Tag Archives: Martha Stewart

Pear-Ginger Muffins

I’m really bad at cross-referencing ingredients for baked goods with what I have in the cabinets. For that reason, I have enough flour to last me well through the holidays of 2010, and plenty of sugar to spare (granulated white, confectioners, light and dark brown.) The silver lining of my stocked baking cabinet (other than, of course, having a stocked baking cabinet) is that I can respond to a spontaneous desire for homemade chocolate-chip cookies when the mood strikes.

My refrigerator has been stocked with pears since they came in season, and I’m perfectly happy to enjoy them just as they are; pears are a great source of Vitamin C, and a provider of about 15% of daily required dietary fiber. According to USAPears.com, pears are considered a “nutrient-dense” food, meaning they contains few calories but provide vital nutrients. The high fiber and water content of nutrient-dense foods is useful in curbing appetite and giving the sensation of one being full; perfect for a mid-afternoon snack.

Last week, I decided to join the forces of my well-stocked baking cabinet and my ample pear supply and concoct these moist, warm, seasonably appropriate Pear-Ginger Muffins. Read More…

I Hate to Brag, But…: Martha Stewart 5.5 Qt. Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven

I hate to brag, but I am the proud owner of a new 5.5 quart Martha Stewart Dutch oven. It’s a solid piece of cast iron, a sturdy new kitchen toy, versatile and just plain beautiful. Quite frankly, I’ve been pining for a Dutch oven for months, so much so that my desire for one would creep up on me as I looked through cookbooks and magazines. Recipes that called for using the pot gravitated towards me, almost taunting me because I didn’t have one. Granted, I realize there are instances where another hefty pot could be substituted, but it got to the point where I just had to have a Dutch oven, once and for all.

Macy’s was having an awesome “one day sale” around the Easter holiday, and as soon as I could get to a computer, I checked the status of the Martha Stewart inventory. Her products are reliable and affordable, and if I found a Dutch oven with those characteristics that was on sale I’d pretty much take it as a sign that it was meant to be. The selection was pretty extensive with various sized of enameled cast iron pots, and a few colors to choose from. The sunny, happy mustard pot caught my eye, and I quickly added it to my online shopping cart. As if I needed any more assurance that this Dutch oven and I were made for each other, regular shipping at Macy’s.com had it in my possession in three days, way sooner than expected.

The hardest part about the entire process was finding the perfect recipe to christen my new toy. After perusing the many recipes I once had to pass on due to a lack of the feature tool, I decided on a delicious Bolognese to accompany homemade pasta.

Bolognese Sauce

From Gourmet Magazine, 2002

2 medium onions, finely chopped

4 celery ribs, finely chopped

2 medium carrots, finely chopped

5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 pound pancetta or slab bacon, ground by butcher or thinly sliced and pulsed in food processor until finely chopped

1 pound ground veal

1 pound ground pork (not lean)

1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste

1 cup whole milk

1 cup dry white wine

1 cup water

1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Cook onions, celery, carrot, and garlic in oil in a 6- to 8-quart heavy pot over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes.

Add pancetta, veal, and pork and cook over moderately high heat, stirring and breaking up lumps, until no longer pink, about 6 minutes.

Stir in tomato paste, milk, wine, water, and thyme and gently simmer, covered, until sauce is thickened, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Add salt and pepper and remove from heat.

Sauce may be made 2 days ahead and cooled, uncovered, before chilling, covered. Frozen, it keeps for 1 month.

The end result had many levels of flavor without being too complicated. As soon as I smelled the aroma of the onions, carrots, garlic and celery as they cooked down, I knew I had chosen the right recipe to begin my Dutch oven love affair. Instead of pancetta, I added bacon, which really stood out but was not too overbearing. The wine, tomato paste and milk elevate the Bolognese to another level of flavor, and allowing the three to simmer into the meat for about an hour gives the liquids the opportunity to develop, combined, their own unique taste.

