French Green Bean Salad with Warm Goat Cheese

Prepping Ahead, Cooking Ahead

The recipes in Make It Ahead are written in the order that steps need to be completed.  Only in the sidebar blurbs readers can verify at which point they can stop the process, and how the prepped or assembled dish is stored or reheated.  There were some cases, for instance, where all the make ahead steps were chopping up vegetables to be roasted later, or pre-cooking an ingredient.  Ditto with desserts: most desserts are already make-ahead projects, like the luscious tres leches cake with berries.

Where the book shines is in the section on lunch dishes.  Ham and leek empanadas in puff pastry are great alternatives to sandwiches for weekend lunch or brunch and can be frozen for up to three months.  Quinoa tabbouleh and paella salads are very packable, but more importantly, flavorful dishes that will turn heads in the break room at work.

Some of the recipes I have tried from the book include the roasted cauliflower snowflakes (with panko and parmesan cheese), the peas and pancetta, and the filet of beef with Béarnaise mayonnaise.  The directions were simple and I was very pleased with the results.  I can’t wait to continue cooking through the book.  On my radar next?  The baked farro and butternut squash casserole, rosemary rack of lamb with easy tzatziki (I really like Ina’s lamb recipes), and the dark chocolate terrine with orange sauce.

Getting Better at Making Things Ahead

In the introduction to the book and in the beginning of all chapters, Ina provides tips on how to prepare for entertaining, how to make the most out of the freezer and the refrigerator as ‘make it ahead’ tools.  She also showcases figures like Dorothy Lee, the editor in chief of the Ladies Home Journal and designer/retailer Lee Bailey, who made cooking for company seem effortless.

Make it Ahead Ina Garten

Decadent Chocolate Cake (Gluten-Free)

Great Food 360˚ Rating

Make It Ahead by Ina Garten is filled with delicious, well written recipes that will simplify weekday and special occasion meals for home cooks of all skill levels.  (4/5 stars)

I received a copy of Make It Ahead from Random House/Clarkson Potter in exchange for this review.  All opinions are my own.

GreatFood360˚ is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to  We would be earning a small percentage of store credit for each good purchased through the provided links.

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Adriana is a financial analyst by day, avid home cook in the evenings, and food blogger and runner in the strange hours between those two. When not in the kitchen concocting meals and stories to pass around, she is out looking for the next great bite (or the ingredients to make it at home), checking what's new at the market, or planning a trip around great food and wine.

8 Responses to “Great Food Reads: Make It Ahead”

  1. November 5, 2014 at 10:36 am #

    Great review Adriana and thanks for sharing. I am absolutely going to pick this one up since I have all her others. My mom (aka Nana Ro) and I have some fabulous memories of having books signed by her. Not sure about the other photos but you nailed it with sharing that goat cheese salad one. It is a favorite of ours but the additional of a puff pastry crust- genius. I am already thinking of an upcoming event I could use this (NEED THIS !!) for. And loved the story about the potlucks. Isn’t it amazing the little traditions that get started and end up having quite a bit of meaning in our lives. Kind of like deciding to join a blogging group…..:)

    • November 5, 2014 at 6:15 pm #

      Thanks Tricia! I know the goat cheese en croute is a must do. I’m a casual Ina fan. Which of her other books would you recommend?

  2. November 5, 2014 at 6:04 pm #

    Nice review! I’m going to see her tonight. It’s not really a book signing. It’s at Symphony Hall in Boston so I’m not sure what it is (my friend bought the tickets). I’ll let you know how it is.

    • November 5, 2014 at 6:13 pm #

      Maybe it’s a conversatory/panel discussion? I hope you have fun.

      I ordered my next Blogging for Books: Provence, 1970. It’s about a meeting of culinary greats, including James Beard, at Julia Child’s La Pitchoune home. The author is Luke Barr, grand-nephew of MKF Fisher.

      • November 5, 2014 at 11:34 pm #

        It was an armchair chat with Faith Middleton from NPR interviewing her. Ina was adorable. She is so down-to-earth and genuine (like Dorie, but different). I enjoyed the evening, but it was a little weird to me that hundreds of people (it was sold out) paid $60 just to hear her interviewed, no book or book signing (though the signed books were on sale). It was sponsored by Williams-Sonoma.

        I just posted my first Blogging for Books post. Do they tell you when you can request the next book or do you just do it when you’re ready? I read Provence, 1970 over the summer, on Mary’s recommendation. You’ll love it.

        • November 6, 2014 at 8:39 am #

          I was thisclose to requesting A Kitchen in France next. I loved your review, from one armchair traveler to another.

  3. November 5, 2014 at 10:47 pm #

    My copy arrived on the same day as Baking Chez Moi! And I’ve already tried one of Ina’s desserts (shocking, I know!!!). Now I’m eyeing that chocolate cake. I love your tradition of pot lucks with your friends…I have a feeling you’ll be using many of Ina’s new recipes 🙂

  4. Mary Hirsch
    November 9, 2014 at 12:06 am #

    Love this review, Adriana. This is the first cookbook of Ina’s I have not pre-ordered. Am going to order it tomorrow, Nice review. You will LOVE, LOVE, LOVE, Provence 1970. I didn’t want it to end. I am reviewing the Moosewood Cookbook – Classic that Mollie Katzen just published. I am having some fun reviewing it with my friends cooking the favorites. I love A Kitchen in France and received it the same day I received Chez Moi. Thank you for introducing Betsy and me to Blogging for Books.

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