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Q&A: Martha Stewart on the inauguration, home cooking and the 4-egg rule

The Martha Stewart Show host rides a train back from the presidential inauguration with former CBS anchor Dan Rather.

Associated Press

The Martha Stewart Show host rides a train back from the presidential inauguration with former CBS anchor Dan Rather.

Martha Stewart sure gets around. She was in Washington, D.C., last week for President Obama's inauguration. This weekend she'll be in Tampa Bay for the Super Bowl — though the Jersey girl was hoping the New York Giants would be playing — and a book signing at Macy's in Clearwater. • She has a virtual presence, too. Her blog on Marthastewart.com is now getting a million hits a month, and the post about her inauguration experiences garnered 250,000 views. That's the highest of any single post she has logged, she says. Like other bloggers, she carries a digital camera everywhere she goes. • We talked with the domestic diva by phone last week from her farm in Bedford, N.Y. She was finalizing a weekend dinner party and counting her chickens. Latest count is 150.

How was the inauguration?

I was in the crowd on Monday; on Tuesday I went inside. It was so bitter cold and I was losing my voice so I was fearful of sitting outside. I experienced a lot of what was going on though. It was euphoric.

Home cooking seems to be the trend of the year. Your new book (Martha Stewart's Cooking School: Lessons and Recipes for the Home Cook, Clarkson Potter, $40) has come out at a good time.

People are being forced, whether they like it or not, to cook at home. This book is giving people an advantage.

Do you think people are really cooking more? Or are we just talking about it?

I've been invited to more people's homes lately for home-cooked meals. It's what's happening everywhere, and it's not just the economy. I think people are realizing that once they do it, cooking is fun.

But is it really cheaper when you factor in pantry stocking and equipment?

Everybody who has a house should have equipment and a stocked pantry. That's why you have a house. Otherwise, you might as well live in a cheap hotel. My housewares at Macy's are doing well. People are thinking about cooking and stocking up.

Do you think the tough economy will hamper the local and organic food movement, since that food is generally more expensive?

I hope not. I think as we continue to cook more, we'll realize that local food is better. (When you're on the East Coast) food from California is not fresh. And it's soaked in oil, as my daughter says.

How did we get so far away from home cooking?

Well, it all started when Mom went off to work. When Mom went off to work, fast food burgeoned. It was all part of the same movement. Then Mom decided she needed to balance; maybe she thought the kids were getting too fat. Then came the rise of the Food Network (and we went back into the kitchen).

But so many of the shows on the Food Network aren't about teaching cooking.

The game shows and reality shows are so appealing to viewers, but I find them painful to watch. Like Top Chef, where some of the skills aren't good. Plus, I can't stand humiliating people. I like teaching. I like encouraging.

Beautiful photography is a hallmark of your books and magazines. It certainly is encouraging. Your photos have shaped contemporary food photography. What's your philosophy?

Well, they have to be clear and show the food to best advantage. They should be informative as well as inspirational and make you want to eat the food. We photograph real food that's not doctored. We eat it right after we shoot it.

With so many printed publications struggling with advertising and circulation losses, how are your magazines doing?

The circulation of Everyday Food keeps growing. We're up to 1 million. Martha Stewart Living is holding its own. If the advertising world ever rights itself, we should be okay.

What projects are you working on?

We're building a pet-keeping Web site. We've done a lot of segments on the TV show and a little bit in the magazine about pets, and they are always really popular. We are really going after that segment of viewers. Our craft encyclopedia is coming out in March — we've been working on that for 10 years. And for the last two years we've been working on a new entertainment book.

You were involved in creating your daughter's show, Whatever, Martha! (9 p.m. Tuesdays, Fine Living network), where she pokes fun at you. How do you like it now that it's been on the air for a while?

I love it. It's so funny. Men love it; they watch it with their wives. Here's these two chicks (daughter Alexis Stewart and her buddy Jennifer Koppelman Hutt) making fun of me. At the same time, they haven't destroyed the content of the show, though some of my fans were taken aback at first. The network just renewed it for another year. There's no script. These are very funny girls. This year they are going to do more cooking segments.

What are you having for dinner tonight?

I haven't thought about dinner yet. I'm having 15 people for dinner tomorrow. We are having a duck consomme with gnocchi and beautiful lamb shanks with bulgur. The shanks are braised for a very long time. It's a very wintery meal.

And what do you do with the eggs from 150 chickens?

I take them to work everyday, to the office in New York. I send out an e-mail to let everyone know the eggs are here. They can have four per person. Sometimes, someone takes her four and gives them to someone who has four so she can make a souffle.

Janet K. Keeler can be reached at jkeeler@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8586.

>>moderate

Basic Drop Cookies

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt

1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

1 cup packed light brown sugar

1/2 cup granulated sugar

2 large eggs, room temperature

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 cups total desired add-ins (semisweet chocolate chips or chunks; coarsely chopped pecans, walnuts or peanuts; raisins, dried cranberries, dried sour cherries or chopped dried fruit such as apricots, dates or figs)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees with one rack in center and one rack in bottom third. Line two large cookie sheets with parchment paper.

In a bowl whisk together flour, salt and baking soda.

Place butter and both sugars in a mixing bowl. Mash and stir with a wooden spoon until mixture is very light and fluffy (this can take up to 6 minutes, or 2 to 3 minutes if you're using an electric mixer.) Add eggs one at a time, beating until thoroughly incorporated after each. Stir in vanilla.

Add dry ingredients in three additions, stirring until completely incorporated after each. Stir in desired add-ins. (If making several types of cookies, first divide dough into equal parts and then stir in appropriate amounts of add-ins: 1 rounded cup for dough split in half, 2/3 cup for dough divided into thirds.)

Using a 1 1/2-inch ice cream scoop, drop dough (a heaping tablespoon) onto prepared baking sheets, about 2 inches apart. Bake, rotating sheets top to bottom and back to front halfway through, until golden brown at edges and set in center, 13 to 15 minutes. Let cool on sheets 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature up to 1 week, or frozen up to 1 month.

Makes about 40.

Source: Martha Stewart's Cooking School: Lessons and Recipes for the Home Cook (Clarkson Potter, $40)

if you go

Martha at Macy's

Martha Stewart will sign copies of her new book, Martha Stewart's Cooking School: Lessons and Recipes for the Home Cook, at 3 p.m. Saturday at Macy's at Westfield Countryside mall, 27001 U.S. 19 N, Suite 2096, Clearwater. Free admission. (727) 724-7208.

Q&A: Martha Stewart on the inauguration, home cooking and the 4-egg rule 01/27/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 27, 2009 9:06am]
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