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Clarkson Potter
TODAY books
updated 11/22/2011 3:37:30 PM ET 2011-11-22T20:37:30

Three decades after her first book on the subject, Martha Stewart brings the state of the art of entertaining up to speed in "Martha's Entertaining: A Year of Celebrations." Read an excerpt.


More than thirty years have passed since I wrote my first book, "Entertaining," and a great deal has transpired in that time. The basic tenets of good entertaining remain the same, but the interest in global cuisine and its preparation, in so-called exotic ingredients, and in distinctive table settings and lush flower arrangements has flourished. Everyone wants secrets and shortcuts, tips and hints, easy instructions, fabulous recipes they can trust, and above all, new inspiration, so their own adventures in entertaining can be ever more unique, more extraordinary, and more innovative.

I really enjoy creating great dinners, holiday gatherings, lovely cocktail parties, and big outdoor or indoor events for which I try hard to make the food and drink served extra-special and extra-delicious, and the presentation extra beautiful.

This book contains examples of some of those parties and events. None of the parties were fabricated for the book—they are shown just as they happened, with friends and colleagues, family members and children, all of whom I hope enjoyed the experiences.

Entertaining family and friends is always challenging; setting a lovely table, always fascinating. Choosing doable recipes that will be appreciated by all is fun but can pose some puzzling problems. In this book, I have tried to focus on new ideas, and to share trusted techniques and solutions I have developed. The book is divided into mornings, afternoons, and evenings, concentrating on a a variety of celebrations, holidays, and gatherings anyone might encounter during the year.

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Morning is the time of day when I enjoy entertaining the most. I like setting the table the night before, getting up early, preparing everything, and then going on an early morning escapade with guests. It doesn’t matter if I am in Maine, climbing the Beehive; in East Hampton, walking the beach; or in Bedford, hiking in the Reservation. With our appetites formed, we can all sit down to a sumptuous feast of many of my favorite foods: Fresh-squeezed juice, eggs, pastries, popovers, waffles and pancakes, and even good crispy bacon are typically included in our special breakfasts. Selfishly, I like cleaning up after breakfast, or brunch, and then having the rest of the day to garden, ride, bike, or do whatever I please.

In the afternoon, lunch can be hearty or more simple, and it can be extremely varied in terms of food. I love soup and sandwiches, and I also love delicious composed salads, or vegetable tarts, or simply grilled meats and fish. Afternoons can also be a great time to serve a formal tea, throw a cocktail party, or host an ice cream social. I like to invite friends for lunch during the winter months or when I am in a more relaxed location such as Maine or East Hampton. At the farm, it is hard to stop work during the day to sit down and really enjoy a meal.

Evenings offer lots of opportunities to the avid host or hostess. A meal of substantial finger foods with ingenious cocktails, a sit-down formal dinner, a buffet supper, or something more relaxed such as a backyard barbecue—each is a welcome and inviting way to entertain. I have included many such menus that I think will inspire you to create your own original party. Chef Pierre Schaedelin and I thought a lot about the many ways to serve dinner, and the menus we developed are interesting and beautiful. Whether indoors or out, tables can be set with a theme in mind or more simply and effortlessly. Whichever type of menu you choose, make sure there is sufficient illumination, plenty of good beverages, and a scrumptious dessert.

I have used plants, flowers, vegetables, and fruit grown at home, whenever possible, and I seek out the the best meats, fish, dairy, and other ingredients as well, preferably organically grown and produced. All of the dishes and other tableware and linens are from my own collections. We prepared everything for the book in my own kitchens, and tested all the recipes several times to ensure that you will have success preparing delectable food that you will love as much as your guests.

Entertaining guests is not really about “shortcuts,” and while some of the recipes and techniques may appear time consuming, many others are really quite easy and contain few ingredients. Menus can be used in their entirety or broken up as you wish. Some of the recipes will certainly become family favorites, and hopefully you will return to them time and again.

