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Recession entertaining with Martha Stewart

October 21, 2009 | 11:44 am

Martha Stewart returned to Los Angeles on Monday for a book signing at Sur La Table at the Grove. If you’ve ever witnessed the mob known as a Martha Stewart book signing, you’ll know why we called ahead and talked in advance.

"Dinner at Home" cover Though she craftily steered the conversation to “Dinner at Home: 52 Quick Meals to Cook for Family & Friends,” a 272-page cookbook released by Clarkson Potter this week, we did manage to slip in a few questions about recession entertaining.

Is home entertaining more important than ever?

Many people are entertaining at home and cooking delicious food. But they are looking for simple, timesaving recipes they can actually do themselves that are as tasty as restaurant food. I just love the whole idea of using a few ingredients that taste so extraordinary.

What’s an easy way to throw a party at home?

I often do breakfasts and lunches. It gets it out of the way so I can do other things later in the day. Last Sunday I had nine people over for brunch for a delicious, homemade meal. It wasn’t expensive food: cheese popovers, beautiful poached eggs with country smoked bacon, two platters of smoked fish, homemade biscuits and fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice.

What is the ideal number of guests for a dinner party?

I would suggest inviting what you can handle. I’m an experienced caterer, so I can have 12 or 14; my dining room comfortably fits 16.

What do you do when your guests outnumber your set of dishes?

I suggest you serve a buffet and use stacks of plates from different sets.

How do you feel about potluck meals?

When friends get together, it should be a little more orchestrated so you know there is a salad, a vegetable, a main course and a dessert. The host can provide the main course. You could use my duck breast with fig sauce menu from “Dinner at Home.” One person can bring the braised red cabbage and someone else can prepare the potato pancake or the hazelnut brittle for the ice cream.

If you could splurge only on a few key pantry ingredients, what would you buy?

You should have really good coarse salt, really good fine salt, really good peppercorns and a grinder, really good vanilla beans, really good saffron threads, really good unbleached flour, really good natural sugar and an assortment of really good pasta. I’m always looking for the imported, rough Italian pasta.

-- Debra Prinzing