Cooking with the Dutch oven was as fun as I thought it would be, and it really retained heat while the ingredients didn’t stick to the bottom or sides at all. This certainly would not have been the case with the other hefty, stock pots I own. Clean up was just as easy, as the remnants from the Bolognese just wiped easily off the inside surface of the Dutch oven.

The Bolognese was delicious, and though I definitely would like to make it again in the future, I can’t make any promises it will happen soon. I have many, many recipes I once passed on that I can now make with my beautiful, perfect, new Dutch oven.

Simmer Down: Play Nice, Ladies

I love food – I love everything about it. First and foremost, eating is high on my list of pastimes, but as I appreciate every flavor that hits my taste buds, I can’t help but want to delve deeper into what defines a dish. It is for this reason that I enjoy every minute in the kitchen, from the preparation that comes with a recipe, to the actual cooking techniques, to taste testing. However, I’m certainly nowhere near a formally trained chef.
When I read about or meet a classically trained chef, I immediately feel a sense of respect and admiration. Cooking is my hobby; something I appreciate and an activity that I feel brings out the best in me. However, it is an escape from my 9 -5. Chefs live, eat (no pun intended), and breathe cooking and have endured years of research, studying, and hands-on training in the classroom and kitchen. I have nothing but respect for formally trained chefs.
Through reading books, collecting recipes, watching documentaries or shows about or by amazing chefs, I have learned a thing or two in the kitchen. However, that is not to say I do not look up to those in the culinary field that may not have had the official training. This is evident from my first “I’m Not Worthy” post dedicated to Ina Garten. Women like Martha Stewart and Rachael Ray have become business moguls when it comes to cooking and entertaining with no educational background at a culinary institute. Women like them – smart, sassy, clever and creative – make me feel like my experience in the kitchen has some relevance.
In an interview on Nightline last week, Marth Stewart belittled Rachael Ray’s skills as a cook and deemed her more of a personality and less of a talent in the kitchen. Martha also shot down Rachael’s latest cookbook and was quick to mention it includes many recipes seen in earlier Rachael Ray cookbooks. Rachael’s response to the media has been gracious, and she even agrees that Martha is far superior a home cook.
Believe me, I get that Rachael Ray’s quirky catch phrases and effervescence can be, well, annoying at times. I get that many of her recipes are almost too simple, and at this point, with her magazine and her show, most come from a staff of writers and not Ms. Ray herself. However, I appreciate her excitement when she’s creating a dish, and I respect the fact that she highlights the importance of cooking and eating with your family. 30 Minute Meals does come in handy for a twenty-something girl cooking for two, but it’s mostly meant for the typical, working, busy family. Working a full time
job, rushing your children to a sports game or band practice, and still finding time to prepare a healthy, home cooked meal sounds almost impossible. Rachael Ray’s recipes make it easier to avoid stopping at a fast food restaurant for a quick meal. They offer a healthy alternative to eating on the run and give people the opportunity to spend less time in the kitchen and more time at the table, catching up with their family.
The most disheartening factor of the Ray-hate from Martha is the fact that a succesful, intelligent, respectable woman, clearly revered in her field, belittled the success and skills of another. It is no secret that Martha Stewart has her hand in several different business ventures, from her Martha Stewart Living merchandise and her magazines, to television programs, cookbooks, and a Sirius radio program. The woman even has a line of wine set to debut in January. She extends her expertise to crafts and “domestic arts,” pretty much bought Emeril Lagasse last year, and truly is in a league of her own. To compare Rachael Ray and Martha Stewart is apples to oranges, and Martha’s remarks about Ray in the kitchen reveal a hint of insecurity, in my opinion.
Several days ago, Martha issued an apology on her television show, which I think was expected considering Rachael Ray had nothing but compliments for her after she was dissed. There may be some truth in that Martha’s skills are more advanced than Rachael’s, and there is no denying that both are well-liked, intelligent women, and just plain good at what they do. Rachael Ray’s response is further evidence of her positive attitude and her awareness of her role in the culinary field, highlighting the respect she has for Stewart. Though she has shed light on the subject, and said she was sorry, Martha’s not-so-nice statements teach the lesson that negative comments about someone else’s success or skills will not make you any better at what you do.

