Sitting Down with Martha Stewart

I had a one-on-one interview with Martha before she taught a cooking class at Macy’s Home Store at South Coast Plaza.  People magazine had their fifteen minutes before I had mine.

Martha was promoting her newest book,  “Martha’s Entertaining: A Year of Celebrations” by Martha Stewart (Clarkson Potter, $75, hardcover, 432 pages).

I started our interview with a question about the biggest difference between this “entertaining” book and the original one that was published in ’82. (You can see that my copy has had a workout over the years – torn cover, but still in my cookbook library.)

“This one is the most personal book she has ever written,” she said responding to a question about how the new book compares with the iconic entertaining book she wrote 30 years ago. “The first book was about parties I was catering for others. This is about my own parties.

“The food and recipes have changed, they are more international. Now ingredients are more readily available. Grocery stores have quite an array. In the early 80’s I’d go to 30 or 40 stores to get all the ingredients I needed for a party. I made my own croissants and baguettes. Now I buy them.

So … I cleared my throat and asked a question about our daughters, both named Alexis.

My daughter Alexis, I said, tends to entertain outdoors.  Her parties are lovely, but tend to weigh in on the casual side. No sterling silver. No bone china. So, Martha, is there a trend toward “casualization” when it comes to home entertaining in our daughters’ generation?

She told me that her daughter Alexis only has one set of dishes in her Manhattan home. Nice dishes, very nice dishes, but only one set. So Martha invited her to come to her one of her homes and take home anything she wanted.

Me? I would have rented a U-Haul. “Her” Alexis took home six glasses.

Back to the book. I really enjoy Martha’s captions; they offer rich details about places, props and people. She told me that she worked from the designed manuscript, writing specifically to the visuals. “I lock myself up in the craft room of my house and write the words,” she said. “I think it took me 20 days to write the final text.”

At the beginning of class, Martha spent time talking up her brand of utensils (yes, they are all on sale at Macy’s Home Store).   By the time she finished, I was persuaded. I needed to own her spatula (yes, I have plenty of spatulas, but she was very convincing).

She baked a Pear Crostada, an open-faced tart loaded with fresh fruit. Here’s the recipe for this luscious, very approachable dessert:

(TO PRINT RECIPES, the best approach is to cut/paste special. 1. highlight text – hit copy – control C  2. open word document   3. go to edit and hit paste special  4. hit unformatted text   5. hit OK  6. Now you can print it and it will look perfect.)

Martha’s Pear Crostada
Yield: one 14-inch tart, about 10 servings
3 pounds ripe, firm pears (about 10), peeled, cored, slices 1/2-inch thick
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
All-purpose flour for dusting
Tart Dough (recipe follows)
Egg wash: 1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 teaspoon water
Optional: 1/4 cup sanding sugar, see cook’s notes
Optional for serving: whipped cream or crème fraiche
Cook’s notes: Sanding sugar is a large crystal sugar that adds sparkle to baked goods. It is also called “pearl sugar” or “decorating sugar.” It is sold at baking supply shops such as Classic Cakes in Garden Grove, or Michael’s (several locations in Orange County).
1. Toss fruit with granulated sugar and cornstarch in a bowl and set aside.
2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Flour a large (at least 18 inches long) piece of parchment paper. Place dough on parchment. Using your knuckles, press edges of dough so it doesn’t crack during rolling. Lightly flour top of dough to prevent sticking; roll into an 18-inch round, about 1/8-inch thick. Transfer dough (still on parchment) to a large baking sheet.
3. Mound fruit in center of dough, leaving a 2-inch border all around. Fold dough over fruit, pleating it as you go (there will be an area in the center where dough doesn’t cover fruit). Brush the exposed dough with the egg wash and sprinkle with sanding sugar, if using.
4. Bake until crust is golden brown and filling is bubbling in the center, 45 to 50 minutes. Transfer sheet to a wire rack and let tart cool completely. If desired, accompany with whipped cream or crème fraiche.
Nutrition information (per serving without sanding sugar or optional whipped cream): 292 calories, 40 percent of calories from fat, 13 g fat, 5 g saturated fat, 9 mg cholesterol, 41 g carbohydrates, 3 g protein, 361 mg sodium, 1.8 g fiber
Source: “Martha’s Entertaining: A Year of Celebrations” by Martha Stewart (Clarkson Potter, $75)

Martha’s Tart Dough
Yield: enough for a 14-inch tart
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup fine yellow cornmeal
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) very cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon ice water, plus more if needed
1. Pulse flour, cornmeal, sugar and salt in food processor to combine. Add butter and pulse until mixture resembles coarse crumbs with some larger pieces remaining. Evenly drizzle 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon ice water over mixture. Pulse until dough is crumbly but holds together when squeezed. If dough is too dry, add more water, 1 tablespoon at a time, and pulse to combine.
2. Turn dough out onto work surface and knead once or twice, then shape into disk. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour or up to overnight. (Dough can be frozen up to 1 month; thaw overnight in refrigerator before using.)
Nutrition information (per serving figuring 10 servings): 100 calories, 54 percent of calories from fat, 6g fat, 4 g saturated fat, 9 mg cholesterol, 10 g carbohydrates, 2 g protein,246 mg sodium, 0.8 g fiber
Source: “Martha’s Entertaining: A Year of Celebrations” by Martha Stewart (Clarkson Potter, $75)

Another must-try recipe? Martha’s Blueberry Belgian Waffles

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