December What’s for Dinner (A Meal for Four in…About Two Hours)


Verdict: Marthable

We’re back on track with the December issue of Martha Stewart Living. This time, we decided to tackle the Meal for Four and see if it really could be done in about an hour. It ended up being easier than we thought it would be, but still took a fair amount of time. Not that we thought we’d entirely screw it up, but we were a little disappointed that Martha was foolproof – if a little expensive – yet again.

Martha’s Menu

Baguette with Parmesan and Roasted Garlic

Quick Cioppino

Escarole, Blood Orange, and Walnut Salad

Olive Oil-Anise Cakes

Our Menu

Baguette with Parmesan and Roasted Garlic

Quick Cioppino

Baby Spinach, Clementine, and Walnut Salad

Olive Oil-Anise Cake


Lesley: We chose to make this month’s meal because a.) neither of us had cooked mussels and clams before, and b.) this is the first Saturday since August that everyone was free at the same time. We had most of the basic ingredients in our pantries but needed key items, like mussels, clams, halibut, 1-cup mini bundt pans, etc. Susan set out to find these, only to discover that the local seafood market had recently closed for good and the local kitchen supply store didn’t have mini bundt pans. Kroger had the seafood, but we had to make do with one medium bundt pan. We also couldn’t find escarole (or, rather, refused to go to more than one store for it), so we made do with spinach and substituted clementines already on hand for blood oranges. Fresh “crusty” baguettes were in short supply at 6pm on a Saturday, so we settled for a garden variety bagged loaf.

Susan: We’re lucky to have a Penzey’s spices in Richmond, so finding ground anise took about four seconds and only a little over $2.00, but our local cooking/baking supply store isn’t the best, so I had to spend $30 on a six-cup bundt pan. Our local market had all of the seafood, although I opted to substitute tilapia for halibut becuase it is half the price. The shellfish and fish only cost about $20 total, and the rest of the groceries weren’t too expensive. We had some prosecco already, so we just picked up some guava nectar for about $0.50 and had nice light cocktails with dinner.


Lesley: After two hours of shopping, cooking began at 7:15pm while husbands made bellinis and set the table. As directed, we began with the garlic, drizzling two heads with olive oil, wrapping them individually (in foil, rather than parchment) and putting them in the oven for 30 minutes. The cioppino broth was straightforward; no substitutions or omissions here. (This meal only required one pot, which was nice). While the broth simmered and the garlic roasted, Susan started on the cakes and I readied the salad and bread. I used a spoon to spread the olive oil onto the baguette halves (later I discovered that we had a brush!). I also discovered that roasted garlic will pop right out of its bulb with a gentle squeeze.


Susan debearded and scrubbed the mussels and clams, a process that I thankfully missed, and added them to the broth. Some of the clams still hadn’t opened at the 6 minute mark so we waited a few more minutes, sprinkling cheese and spreading garlic on the bread, tossing the salad in olive oil and balsamic and nibbling on blue cheese brie.


Susan: The cake was ready to take out of the oven just as we were sitting down to dinner, which was about 9:00pm, clocking our dinner at an hour and forty minutes. And that’s with two of us working. Luckily, everything worked out rather well, and we stuffed ourselves with food (to soak up the alcohol we’d been drinking throughout).


The cioppino was delicious and just enough for four (even with two hungry dudes). The baguettes were garlicky and good, and our improvised salad was sweet. I couldn’t decide if the olive oil cake was worth making again. It was refreshingly different and not too sweet, but kind of salty and a little off-putting. If making again, I’d probably cut down on the salt and maybe splurge on a really nice olive oil.


We now move onto “crafts,” which weirds me out because crafting is so out of my comfort zone, but my confidence is boosted by how well this dinner came out. TEAM MARTHABLE? More like Team Unstoppable!



  1. Lesley · December 9, 2008

    D’oh! Guilty on the cheap olive oil buyin’. I’ll make it up to you with some equally as cheap craftin’!

  2. Emily · December 9, 2008

    How fun! Looks like it was delicious! We’re having a holiday / party food recipe contest and would love to have you guys enter! The prize is a $400 GC to Check out the contest at

    I’m not into crafs either, but my co-worker just made homemade vanilla and it’s not only pretty but was super easy! Vanilla Beans + Vodka.

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