• Stir It Up: A cookbook for grads and newlyweds
    By
     | May 30,2014
     
    Courtesy of Hearst Books

    Even the most culinary-challenged newlywed or grad can learn to make delicious dishes like this strawberry tart, which would be welcome at a wedding shower or graduation party. The photo and recipe are from “The Good Housekeeping Cookbook Sunday Dinner Collector’s Edition.”

    Wedding shower? Graduation party? If you are hosting either, you are praying for decent weather, wondering how much ice to buy (answer: a lot) and figuring out how to politely ask Aunt Ethel to leave her annoying little dog at home. If you are attending, you are wondering whether it’s OK to accessorize a sundress with bug netting. If you are hosting, you are dithering about the menu. If you are a guest, you are dithering over a gift.

    “The Good Housekeeping Cookbook Sunday Dinner Collector’s Edition” comes to the rescue of both host and guest. The cover features an iconic Norman Rockwell painting, the famous depiction of a large family celebrating Thanksgiving dinner. Inside, colorful photos, how-to illustrations and cooking tips make this 750-page book a keeper for young newlyweds and graduates who may be about to face their own kitchens for the first time. It also has a load of recipes — from appetizers through dessert — to help any party host.

    Like the Rockwell painting, this cookbook is old-fashioned, but in the best possible way. It honors the human tradition of breaking bread together. And it doesn’t assume that the user is a master chef, or even an experienced cook. The book offers help on shopping, stocking the pantry, menu planning, prepping and cooking. It even breaks down the cleanup process and gives instructions on loading a dishwasher.

    Most important, perhaps, it suggests that personal electronic devices be put aside before sitting down for dinner — excellent (if not revolutionary) advice for all of us.

    The recipes may be old-fashioned, but they aren’t old-fogeyish. Who can argue with lemon-roasted chicken, garlic mashed potatoes or chocolate truffle cake? None of the recipes is difficult, although some are time-consuming. Others fall into the “quick and easy” category; check out “Chicken Breasts With Six Quick Sauces” or “Five Ideas for Bagged Slaw” or “Quick Cream of Pea Soup.”

    “Making and sharing meals is a wonderful way to create unforgettable memories,” reads the back cover of this hefty tome. It would make a thoughtful gift for anyone starting out in a brave new phase of life.



    Fresh Strawberry Cream Cheese Tart

    Yield: 8 servings

    For the crust:

    1½ cups all-purpose flour

    ¼ teaspoon salt

    1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar

    10 tablespoons (1¼ sticks) butter, chilled and cut into ½-inch pieces

    1 teaspoon vanilla extract

    3 tablespoons ice water



    For the filling:

    6 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese (Neufchatel), softened

    ½ cup reduced-fat sour cream

    3 tablespoons chopped crystallized ginger

    3 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar

    1½ pounds strawberries, with stems and leaves discarded and each berry cut lengthwise in half (raspberries, blueberries or grapes can be substituted)



    In a food processor fitted with a metal blade, combine the flour, salt and confectioners’ sugar; pulse until blended. Add butter and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add vanilla, then ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time, pulsing until moist clumps form. Gather the dough into a ball; flatten into a disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm enough to roll, at least 1 hour or overnight. (If chilled overnight, let dough stand 30 minutes at room temperature before rolling.)

    Preheat oven to 375 degrees. On large sheet of baking parchment, roll dough into a 12-inch round using a floured rolling pin. With an 11-inch dinner plate as a guide, use a sharp knife to cut an 11-inch round from dough. Discard the trimmings.

    Transfer the pastry round, still on the parchment, to a large cookie sheet. Press and pinch all around the edge to create a decorative fluted border. Refrigerate or freeze, still on cookie sheet, about 10 minutes, to firm dough slightly.

    Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until golden. Remove cookie sheet from oven and place on wire rack and cool crust completely, about 20 minutes.

    Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, use a spoon to mix the cream cheese, sour cream, crystallized ginger and confectioners’ sugar until blended. Spread cream cheese mixture on cooled crust. Arrange strawberries, wide ends down, in concentric circles to cover cream cheese mixture. Serve immediately, or cover loosely and refrigerate up to 1 hour.

    To make this in advance (up to one day), make the pastry, cool and wrap. Make the filling, cover and refrigerate. Assemble with berries just before serving.

    (Recipe from “The Good Housekeeping Cookbook Sunday Dinner Collector’s Edition; Hearst Books, 2014)



    Marialisa Calta is a syndicated food writer who lives in Calais.

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