Saturday, March 26, 2011

Martha, Martha, Martha!

Even though I still haven't even opened some of the many Chrismukah cookbooks yet, I can safely declare Everyday Food: Great Food Fast (From the Kitchens of Martha Stewart Living) the best of the bunch. Say what you will about Martha, the woman knows how to write a cookbook (or how to hire people who know how to write a cookbook). Her reputation for being overly fussy and pretentious is well-earned, but I've only come to be a fan in her looser, post-prison, live TV show years, and find her approach to food is usually pretty straightforward and easy. That's this book's mission, of course, but her Cookies book is the best thing in my kitchen, for the same reason, and I can't recommend it enough for anyone who likes to bake or wants to start. Sure, there are some insane, highly decorated things that I'll never try, and a few overly fussy directions that can usually be ignored, but mostly there are very simple recipes, beautifully photographed, and always delicious.

Unsurprisingly, Martha's books are also very well organized. The cookie book is divided by cookie texture! Everyday Food is broken up by season. Each dish takes up two pages, with the recipe on one side and a gorgeous photo on the other (I prefer cookbooks with photos, as they make it easier to make snap judgments about what I might make). Each chapter ends with recipes for sides, and the back of the book has basics and techniques like roasting a chicken, making "perfect" rice and pasta, salad dressings and sauces.

Except for when it's too hot out to want the oven on, I don't have strong seasonal feelings about food, but I've stuck to the "winter" recipes so far, and they've all been very successful, and as quick and easy as promised. I started with Chicken With Prosciutto and Sage, about which there's not much to say but I like the way the prosciutto fuses with the chicken and makes that pretty red color in the photo. (I love that all these recipes are online.) It's also my favorite kind of recipe: one that teaches a technique and can be easily adapted of modified the next time I make it.

The same is true of the Mushroom Tart I made the following week. The original recipe - puff pastry topped with caramelized onion, mushrooms, spinach and goat cheese - is delicious, and the next week I used the techniques for the puff pastry and the onions, but made sun-dried tomato pesto in place of the spinach.

Much less adaptable but so damn good: Enchiladas With Pumpkin Sauce. This is the most complicated recipe I've tried from the book so far, what with roasting the chicken (you can also just go buy a rotisserie chicken, but what's the fun in that?) and getting out the blender and wrapping the enchiladas and all, but it was well worth it. It certainly wasn't difficult, just a bit more time-consuming and dish-dirtying than the others. It's very rich, definitely not light! It tasted very authentically Mexican to me (though what do I know?), and the heated up leftovers were even better.

There's not much to say about Salmon Steaks With Hoisin Glaze, but it's my favorite food photo I've taken in a long time (sometimes I don't try very hard so I can get to eating quicker!). I was trying to be low-carb that week so instead of rice I served it with some sauteed broccolette with garlic.
If you're not a fish person, I assume this would work pretty well with chicken too.

Last but not least, Tandoori Chicken With Yogurt Sauce was a bit of a disappointment. It's not that it was bad, it just didn't have the tang or the vibrant color I associate with tandoori chicken. And the "sauce" was more of an apple slaw - a side dish rather than a condiment (that might be because I got lazy and used the food processor instead of a box grater). But there's nothing wrong with that and it was all pretty tasty. I'd love to find out what makes real tandoori chicken that amazing red, and try this recipe with a bit more spice. Also, it's basically impossible to buy a small container of plain yogurt, and I have no interest in yogurt on its own. But that's just me.

In possibly related news, my diet is not going well...


mcm said...

Yogurt lasts a really long time. It can also usually be substituted for sour cream in many recipes. That is your yogurt PSA for the day.

Adam807 said...

In fact, I used some tonight! In another recipe from the same book. Hooray!

Rebecca said...

I love the magazine Everyday Food -- been getting it from the beginning of its run and find it super helpful for figuring out dinner! Easy and usually tasty!

Debra said...

I get the Everyday Food daily e-mails and I really like them. The recipes are easy, fast, and can often be made with stuff I have around. Those enchiladas look amazing though. Go Martha!