beef bulgogi

There’s a cookbook that has really taken over around here.

Let me first say that my relationship with Martha Stewart has been a little topsy-turvy, to say the least. Martha and I first met when I was maybe sixteen, when my fancy aunt in Mill Valley was trying to teach me the skills that she thought that women should possess. I didn’t know how to iron, or how to choose the right color of lipstick (for me it was always a dark purple), or how to choose the right wall hue for a laundry room. It was at that time that my aunt started invoking this name, Martha, as if she would swoop in and teach me these essential skills. And when I finally saw Martha on the pages of one of her books, it all made sense. Button-down pressed shirt. Sun kissed, wholesome, together, garden gloved-she was, in fact, an even more polished version of my fancy aunt (who in the end, gave up on me, but that’s another story entirely).  I could see the power in every recipe, tip, and craft. Martha, indeed.

Through the next years of growing up and finding these skills for myself, Martha hovered. My friend Sarah, who has only a few lucky and well-used cookbooks on her shelf–she swore that Martha (along with an occasional glance at Joy of Cooking) was all she needed. I went to other matrons: Mollie Katzen, Alice Waters, but every time I’d cook with Sarah, she’d open up Martha, and the recipe would always succeed, surpass expectations, and make every diner cheer. As I got to be more of a cook, more of an entertainer, and more of a homemaker in my own way, Martha started to hang out in my house, too. I’d steal glances of Martha Stewart Living magazine in the supermarket aisle, filing away that quick and easy chocolate cookie, the perfect spring party paper garland. I became fascinated by the thought of all these people working for the Martha empire, all creating quick! easy! recipes that worked every time.  I found myself a copy of the big orange Martha Stewart Living cookbook, and it came off the shelf as regularly as Mollie or Alice. I still don’t know how to pick the right lipstick color, and I’m hopeless with an iron, but somewhere along the way, Martha joined the matrons in my kitchen. They are now a holy trinity of kitchen wisdom on my shelf: Alice, Mollie, and Martha.

Last year, when we were trying to figure out how The Homemade Pantry would look and feel, my editor sent me this book, simply because it was the right size and shape and feel. It had similar flaps, and the right kind of cover, and she wanted me to be able to hold a book in my hands as we had the discussion. The book was “from the kitchens of Martha Stewart Living,” (a vast and enchanted place, I imagine), from a series called “Everyday Food”. I read the title, Great Food Fast, I felt the weight of the book in my hands, and, satisfied by its heft, put it away. I’m not a big seeker of 30 minute quick! easy! recipes (to my detriment, as any one who has had to wait for me to finish making dinner will tell you), and so I figured that the contents of the book were probably not up my alley.

But then, Sadie found the book.

I haven’t talked about this too much here, frankly because the whole project has been Sadie’s and Sadie’s alone, but for the last few months, Sadie makes dinner once a week. She pores over cookbooks and she figures out the whole menu so that she can give me a shopping list. She comes home from school, cooks all afternoon, and then we eat what tends to be one of the best meals of the week. This process has changed her. It’s big. I think it’s changed me too, come to think of it.

So Sadie found this book, Great Food Fast, and she adores it. She’s cooking her way through it, and everything she’s made has been so good. It’s stuff I don’t tend to think of, like chicken breasts wrapped in prosciutto and mini glazed lemon cakes. The book is stained, dog-eared, and now living on Sadie’s special section of cookbooks she uses every week.

And that’s not the end of it. Joey has one cooking night a week, and whereas that meal was once always either some kind of baked pasta and cheese or hamburgers, now–he’s cooking his way through that book, too. Yesterday, he spent 15 minutes looking for Great Food Fast, finally finding it behind a couch cushion. Only the most treasured cookbooks end up behind couch cushions–it means that someone was pouring over it on the couch, enjoying it and dreaming about it it.

This is Joey’s current favorite from Great Food Fast. He made it a few weeks ago when I was out, but the other night, we made it together, he chopping and me saucing. It was one of those meals that everyone just devoured. Originally this dish is Korean, although I’m assuming it’s been fairly bastardized here. We picked up our meat with big leaves of Boston lettuce, and ate it along side a pot of white rice. Great food fast. Truly. Those “kitchens of Martha Stewart living” feed us well.



  1. says

    Thanks for the recipe! Since becoming a stay at home mom, I have had more time to think about dinner and am always looking for more meals to add to our stash. This one looks great. You have also peaked my interest. I have always thought of Martha Stewart recipes as being complicated and arduous. I have only tried a random few from magazines, cookies I think. I think I will take a look at “Great Food Fast.”

