Oprah Winfrey
 Nobody has ever mistaken me for Julia Child (though I do a pretty decent corn fritter), but even if my culinary skills leave a little something to be desired, I definitely believe in the mystical, magical, healing power of a good home-cooked meal. Is there anything better than walking through your front door and being greeted by the garlicky scent of an old-fashioned pot roast getting fall-apart-on-the-fork tender as it roasts in your oven or the brown-sugared breeze that floats by whenever there's a peach pie cooling on the kitchen counter? Food—sensuous, lush, and abundant—nourishes the body, revives the spirit, turns strangers into friends, and creates memories that last long after all the pots and pans have been scoured and put away.

So when I began to do a magazine of my own, I knew I wanted recipes that rely on the quality of their ingredients, stories that reflect the culture of a country or the life of a cook, and photographs that leap off the page and make your mouth water. I wanted dishes—some very rich, some very healthy, all very doable—from everywhere. And I wanted to tap into the imaginations of the most creative people (whether four-star chefs or just plain fabulous cooks) ever to put on an apron.

We got Marcus Samuelsson to dazzle us with a bright green callaloo soup and a mellow mango jalapeño couscous. We got Art Smith to share his great-great-grandmother's melt-in-your-mouth 12-layer chocolate cake recipe, Nina Simonds to bake up a batch of pumpkin applesauce muffins that must be the reason God invented coffee, Govind Armstrong to devise a showstopping Thanksgiving, and Bobby Flay to mix up a cactus pear margarita so enticing, I promise you'll be asking for another round before your second sip.
The O, The Oprah Magazine Cookbook cookbook is a compilation of flavors and ideas, exotic places and inspiring traditions, technique, instinct, and, of course, sublime, delectable, delicious food! Broth is infused with mint and ginger, focaccia is studded with caramelized onion and rosemary, lamb chops are rubbed with ripe orange zest, salmon is brined with maple, tea is brewed with fresh lime and honey, pecans are dusted with cinnamon, ribs mingle with balsamic vinegar and fresh basil, asparagus is broiled with miso and ginger, a dollop of cilantro cream enlivens a rich cauliflower and apple soup, and cumin meets coconut. And then we invited some of our special friends, who are absolutely passionate about food, to share their favorite culinary memories.

On some pages you'll find that the silver is polished, the crystal is sparkling, the candles are lit, and the champagne is poured. On others, the picnic basket is packed, the iced tea is brewing in the summer sun, and the Frisbee is flying. But whether it's a formal sit-down in the dining room, a casual brunch on the patio, or leftovers in the kitchen, the food, however wonderful, is actually only a supporting player. The starring roles go to the people with whom you share this food.

Let's face it—thanks to the portable DVD player, we can now watch TV in our cars while chatting on our cell phones and receiving e-mails on our BlackBerrys. We can live with people but go days on end without ever making eye contact. We can meet friends at the latest hot spot and then shout to be heard over the scene at the bar. Somehow, dinner has become something we pop in the microwave and gulp down at the sink while signing off on homework and sorting through our mail.

I believe we can do a whole lot better than that, and I believe we all deserve better. More than anything else, these dishes are meant to inspire you to bring together your friends, your family. So here's to the people you love, excellent conversation, lots of laughs, the occasional glass of champagne for no particular reason, and meals you wish would last forever. Here's to life!
Excerpted from O, The Oprah Magazine Cookbook. Copyright © 2008 Hearst Communications, Inc. Published by Hyperion. All Rights Reserved. Available wherever books are sold and online via HyperionBooks.com


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