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The Piglet2012 / First Round, 2012

Cook This Now: 120 Easy and Delectable Dishes You Can't Wait to Make

Cook This Now

Melissa Clark

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VS
The Mozza Cookbook: Recipes from Los Angeles's Favorite Italian Restaurant and Pizzeria

The Mozza Cookbook

Nancy Silverton

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Judged by: Ina Garten

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In 1978, Ina Garten left her job as a nuclear budget analyst at the White House to pursue her dream of working in the food business. While working for President Carter, Ina came across an advertisement in The New York Times for a specialty food store in the Hamptons. The next day, she and her husband Jeffrey drove up to see the small store in Westhampton, New York. To her surprise, two months later, she found herself the owner of a 400-square-foot food store called Barefoot Contessa.

Eighteen years later, Barefoot Contessa had grown to a 3,000 square foot store in East Hampton, New York and Ina decided it was time to shake things up. She sold the store to her chef and manager and tried her hand writing cookbooks. The first book, The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook, was published in 1999 and to her surprise was one of the best selling cookbooks of the year. She has since gone on to write five more phenomenally successful cookbooks, Barefoot Contessa Parties!, Barefoot Contessa Family Style, Barefoot in Paris, Barefoot Contessa at Home, and Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics. In addition, her current book Barefoot Contessa, How Easy is That? was published in the fall of 2010 and became an instant bestseller. Ina has been a monthly columnist at House Beautiful and in prior years at Martha Stewart Living and O, the Oprah magazine.

In 2002 Food Network approached Ina to do a cooking show based on her cookbooks and her love of entertaining. Ina was reluctant but decided to challenge herself to do 13 shows. That was 8 ½ years ago and her Emmy-winning cooking show, Barefoot Contessa, is one of the highest rated shows on Food Network.

In 2005, Ina, with her friend and business partner Frank Newbold, started a company called Barefoot Contessa Pantry, which produces the highest quality baking mixes and are distributed to thousands of specialty food and gift stores around the country.

Ina lives in East Hampton, New York with her husband, Jeffrey.

The Judgment

What a treat to be asked to make recipes from books written by both Melissa Clark (Cook This Now) and Nancy Silverton (The Mozza Cookbook). They call this work? I love the philosophy in Melissa's book — you may know intellectually that you should cook in season but only when you brave a Brooklyn farmer's market in the dead of winter do you really have the challenge of actually cooking with seasonal ingredients. I adore Melissa's writing: it's as delicious to read as the recipes promise to be. You feel that you're right there with her smelling and tasting at the freezing farmer's market. She has the knowledge of someone who is passionate about food and who has put in the time to study and learn. This kind of knowledge doesn't come easily — it comes from loving the subject and jumping out of bed every morning anxious to start the day cooking. I also love that Melissa isn't a food tyrant. In every recipe she has variations and suggestions on how to make each recipe yours. "If you're in a meaty mood, feel free to lard the pot [of White Bean Stew] with a ham hock or two." This is a cookbook writer with the confidence in her reader to let them be creative. How refreshing is that?

However, Nancy Silverton's recipes, I have to admit, are more aligned with my style of cooking. Nancy loves flavor that hits you in the head — food that's filled with texture and a style that is both old world and yet very modern at the same time. I love that her idea of her restaurant and pizzeria Mozza is that it's not just about the food, it's also about the atmosphere — and I find that her recipes have the same spirit. These are the kind of recipes that are so earthy that you want to share them. Her stunningly delicious food takes simple Italian ingredients and whips them into flavorful dishes that are traditional but with a modern twist. Recently, I made the Olives al Forno, which were olives warm from the oven and infused with garlic, lemon, orange, and rosemary. Not only did the house smell wonderful but I couldn't stop eating them. Next, I made Burrata with Speck, English Peas, and Parmigiano-Reggiano. It's not easy to infuse burrata with enough flavor but the speck, peas, and mint provided the right balance with lots of flavor — and texture — to bring out the best in the creamy burrata. Finally, I tackled what seemed to be one of the most challenging recipes in the book but one that Nancy is so well known for — pizza. I chose to make the Funghi Misti, Fontina, Taleggio, and Thyme Pizza. It took some time to make but the results were absolutely delicious — and so worth it. Now I'm looking forward to a wonderful autumn working my way through many more recipes in The Mozza Cookbook.

