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Open Kitchen: Inspired Food for Casual Gatherings

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by Susan Spungen
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Susan Spungen is a strategist. The kind of strategist you'd want taking the lead when menu- and party-planning start taking on Byzantine twists. Spungen, a professional recipe developer and Martha Stewart Living's first editorial director, previously offered discerning party tips in What's a Hostess To Do?, a guide for thoughtful and practical party hosts. In Open Kitchen, her practicality is focused on what she calls "get-ahead cooking"--the behind-the-scenes groundwork that allows a party-giver to actually enjoy the fruits of their own handiwork. Pantry staples and kitchen equipment essentials are included here in two neat and tidy collections. The recipe content kicks off with Sauces, Sprinkles, and Stuff, garnishes to have on hand that add a quick and effortless flourish to savory dishes. Sections include Simple Starters with standout dishes like Smoky Eggplant Dip, Blistered Shishitos with Avocado Crema and a deep-dive into the world of toasts. The Centerpieces section is arranged by protein preference and emphasis a wide spectrum of cooking methods, including the slow-cooked (Slow-Roasted Lamb Shoulder with Pomegranate Molasses, Texas Chili), the high-heat (Grilled Bohemian Steak with Garlic Scapes, Za'atar Chicken Thighs with Grilled Peach and Crispy Couscous Salad) and the "get-ahead" (Big Salade Niçoise, Chicken Tonnato, Summer Vegetable Galette). Spungen's adeptness with composition comes alive in the book's vegetable content. Mixed Peas Over Whipped Feta begs for spring to start showing its tendrils, Twice-Baked Celeriac is a pleasing twist on the old spud classic and Roasted Fairy Tale Eggplant with Tomatoes soothes with al fresco warmth. Comforting Starchy Sides and a handsome dessert section round out the book. A quick menu planning index captures the recipes in straight-forward combinations. Hardcover. Color photographs throughout.

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