Ina Garten’s 12th cookbook, Modern Comfort Food, comes out in less than one week, and to say we’re giddy about it would be an enormous understatement. It’s full of flavor-forward, feel-good food (think: tuna melts, beef stew, truffled mac and cheese), which, considering the year thus far, is exactly what all of us need right now. In the excerpt below, Ina talks about how she stays inspired. Also included: three must-make recipes from the book—the only question is, which will you make first?
People ask me all the time how I get inspired. The truth is, after writing twelve cookbooks, it’s not always easy to think of new ideas, so I look for inspiration everywhere. A dish I order in a restaurant or specialty food store might intrigue me. I love to cruise grocery stores and farmers’ markets looking for new ingredients like shishito peppers, fig spread, or truffle butter. In the past few years, social media has also become one of my biggest sources of inspiration; it’s not uncommon for me to see something on Instagram that gets me running to the kitchen.
One of the people in the food world who inspires me most is my friend Eli Zabar, who owns specialty food stores and restaurants in New York City. It’s not only his creative ideas but also his constant curiosity. He’s always asking people what they do with everything—the raspberry guy at the street market in Paris and the farmer who grows heirloom tomatoes on the roof of his building. Eli’s food is exactly what I love: good home-style cooking rather than restaurant food, but made with really good ingredients and prepared in a modern way.
In fact, when Food Network once asked me to list my three all-time favorite dishes for their show The Best Thing I Ever Ate, the grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup at Eli’s restaurant E.A.T. were on my list. They inspired my recipes for Cheddar & Chutney Grilled Cheese and Creamy Tomato Bisque. It’s the simplest, most familiar lunch, but so much better than you expect.
Sometimes recipes end up in a book through a chain of events. The Broccoli & Kale Salad is a dish I first had for lunch at Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s restaurant Topping Rose House in Bridgehampton, New York. I loved it so much that I came right home and made my own version. The salad was so simple and beautiful—bright green kale and broccoli with a jammy soft-cooked egg on top—that I snapped a picture and posted it on Instagram. The post got so many positive comments that I knew I had to include the recipe in this book! I hope you’ll find lots of inspiration from my Instagram, as well, so you can make dishes that your family and friends will love!