I’m a simple gal. I have a few things that I love in life. My family, my accountant (what? He’s really helpful), and the What’s For Dinner? Section in Martha Stewart Living. It’s a themed meal of four distinct dishes (usually an appetizer, a main, a side, and a dessert). Each recipe is printed on a handy card adorned with typically beautiful Martha photography, and, best of all, there’s a little guide that instructs easily flustered people like me in the subtle art of orchestrating a meal. That is, Martha tells you when to start each step so that you end up with a meal that comes together so cohesively, your guests will marvel at your calm, unsweaty composure.
At least that’s the idea. As you know if you’ve read our blog before (may I direct you towards past posts to your right??), the “meal for four in about an hour” rarely takes less than two hours. And no one is ever composed. We’ve had a fair amount of success getting everything onto the table at the same time, but it does take two of us, with our spouses tending bar. And we’re ALL sweaty.
But it’s a beloved ritual all the same. So when the January issue threatened to RIP MY HEART ASUNDER with a dreaded Formatting Change, I tried to remain cool.
What’s For Dinner? had been sullied! A French meal complete with French table stuffs – all for sale of course, on the next page. What! Where is my unsweaty composure guide? Where are my beautiful detailed dessert photos? What is this catalogue of supreme preppiness?
I do have other things to worry about, it’ll surprise you to know, so I forgot about it until February, when What’s For Dinner became a “ROMANTIC MEAL FOR TWO!” Romance! Who needs it!? I want a kitchen full of Martha jokes with my sister, and I want dudes tending bar!
Naively, I awaited the March issue.
I’ll stop right here, lest the tension become too much for you. We don’t need to dwell on things as upsetting as the March What’s For Dinner?*
Instead, we’ll talk about a magical evening last weekend when we decided to defy the tide of change and tackle the December 2011 WFD. A delicious vaguely Asian meal, this Coconut-Curry Noodle Soup topped with Lime-Basil Chicken and bookended by Broiled Shrimp Toasts and amazing Clementine Granita was a home run from every angle.**
You can make this stuff in about an hour IF you follow the handy guide (RIP), make the granita ahead of time, and get the chicken marinating. The soup, the toasts, and the chicken (once it’s marinated) are quick and easy.
If you’ve always wanted to grind up raw shrimp, now’s your chance, soldier. For the shrimp toasts, whip a bunch of stuff (including the shrimp) in a food processor, spread it on baguette slices, and broil. Then try not to eat 50.
Chicken is chicken, and I’m not a huge fan, but this chicken was delightful. Marinate it up, broil it, cut it into strips, toss with basil. Eat it on its own (zzz) or stick it in the soup you are about to make…
…Right now! The Coconut-Curry Noodle Soup is just a jar of Thai curry paste (supposed to be yellow, but I used green, as I am a human being without supernatural access to these things), some broth, coconut milk, noodles. I used rice noodles because I love them, but I got wayyyy too much. One package is plenty. I also used about 30% too much coconut milk because I wasn’t paying attention (there’s a reason for that in the post directly following this one), but no one seemed to mind.
And now, the coup de gras. Clementine granita in tiny adorable cups made out of the bodies of dead clementines. You will need an entire carton of clems, and you will need to set aside some time. It’s not as hard “removing the flesh from a halved clementine” as you might imagine. Clementine peels WANT to come off of the flesh. I used a sharp knife to cut around the inside of the peel, then just sort of stuck a fork in there and pried it out. Many times it just came all out at once.
When you’ve left your naked and humiliated clementine flesh in a strainer and attempted to squeeze as much juice out of it as possible, you’ll still need to juice about a million more clementines to get the amount of stuff you need. Do not lose heart. Your efforts will be rewarded. Roll the peel-cups in sugar, stick them in the freezer. Mix the juice with some other things, stick that in the freezer too. Proceed with your dinner-making, then, three hours later, rake up the granita with a fork and jam it into the cups. Arrange on a plate and smile smugly, because you’ve just created something beautiful, healthy, and delicious.
The What’s For Dinner section valiantly saluted its own demise with this December 2011 iteration. We can all learn a thing or two from its bravery. (If it’s just one thing, I recommend learning the shrimp toast).
*It’s a BEER-TASTING DINNER, OK? Everything is FRIED and BROWN and BEER KEEPS GETTING MENTIONED. What am I? Tailgating? It’s frigging MARTHA STEWART LIVING. I want lavender-scented shortbread and FRIGGING FRISEE SALADS. STOP RUINING EVERYTHING.
**SOMETHING I IMAGINE IS SAID A LOT AT BEER-TASTING DINNERS.