Thursday, September 24, 2009

Dinner at Home Review

When I arrived home from work yesterday, I was delighted to see an advanced copy of "Martha Stewart's Dinner at Home" cookbook sitting on the coffee table with a press release attached. It was my advanced copy, courtesy of MSLO. (Thank you to Brooke!)

As I looked through the book, I realized just how excellent Martha Stewart cookbooks truly are. Not only do the recipes stress quality ingredients and emphasize careful planning, they are also so easy to read and to follow. Many recipes in other books, I find, tend to omit certain steps, or do not anticipate a reader's preparatory methods, leaving room for confusion. Martha's recipes, which have a long, evolutionary history, have reached a kind of zenith; they are nearly perfect in how they are conveyed to the reader. No step is left out. From the tools you'll need to the preparation involved, even advice on where to find certain ingredients, the recipes in a Martha Stewart cookbook aim to make the process as easy as possible, even if the recipe is challenging and involved.

Accompanying the recipes, of course, are dozens of full-colour photographs, beautiful in their styling and presentation. Most of the photographs are exclusive to the book, but there are some that have been previously published in Martha Stewart Living magazine. Photographs, to me, are essential to a good cookbook. Even masterworks, such as books by Julia Child, seem lacking to me since they do not have colour photography to demonstrate how the dish should look with suggestions on presentation. Martha, being the aesthete that she is, never leaves out the photographic component in her books, which I'm thankful for.

This book, Dinner at Home, offers 52 complete menus (starter, main course, side, dessert) compiled by Martha Stewart for quick and delicious meals at home, with dozens of original recipes. In her introduction, Martha stresses the importance of cooking at home in a way that is healthy but also time-effective. None of the menus take longer than an hour to prepare, given some planning and preparation.

The book is organized by season, allowing for the use of seasonal produce and ingredients in cooking. Martha introduces each section with a summary of the season's flavours and produce. Helpful hints for preparation and informative facts about the produce being used in the recipes are present in nearly every dish, allowing the cook to understand what she is cooking and why it lends itself so well to the recipe at hand. (I find this element so refreshing in a cookbook!)

I am personally drawn to the winter section. Maybe it's the increase in the chill in the air at night and the gradual change of leaf colour in the trees on my street, but I am developing quite an appetite again for those hearty, deep flavours of fall and winter. My favourite menu, thus far, is in the winter section on page 203: Creamy Oyster Soup, Crispy Ham and Cheese Sandwiches, Celery Root and Walnut Salad and Pear and Dried Cherry Baked Custard Pie. Yum!! Can't wait to try it. I'm also in love with the sound of Martha's Dark Chocolate Pudding, which uses brown sugar and cinnamon in the recipe. Mmm...

The book will be in book stores on October 13th. Naturally, all of you have to get it.
I can't wait to try the chocolate pudding recipe!

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