  2. Michael Schneider says

    Since Santa Fe doesn’t have a single Korean restaurant, this will come in very handy, thanks!

    But does Martha really call this “Beef Bulgogi”? Because, as anyone who grew up in a region with a lot of people of Korean ancestry (or anyone whose publishing empire is well able to afford a staff of factcheckers) ought to be able to tell you, the “bul” in “bulgogi” means “beef”.

    The same dish, made with dog, is “keigogi”. I’ve never tried it, but it is allegedly sometimes available from that page of the menu at Korean restaurants with no English translation, the one where, if you ask what the dishes are, the waitperson will usually say, “You no like.”


    • Linda H. says

      To Michael:
      I am of Korean ancestry and fluent in the Korean language, and actually, “bul” means light or fire, and “gogi” means meat. So the literal translation of bulgogi is “fire meat.” Also, traditionally, the the recipe should include fresh cloves of minced garlic and chopped scallions or green onions in the marinade. No Korean recipe is complete without those two ingredients.

  3. JoAnn C. says

    It’s your book that lies upon the couch this evening. We just got it yesterday to add to our collection of 53 cookbooks. Mom started collecting when she got married and I’ve added about 10 cookbooks in the last few years. She is very excited about “us”, (and by that she means me), making the chicken nuggets from your book. And I believe I may actually get her back into the kitchen again since she told me she “can’t wait until we make ricotta”. You did it, Alana, you got her excited about something this week and took her mind off her illness’. She told me buying your book was a “good idea”. Thank you. And by the way, I love your blog. I happened upon it last week and within an hour of reading I ordered your book. We eat gluten free but can adapt your recipes to suit our needs. Thank you.

    • alana says

      You’ve made my night with this comment, JoAnn. Thank you so much for sharing your moment with me (and for including my book in your collection!) It’s an honor.

  4. says

    I just found your book at the library today which is how I discovered your blog. I read through the entire thing in one go and I love the way you write. Lovely book, lovely blog…keep up the great work!

  5. says

    Alan, I love your blog! I found you through “FoodInJars” blog.
    I don’t have your cookbook as of yet, but may I say that I Love
    Martha Stewart. I will be visiting your blog often.
    I started my blog just recently and would love it if you would follow me:)

  6. says

    When I saw the title of your post in my Google reader, I thought “Funny, I was just thinking about making that & I just saw a recipe for it somewhere.” Turns out it was from the same cookbook–I just happened to have picked up “Great Food Fast” when I was at the library on Friday!

  7. Heather says

    I’m so glad your family has found success with that Everyday Food cookbook. I proudly work for EDF (which is, indeed, part of this vast and enchanted place) but before I ever started here, I was devoted to the magazine because the recipes just worked and were simple enough for weeknight suppers after a long day at the office. We’re featuring Jenny Rosenstrach (from Dinner A Love Story) in our mag, so I began reading her blog, and she recently linked to your book. I really loved the videos on your Amazon page and they definitely sold me on your book (it will arrive tomorrow; can’t wait to start reading it). Kudos to you (and your marketing folks, who knew how best to market your material!). Looking forward to hearing more from you!

  8. Rachel says

    Thank you for your post, I enjoyed it very much. I have this cookbook too and am always impressed with everything I make from it. I love that your kids are in charge of dinner once a week. I can’t wait until mine a big enough to do that too. Thanks for your blog, I am enjoying it.

  9. says

    Alana, I love that you let your children cook once a week and be completly in charge. There are so many people (even ones that are my age) that don’t know how to cook. It is great that your kids are learning. Keep it up and keep teaching them! I’m sure they will be just as good as you are!

  10. Belmont says

    I discovered your blog via an article in today’s
    Boston Globe and I’m looking forward to checking out
    your book.

    PS I know this is a blog and not a book but
    just an FYI – I think you want to use the
    spelling of “pore” instead of “pour” – as
    in an example from above:

    “…Sadie makes dinner once a week. She pores
    over cookbooks….”

      • Belmont says

        FWIW, *EVERYONE* could use a proofreader :=). (Me included.)

        My newly formed acronym for proofreading comments is:


        “This Is Not Meant To Be Judgmental But Only Informative”

        I’m glad you for understood it the way I meant.

  11. Dominique says

    Can i just say that i LOVE your book? My mom found it at the library and i read it over and over. A couple days ago was my 12th birthday and my mom bought it for me. I was so happy!!! I love to cook and today i was making dinner i found this recipe! Thanks for everything!!


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