Shelf Love: The Martha Stewart Living Cookbook

I love my cookbooks, and because they are usually expensive things, I don’t buy many of them new. This one was an exception. As soon as I found out it was available, I decided to splurge. It cost me $38 in 2000 (about as much as a good size bag of groceries).

I think the first thing I made was Pad Thai, of all things. At the time, I had barely brushed the surface of international cuisine. Growing up in the foothills of Appalachia means you’re a good three to five hour drive from any decent restaurants, and the likelihood of finding any authentic ethnic cuisine is limited to remote Mom & Pop pizzerias run by people in witness protection. Moving to California expanded my taste experiences exponentially.

The best recipe I’ve tried has to be Martha’s Carrot-Ginger Layer Cake. It is utterly devoid of those annoying little rasins and frosted with a yummy Orange Cream-Cheese Frosting. I recall it being light, springy, moist, and tasty. This book is also responsible for my first successful attempts at pesto, chocolate ganache, chocolate lava cakes (they were awesome), and homemade turkey stock for gravy.

Martha inspires me to try complex recipes, and sometimes things work out pretty well. More than a few times, however, I’ve been frustrated by exotic ingredients or recipes that are dependent upon appliances that I don’t own (like a food processor or an ice cream maker or a blender–what can I say? I’m po’ and have a small kitchen). Occasionally, I’ll try a recipe that really just doesn’t work out well (like the pizza dough or risotto), but that could be my fault.

Take a look inside the Martha Stewart Living Cookbook at Amazon.com. The original edition boasts 1,200 recipes. You’ll get lots of mileage out of this cookbook.

A Few Good Things:

  • There are some excellent recipes for making your own spice mixes, marinades, dressings, sauces, jams, granola, and more. That’s very budget friendly.
  • Here and there, you’ll find handy tips or recipe variations in grey boxes. Those have always proven useful.
  • It covers the basics (homemade stock, pie crust, roast bird, meat loaf, etc.) as well as touring the exotic (bouilabaisse, paella, crumpets, pho).
  • I’ve explored a lot of new vegetable and fruit territory because of this cookbook.

Weak Points:

  • Some recipes require special equipment, and alternative instructions aren’t usually given. So, if you don’t know how to knead dough without a machine, you’re SOL.
  • Some recipes require tiny amounts of unusual ingredients you may never use again if you are even able to find them.
  • There aren’t a lot of pictures, but the few located in the front are gorgeous. It’s definitely not for the look & cook chef.
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