It was ten years ago, in March 2012, when I walked with Martha Stewart in the ballroom of the Peabody Hotel during the 45th annual Pillsbury Bake-Off held in Orlando, Florida.
We discussed many topics, from recipes from our own mothers and the fame of my hometown Indiana peppermint harvest, to Martha’s photos that I featured in my cookbook published in 2010. “Further From the Farm”, so we could flick through it together.
A decade later, on March 5, 2022, I was side by side with Martha again and discussed many of the same topics. This occasion with Martha was during her afternoon at The Inspired Home Show at McCormick Place in Chicago. She was in town to discuss her latest range of homewares, from crockery and cookware to dinnerware and decor, all hosted by Gibson Homewares, who were sponsoring presenters for this year’s Cooking Theater, where Martha showcased her favorite delicious, and easy Rhubarb Crisp recipe.
Martha shares the same astrological sign as me, Leo, and last year she celebrated her 80th birthday. And of course, she’s just as proud of her Polish heritage as I am. She is named after her beloved mother Martha Ruszkowski Kostyra, who died aged 93 in 2007.
When we visited in March, I gave Martha a copy of my fourth cookbook, “Back from the Farm: Family Memories and Recipes of a Lifetime”, published in November 2019 and also including photos and stories with this favorite cooking mentor for so many.
I asked her about some of the ideal gifts from her new kitchen line for Mother’s Day, and she quickly reminded me that “Everyday is Mother’s Day.” As for the answer to my question, a large, square-shaped ladle for soups, gravies, and sauces ranks as his latest “must-have” kitchen creative design tool. She said the square design, as opposed to the traditional round ladle, is much neater and tidy to prevent drips and spills, ideal for skimming the tops of simmering stocks in soup pots, and it “is particularly useful for pouring hot jellies, jams. and preserved in canning jars.
We also found ourselves talking about the subject of ramps, which are tiny wild onions with a strong taste. I wrote a June 2017 column about the many ramps found around the grassy fields and wooded edges of our family farm.
Martha has spent much of the past two years of the pandemic sequestered at her sprawling estate at Bedford Farm in Katonah, New York.
“My neighbor across the road is chef Daniel Boulud, and until I told him he had no idea he had railings on his property that he could enjoy in his kitchen “, Martha said.
Celebrity chef Boulud, 67, was born on a farm in France and has not only published several best-selling cookbooks, but he also owns and operates more than 15 popular restaurants, including his namesake French hotspot, Daniel, in Manhattan, which he opened. in 1993. It has restaurants in Miami and Washington, DC, as well as around the world in Singapore, Toronto, Montreal and Dubai.
As for Martha’s Bedford Farm Estate, it covers 156 acres and she bought it in 2000 for $15.2 from the family of Ruth Sharpe, the latter described by the New York Times as “a lemony and intentionally eccentric woman died in 1999 at age 95. ”
“I have 300 laying hens on my farm and they produce up to 48 eggs a day,” Martha beamed.
“My other favorite addition to my farm is my lettuce greenhouse which is especially useful in the winter.”
My older brother, Tom, told me to ask Martha about her “other house”, which he was sure had previously belonged to a famous industrial family.
Indeed, Tom was right. It was his 63-acre Skylands estate he was referring to, which serves as Martha’s summer retreat on Maine’s remote Mount Desert Island.
She purchased the 12-bedroom, eight-bathroom home in 1997. It was built in 1925 for iconic automobile executive Edsel Ford (son of Henry) and then president of Ford Motor Co. and his wife Eleanor. The Detroit couple and their four children used it as a summer vacation cabin. When Eleanor died in 1976 aged 80, her family kept the house until it was sold to another family, including most of the contents, which were amazingly preserved and sold to Martha when it was purchased in 1997, “down to the original furniture, crockery and silverware that belonged to the Fords,” Martha explained.
I mentioned to Martha that our square of rhubarb had already sprouted in March and she recommended her recipe for Hot Rhubarb Crisp (which she thankfully made on stage to share step-by-step instructions for all) should being the inaugural recipe used with the first cut pie stalks from our patch.
Columnist Philip Potempa has published four cookbooks and is the Marketing Director of Theater at the Center. He can be reached at [email protected] or send your questions: From the Farm, PO Box 68, San Pierre, IN 46374.
Makes 8 servings
12 chilled tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 cup plus 1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup old fashioned rolled oats
2 pounds (6 large stalks) rhubarb, cut into 1/2 inch (6 cups) pieces
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
Juice of 1 orange
1 vanilla pod, split and scraped or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
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1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees.
2. Grease a shallow 2 1/2 quart baking pan and set aside.
3. To make the breadcrumb mixture, in a large bowl, whisk together the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and oats. Using a pastry cutter or two knives, cut in the cooled butter until the mixture forms clumps, about 4 to 5 minutes; put aside.
4. In another large bowl, stir to combine rhubarb, zest, orange juice and vanilla.
5. In a small bowl, combine sugar and cornstarch; sprinkle over rhubarb until just coated.
6. Pour the rhubarb mixture into a baking dish and top with 1/2 cup of the breadcrumb mixture.
7. Bake until the rhubarb is tender when pierced with the tip of a knife, about 40 minutes. Transfer from the oven to a cooling rack. Let cool slightly and serve hot.