And the winner is…

The Mozza Cookbook: Recipes from Los Angeles's Favorite Italian Restaurant and Pizzeria

The Mozza Cookbook: Recipes from Los Angeles's Favorite Italian Restaurant and Pizzeria

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Do you Agree? (43 comments)

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over 4 years ago zalmine

I have the Mozza cookbook and it's interesting, but so many recipes are impractical and difficult and ridiculously time consuming - 4 hours to make polenta!! Give me a break. The cookbook is also way too wordy. It is more than a little ironic that Ina Garten thinks Nancy Silverton's cooking is more like her style of cooking. Does she watch her own shows? Has she seen what she writes in her own cookbooks? For god's sake - one of Ina's recipes is how to bake a potato! Melissa Clark wins hands down for her cookbook, in my opinion. Ina needs to recuse herself and Melissa's cookbook needs to be added to the second round

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over 4 years ago ms.v.

I say we try to get Cook This Now added as a wildcard...what do you say?

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over 4 years ago zalmine

I agree

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over 4 years ago HeatherM

What a disappointing review. I'm curious what stipulations are provided to reviewers, aside from choosing a winner - it seems none. All of the reviews are structured differently, which I love, and all of them are different lengths, which usually is not a problem, except in this instance. "It took some time to make but the results were absolutely delicious" does not tell me how you used this recipe. I adore Melissa Clark's writing and recipes in the Times, so I hope that Ina did not make her recipes and dislike them, but I would like to know if she did. I am not inclined to say that Ina's choice was wrong, only that there is so little evidence in offer it's impossible to judge.

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over 4 years ago loubaby

I apologize for writing my previous comments...misplacing my anger--yes and being so wrong. I shouldn't publish any opinions after reading the daily newspaper! I went and did more research on the two cookbook authors above and I retract my opinion that Ina picked the winner by cronyism. Nancy Silverton is a food perfectionist, has a long history of accomplished cookbooks and restaurants and her latest book above has nothing but great things to say about it everywhere I looked on the Web. Melissa, while being a super popular writer/cookbook writer and really has a way with words and renditions on recipes, still doesn't compare to Silverton's expertise or knowledge. I agree with Ina, Mozza is a winner and I am an blabbering fool!.

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over 4 years ago loubaby

I may be misplacing my anger here...but I think the whole thing is based on "cronyism"...you know what goes on in our government?......anyway, Ina Garten and Nancy Silverton are probably good friends and they both are Bigger Names in the food world...Melissa Clark is not as well known or reveered in the food world...Ina probably looked through Melissa's book and snubbed her nose at it, and then had to say something gracious...so she did....and then Ina says, Nancy cooks more like I do--uses more fancy, expensive ingredients, spends more time ...because she has more time than the rest of us working class people. I think this review by her clearly shows her having her nose up in the air.

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over 4 years ago Inko

Maybe she tried some recipes and they didn't work, but she held back from disparaging Melissa Clark in print. I have a friend who owned Melissa Clark's book; she cooked several recipes and was so disappointed that she stopped using the book.

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over 4 years ago deucemom

Maybe it is because I am Italian, I have my family favorite recipes and classic Italian cookbooks that I am so excited to add Melissa Clark's new book to my shelf (it is on my list). I too, agree with many comments below regarding the lackluster job Ina Garten on the review.

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over 4 years ago Arathi

Agree with the comments below - it's not clear whether Ina made any of the recipes in Melissa's book. Even this isn't necessarily a problem - other judges have sometimes said they didn't make recipes, although it's usually because they were far too elaborate which is more understandable, and not the case with Melissa's book. But her description of Melissa's book is also utterly generic and could be used to describe just about any cookbook - it makes you wonder if she even read the book at all. Other judges, even if you disagree with their comments, are usually pretty specific. This review feels like she picked the winner before opening either book and then wrote a few token sentences about the other one.

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over 4 years ago calendargirl

I was surprised when I came to the end of this review, which I had greatly anticipated, given the richness of the two books. I know more about Ina (detailed bio) than I do about her experience of the two books.

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over 4 years ago cookbookchick

I was thinking the same thing, calendargirl, but was reluctant to say it -- Ina's bio is longer than her review! ;-)

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over 4 years ago gastronomica

Great comments! It would have been helpful to hear Ina's opinions about ANY specific recipes from Melissa's book and how the recipes moved her toward Mozza. Good point made about Mozza being a weekend-cooking kind of book. "EatYourBooks.com," a great website for cookbook lovers, shows Melissa's book on 129 bookshelves with 22 notes and 17 recipe comments. Mozza is on 128 bookshelves and there are no notes or recipe comments. These results are rather telling - that Melissa's book is more popular and truly being used in the kitchen. What is the true objective of Piglet--popularity in the kitchen, sophistication? To me, "Cook This Now!" is the winner!