Butternut Squash Risotto

It was a cold, dreary, wet Saturday in Fishtown. After suffering days of this weather earlier last week, you would think I couldn’t take it any longer.

The truth is, I’ve been dying for the brisk weather for months now. This summer, I mastered a few risotto dishes that (though they were delicious at the time) I found difficult to devour in the 90 degree heat. “Rainy Saturday” seemed to me a golden opportunity to break out the Arborio rice and master another risotto recipe.

Greensgrow Farms, our CSA, gave us a wonderful bundle last week which included the butternut squash that would be the highlight of my recipe. I must admit, my consumption of this fall vegetable consists of a few teaspoons full of soup I once tried (and enjoyed) however it always seemed intimidating to work with. With a sharp peeler and knife, I could not have been more wrong.

Courtesy of Martha Stewart, this Butternut Squash Risotto makes my “Top 5” of meals I’ve ever made. Though several similar recipes popped up on her site, this one seemed the most appealing due to the interesting combination of flavors from the squash, rosemary and nutmeg – three flavors characteristic of Autumn (and the brisk weather!).

Butternut Squash Risotto

From Martha Stewart Living, October 2005

Serves 4 to 6

1 medium butternut squash
6 cups Homemade Chicken Stock, or canned low-sodium chicken broth, skimmed of fat
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 shallots, minced
2 cups Arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
Freshly grated nutmeg
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary, plus sprigs for garnish
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese


1. Cut squash into eighths; discard seeds. In a large pot filled with 1 inch of simmering water, steam squash on a steaming rack or in a bamboo steamer until tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Scoop flesh from skin and mash lightly.
2. In a large saucepan, heat stock to a simmer. In a large heavy saucepan over medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon butter. Add oil and shallots; cook for 2 minutes. Add rice; cook, stirring, for 5 minutes.
3. Add wine to rice, and cook, stirring, until wine is nearly absorbed. Stir in a cup of stock and the squash; cook at a steady simmer until liquid is nearly absorbed. Continue stirring in stock, a ladleful at a time, until rice is creamy and firm but not hard in the center, 15 to 20 minutes. Add nutmeg, salt, and pepper to taste. Add chopped rosemary. Stir in remaining butter and most of the Parmesan. Serve immediately in shallow bowls garnished with the remaining cheese and rosemary sprigs.

The outcome is a perfectly starchy, creamy, heavy dish; the butternut squash lent a slightly sweet flavor while the rosemary gave the end result a fresh kick. Though it certainly is not the main ingredient, the nutmeg was just apparent enough and seemed to blend with the other flavors perfectly. Martha’s Butternut Squash Risotto recipe is incredibly satisfying and could be considered a main event…which is exactly what it was on that cold, dreary, wet Saturday in Fishtown.

Because I have yet to complete my arsenal of kitchen gadgets and appliances, I modified step one: I cut the top and bottom (about1.5 inches from inch) of the squash, and peeled it. Next, I halved it, removed the seeds and membranes and cut it into 1-inch cubes, which were then steamed in the microwave under a damp paper towel (any other suggestions are welcome!).

Additionally, I left the cheese out of my dish, which you will eventually find is the case with most recipes I try; this is only to please my loving boyfriend, who can’t stand it. I know what you’re thinking, and trust me, it still baffles me to this day that anyone would not even be willing to go near cheese. Still, if this is his only flaw, I’ll take it…he puts up with my fascination of the kitchen, my obsession with cooking gadgets, will wait patiently to taste test as I spend hours figuring out a recipe, and cleans the dishes.

Plus, a way to a man’s heart is his stomach.

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