‘Barefoot Contessa’: Ina Garten Relies on 1 Main Ingredient to Create the Easiest Party Appetizers

Ina Garten has been the star of Food Network’s Barefoot Contessa since 2003. The celebrity chef has made a name for herself by developing easy recipes for even novice cooks. Garten’s show also offers plenty of entertaining tips, from setting up buffet displays to decorating dining tables.

When it comes to throwing a party, Garten always seems to turn to one main ingredient to create the perfect appetizers.

'Barefoot Contessa' star Ina Garten in 2019
‘Barefoot Contessa’ star Ina Garten in 2019 | Brad Barket/Getty Images for The New Yorker

Ina Garten doesn’t have any professional culinary training

When Garten was young, she didn’t cook much — her parents wanted her to focus on school. Years later, though, while working in the White House, Garten realized she wanted more from life. She saw an ad for a specialty foods store for sale in East Hampton, New York, and she purchased it on a whim.

After running the store for almost 20 years, Garten sold it and began writing cookbooks. Her books were instant hits, which eventually caught the attention of Food Network. By 2003, Garten had her own show, though she taught herself how to cook. She earned a MBA while living in Washington, D.C., but she never had any professional food training.

'Barefoot Contessa' star Ina Garten raises a glass
‘Barefoot Contessa’ star Ina Garten raises a glass | Mike Smith/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank

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Ina Garten loves making toasts, or crostini, for parties

Garten’s show focuses not only on recipes but also on techniques for entertaining. And when it comes to parties, Garten loves handheld appetizers. One ingredient she continuously turns to is toast. Garten loves crostini, which are a popular appetizer consisting of an Italian baguette sliced, toasted, then topped with various flavor combinations.

Garten has developed various crostini or “toasts” recipes throughout her career, including her fig & goat cheese toasts, as well as her tomato crostini with whipped feta. Watch Garten make her fig and goat cheese toasts below.

Watch Ina Garten make her fig & goat cheese toasts.

How to make Ina Garten’s tomato crostini with whipped feta 

6 ounces crumbled feta
2 ounces room-temperature cream cheese
2/3 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons minced shallots (2 shallots)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 pounds ripe heirloom or cherry tomatoes, diced to 1/2-inch
3 tablespoons basil leaves, julienned, plus extra for serving
20 to 25 toasted baguette slices, 1/2-inch thick
2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts

Add feta and cream cheese to a food processor. Pulse until cheeses combine. Then, add 1/3 cup olive oil, the lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Pulse once more until the mixture is combined and smooth.

Add shallots, garlic, and vinegar to a medium bowl. Let mixture sit at least 5 minutes (or up to 1 hour) before whisking in the remaining 1/3 cup olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste. Add tomatoes, gently combine; set aside for 10 minutes, then add basil.

Take crostini and spread whipped feta generously over each slice. Add tomatoes to crostini using a slotted spoon. Plate crostini and top with pine nuts and extra basil.