Reprinted from "Martha's Entertaining: A Year of Celebrations" by Martha Stewart © 2011 by Martha Stewart. Used with permission of Clarkson Potter.

© 2012 MSNBC Interactive

Video: Ditch the planner and throw your own perfect party

  1. Closed captioning of: Ditch the planner and throw your own perfect party

    >>> morning on "martha on today" nothing puts the festive in birthdays like decorations and martha has clever ideas from martha stewart living magazine. nice to have you back. are you okay?

    >> i'm just fine.

    >> you had a mishap with one of your dogs.

    >> i did. francesca head-butted me. i was saying good-bye and she reared up.

    >> right in the lip. nine stitches. they took good care of me at northern westchester in the snowstorm.

    >> where is she living now?

    >> just where she always did.

    >> she's a beautiful rug in the living room now.

    >> i blogged the whole thing.

    >> you didn't even hear what she said and it was better that you didn't.

    >> you have hollywood lips now. kissable.

    >> yes, darling.

    >> let's celebrate.

    >> we are celebrating birthdays. you're celebrating at "today" your 60th birthday. we are celebrating the 20th. we did a party in the january issue of the magazine. the templates for the beautiful bold numbers are on our website at marthastewart.com. but we made you a 60th birthday cake .

    >> feels like it.

    >> each number is two sheet pans of cake. you use this as your cutout.

    >> oh, okay.

    >> cover it with a nice buttercream and two pounds of m & ms, but it's charming and easy and a nice way --

    >> colorful. the colors are beautiful.

    >> then we have to make hats because birthday hats are fun. we made hats for everybody here at the "today" show. where are you, meredith? that's yours.

    >> you put on your own head?

    >> the template is here. print out the pictures.

    >> can i show you what matt lauer did. so immature. this is what i deal with every day.

    >> oh, not that. then we cut out the whole --

    >> when is your last day?

    >> then you cut out the hat and you follow the template, slide this into the slit like this and tape or staple on the back.

    >> that's as simple as can be.

    >> easy as can be. tape your little elastic thread right there. you can decorate with a pom-pon on top.

    >> how cute it is.

    >> so easy.

    >> keeping with the idea of pictures you have something more personal here.

    >> here's the "today" show gang. you have the nice lucite trays. you can put it in the bottom of the tray.

    >> what would you use this for?

    >> serving hors d'ouvres. you put this inside and you have a nice tray for hors d'ouvres, cup cakes or whatever you want to serve.

    >> how do you do that?

    >> sugar craft. send a jpg picture via the internet to sugarcrafts.com and you get 48 of these edible -- these are like holy wafers.

    >> with meredith's picture on them.

    >> here you are. you stick them on top. it's $22.29 for 48 of those.

    >> not bad at all.

    >> and the balloons are adorable.

    >> just take, again, another template. you can print this on sticky paper. paste it right on the balloon.

    >> you like to stick with a certain color when you choose --

    >> i think it's nice to coordinate rather than have a hodgepodge of stuff. so you want plates, table coverings, whatever.

    >> did we talk about balloons?

    >> no, but it's cute. you can pin them on the wall.

    >> you didn't just rub it with static?

    >> no, these are stapled to the wall.

    >> that would take a long time.

    >> you have to keep going back.

    >> you can pop them.

    >> you just go around and you can have -- make little darts for kids if you supervise.

    >> yeah, yeah.

    >> and pin the tail on the donkey , pin the tail on the balloon.

    >> you know what's a good way to do it? have francesca jump up and pop the balloons.

    >> she would love that.

    >> i'm happy you're okay.

    >> isn't it fun?

    >> it is.

    >> the whole birthday party theme. happy birthday .

    >> happy birthday to you. 20 years, wow.

    >> and this is all month long?

    >> all year long. absolutely right.

    >> when was the first "today" show?

    >> i don't know.

    >> you have to know that.

    >> 60 years ago.

    >> 19 -- what?


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