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over 4 years ago The Fiery Epicurean

I couldn't have said it better myself! Great comments!

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over 4 years ago Neering

It would be so lovely if we could have just one sample recipe to try from each book reviewed in Piglet! Is that possible??

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over 4 years ago Susige

If you click on either book it will take you to the Amazon website. On that site, you can click to read the first chapter for free and you'll be able to see some recipes and narrative. I found this to be extremely helpful while following Piglet as I do not own any of the books that were chosen. Hope that helps.

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over 4 years ago mrslarkin

Good idea, but that only works for Cook This Now, not The Mozza Cookbook.

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over 4 years ago Susige

It works for Mozza - it opens it as a Kindle and you can read the first chapter.

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over 4 years ago Neering

It would be so lovely if we could have just one sample recipe to try from each book reviewed in Piglet! Is that possible??

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over 4 years ago mrslarkin

That is a great idea, Neering!

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over 4 years ago jeneric

I'm so glad others were mystified by the lack of coverage of Melissa's recipes. I can't praise her book more highly. This week I was in a bit of a dinner rut and pulled down her Cook This Now! and within five minutes was back in my cooking groove. The soba sesame salad was great and a fantastic springboard for the next time I make it. The white bean stew with garlic and farro was outstanding, and later in the week I added broth to leftovers for a delicious soup. The mallobars were a trip to make and eat. I'm interested in the Nancy Silverton book but Melissa is my hero...

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over 4 years ago carol_tanenbaum

I never miss reading Melissa's articles in the Times -- no need to buy the cookbook, as I think I've saved almost every one of them. Will I buy Mozza? Probably not. Why? Because I've got all those wonderful Melissa clippings!

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over 4 years ago carol_tanenbaum

I never miss reading Melissa's articles in the Times -- no need to buy the cookbook, as I think I've saved almost every one of them. Will I buy Mozza? Probably not. Why? Because I've got all those wonderful Melissa clippings!

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over 4 years ago meglet

I share others' disappointment that Garten seems only to have cooked out of one of the books, but it's more than just that. After so many wonderful essays by so many thoughtful Piglet judges, it takes a lot of gall for Garten to submit two paltry paragraphs. Maybe she had a terrible headcold and couldn't muster any more than that, but maybe she considers herself too celebritous to spend more than half an hour on the task. If that's the case, then I say FEH.

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over 4 years ago Bevi

I would love Ina to clarify or add on to this article so we know if she tried any of Melissa's recipes. I followelissa in the NYT. I will buy both books..

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over 4 years ago luvcookbooks

Meg is a trusted home cook.

I bought Mozza pretty much the day it came out and read Melissa Clark every week in the New York Times Dining section. Reading all the comments tip me towards buying Clark's book as well (I keep thinking that I read her articles and recipes every week). Nancy Silverton's recipes are stellar but mostly for weekends, Melissa Clark's books really does sound like it's for every day!

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over 4 years ago Nourish Community

I can't help but feel after reading this review that Garten just didn't have her heart in this. ...

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over 4 years ago The Spiced Life

Agree. :(

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over 4 years ago BocaCindi

Couldn't have said it better. I love Ina, but this time she really did disappoint. I remember flipping through Mozza when it first came out. Some very interesting recipes. Great book. Contrast that to Melissa Clark's cookbooks -- including Cook This Now. I sit down and read them from cover to cover like a wonderful novel. Then I read it again to figure out what great recipe I want to make first. She can't be beat. Her history of writing cookbooks with various chefs has given her an ability to share her recipes in a laid back and simple manner. She was not given her due in this contest.

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over 4 years ago ATG117

I don't know that we can be certain that Ina did not try any of Melissa's recipes, just that she did not write about them. And I don't think she disputes the fact that Cook This Now is a great cookbook. In fact, she starts out by praising both books and Melissa's philosophy. That she relates more to Mozza is, in my opinion, a fair reason to vote for it. At the end of the day, all these judges are voting based on personal preference. That said, I agree that it would have been nice had she spoken about what she made from Melissa Clark's book. As much as I am a fan of Ina's I am more inclined to by Melissa's book.