Friday, December 18, 2009

La farce

Right around Thanksgiving, a facebook post from my friend Steve led me to a minor epiphany.  Martha Stewart, although I hadn't thought of her in years, has had a profound impact on my life.   Before I ever wanted to marry Jamie Oliver or to be Heidi Swanson --- hell, even before I started wanting to be French, I wanted to be like Martha.  I subscribed to Living from age 13 and devoured every issue from cover to cover.

Like any "lifestyle guru," she's surely not all that she aims to appear to be.  I know she's got thousands of people working for her at this point, which makes it hard to maintain the "do-it-yourself" feel, and on the most recent cover of Living her face is so airbrushed that she looks like something out of a Pixar movie.

But the lifestyle she promotes has come to shape my ideals about slow food, whole foods, tasteful decorating and an appreciation for old and beautiful objects.   Unlike the Paula Deen lifestyle, Martha's lifestyle is one I could stand behind.  Granted, she caters mainly to rich, bored people who can afford to have Meyer lemons express delivered from California for a cake.  But to me, the core of the Martha agenda is to get people to realize that home-making - cooking, gardening, decorating, fixing and building -  is an art that everyone can and should enjoy.  And you don't have to be a millionaire to take the time to do these things.

Plus, Martha was talking about organic gardening and slow food years before the Whole Foods craze set in.  She kept her own chickens for the eggs long before it came back into style among urban foodies.  And now, for Thanksgiving, she has presented a vegetarian menu on her show.  Ahead of the times once again?

I veganized the stuffing recipe from Martha's show for a Thanksgiving party in Bordeaux a few weeks ago, and I just made it again for Christmas with my family here in Atlanta.  I don't usually make things like this twice, but it was so delicious and everything in it is seasonal (for those of us in North America or Europe) right around Thanksgiving/Christmas.  In Bordeaux, I picked up everything from the market, including button mushrooms and just a few porcini mushrooms for the stock.  In Atlanta, of course, everything was available at the Dekalb Farmer's Market.

To make it vegan I just left out the butter and replaced the 5 eggs with one 200g package of silken tofu, which I whisked into the broth before pouring it on.  We had some grapes in the fridge, and I added a few of these for some interesting color and texture.

Friday, December 4, 2009


Topinambours belong to a class of what French people are calling légumes oubliés, or "forgotten vegetables" that are coming back into style as people become more interested in eating locally.  The English name for them is Jerusalem artichokes, which just sounds wrong to me because they have nothing to do with Jerusalem and are more like potatoes than artichokes.  They're a member of the sunflower family.

Apparently they grow like weeds. That's according to Ed Ward, who says that he refuses to pay for them since his garden was once overtaken by Jerusalem artichokes.  I can only be jealous!  They are quite tasty and very interesting nutritionally.  One of the best plant sources of iron, they have a similar texture to potatoes but contain half the calories.  And they have a completely unique flavor that is indeed similar to that of an artichoke.

Here's a simple salad to boost your iron intake without digging into a bloody steak.

1 lb Jerusalem artichokes
red wine vinegar
olive oil
1/2 red onion
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Scrub the Jerusalem artichokes until clean.  Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add the Jerusalem artichokes; cook until they are tender but not totally mushy (around 8 minutes).  Drain and allow to cool slightly in a colander.

Meanwhile, slice the red onion very thinly and place in a bowl.  Add 1/2 teaspoon salt and cover with a few teaspoons of vinegar.  Allow to marinate for around 10 minutes.

Peel the Jerusalem artichokes: their skins come off fairly easily after they've been boiled (just like tomatoes), except around some of the more knobby parts, which I just pop into my mouth.

Slice the Jerusalem artichokes thinly lengthwise and arrange on a plate.  Drizzle with the vinegar mixture, scatter a few onion slices on top.  Add salt, pepper and olive oil to taste.