Martha Stewart's gardening book includes recipes

A FEAST OF SEASONS

January 19, 1992|By Charlyne Varkonyi

When Martha Stewart, the symbol of domestic perfection, first envisioned a gardening book, she thought she was going to go down her well-worn path of fantastic food beautifully photographed in elegant settings.

But then she realized that what the world really needed now was a gardening book with recipes, not a recipe book on cooking from the garden.

"Food is important, but it's not everything," she said on a recent book tour to Baltimore to promote her latest beautiful coffee table book, "Martha Stewart's Gardening" (Clarkson Potter, $50). a food person and people really love menus, but this time I thought the book ought to be more than just recipes from the garden."

In keeping with the book's month-by-month format, she provides 12 menus that are centered around seasonal foods.

For example, for the steamy month of June she suggests a cooling dinner of dill fettuccine with poached salmon, herb-zucchini saute and spiced peach ice cream with spiced peaches in white wine syrup for dessert. Her October menu features pumpkin soup, grilled duck breasts with cranberry relish, mixed greens with wild mushrooms and three-berry cobbler.

Along with her gardening and recipe advice, she also provides the typical Martha Stewart decorating advice -- such as how to gild pumpkins for a Thanksgiving table or how to create an egg pyramid to decorate a hall table for Christmas.

The following recipes are her choice for a February meal.

Broiled saffron chicken

Makes 4 servings

1 chicken (3 pounds), cut into 8 pieces, backbone removed

2 lemons

1/4 -ounce container of saffron threads

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Heat the broiler. Line a shallow roasting pan with aluminum foil. Arrange chicken, skin side up, on a wire rack in the pan. Place under the broiler until skin is lightly browned, about 5 to 7 minutes. Turn the chicken over and broil on the other side for 5 to 7 minutes. Turn the chicken skin side up again. Squeeze lemon juice over each piece and sprinkle with saffron, salt and pepper to taste. Return to the broiler until crisp and brown, about 3 to 4 minutes.

Sauteed winter greens

Makes 4 servings

1 pound broccoli raab (see note)

1 pound kale

6 stalks Swiss chard

1/3 cup olive oil

4 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Lemon wedges

Wash and dry the greens. Trim off the tough stems of the broccoli raab and kale. Leave the broccoli raab whole, but cut the chard into a wide chiffonade.

In a large saute pan, heat the oil over low heat. Add the garlic and cook until slightly brown, about 3 minutes. Raise heat to medium and add greens. Gently toss greens until they are wilted, about 6 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Serve hot with lemon wedges.

Note: Broccoli raab, or rapini, is a leafy, sparsely budded cousin of the familiar broad-headed vegetable. It has an assertive, pungent flavor. If you can't find it in the store or specialty-food market, substitute more greens.

Steamed cherry pudding

Makes 4 servings

Butter

1 1/4 cups sugar

3 large eggs

1 cup scalded milk

1 tablespoon brandy

1 (16-ounce) loaf white bread, crusts removed, cut into 3/4 -inch cubes

2 1/2 cups pitted sour cherries, fresh or frozen

Fresh mint sprigs

1 cup heavy cream, whipped

Thoroughly butter a 1-quart decorative pudding or cake mold, including the top of the mold. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup sugar.

Whisk together the eggs and 1 cup sugar until thick and pale yellow. Add the scalded milk and brandy and continue whisking until thoroughly mixed.

Layer the bread and cherries into the mold, starting and finishing with the bread.

Pour the custard over the bread and cherries. Cover the mold with its top. If using a cake mold, cover tightly with foil and secure with a rubber band or string.

Place the mold on a rack inside a large pot. Fill the pot with enough boiling water to come halfway up the side of the mold. Cover the pot, place over medium heat and steam the pudding for 1 hour.

Remove the mold from the pot and allow to cool. Turn out the pudding onto a decorative platter or cake pedestal. Garnish with fresh mint sprigs. Serve with softly whipped cream.

Preserving herbs

Martha Stewart says she harvests herbs even in freezing weather, but she also uses a variety of preservation methods -- from freezing to drying and storing in oil.

Here are some suggestions from her new book, "Martha Stewart's Gardening" (Clarkson Potter, $50):

*The best time to dry herbs is midsummer just before the plants begin to flower. Collect the herbs on sunny mornings when the oil content is highest and the flavor is at its peak.

Wash in cold water and tie the sprigs together with cotton string in bunches of three and hang in a warm, dark, airy room. Or they can be dried on cloth (such as fine muslin) stretched over a roasting pan; the trick is to allow air to circulate around the herbs.

Store them in opaque containers, label and date the jars.

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