50 Women Game Changers in Food: Martha Stewart (Week 4)

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In 2011, Gourmet released their list of the 50 Women Game Changers in Food. I stumbled on this entirely by accident. One week a couple of months ago, I was meal planning, and didn’t have access to my Ina Garten cookbooks. So, I googled the recipe I was looking for and found it on a blog that was making it’s way through the list (she’s number 39… I’m a little disgruntled that Rachael Ray is higher up than she is). I was inspired to do the same. I need to challenge myself more in the kitchen, and I thought this would be an excellent way to do so.  As I’ve been planning for this, I’ve been flipping through cookbooks, checking out websites and buying new equipment, and I’m excited. I’m also really looking forward to learning more about these game changing women, and introducing myself to recipes I’ve never cooked before.

(And since this entire year-long project will be all recipes I’ve never made before, I can’t promise that everything will turn out the way I want it to. But whether a dish is a winner or an epic fail, I’m going to be completely honest about it.)

For week four, we have Martha Stewart. Everyone knows Martha. Some know her for her recipes & crafts… others know her because of her newsworthy time in prison for a white collar felony.

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(And Snoop does have a felony drug conviction from the early 90’s, but I still love this.)

Martha is actually the reason my interest in food went from just watching Food Network, to actually getting in the kitchen & baking. The first real cookbook I ever bought was Martha Stewart Cupcakes in 2009. In May 2008 my college boyfriend broke up with me, and I had a lot of time on my hands. I filled that time with Harry Potter, martini’s at Therapy (RIP), hours & hours at the YMCA, and finishing my last year of college. Once I had graduated, finished Harry Potter, and my BFF had gotten married (so our YMCA time had come to an end), I had even more free time on my hands, so I picked up the cupcake book, and never looked back.

Martha is from a middle class family, and learned to cook & sew from her mother. She graduated from Bernard College in 1962, having double majored in history and architectural history. During this time, she supplemented her scholarship money by modeling.

In 1961 she married Andrew Stewart and they moved to Conneticut. Once they moved to Conneticut, Martha was involved in several different business ventures, including catering companies and gourmet food stores. None of these lasted, due to allegations that she was difficult to work with.

In 1982, she released her first book, Entertaining, which included recipes and photographs from parties she had hosted. She released several more books, and in 1990, her magazine Martha Stewart Living was developed. In 1997, she created a new company: Martha Stewart Omnimedia. This consolidated all of her various brands under one roof, and gave her a greater sense of control. As a result of this new company going public on the New York Stock Exchange, Martha became the first female, self made billionaire in the United States.

In 2003, a lot of people thought that the empire she worked to build was done, with her indictment for securities fraud. She served some time (less than a year) in prison, got out, and made one heck of a comeback. Since getting out of prison, you can find her name on houses, cookware, bakeware, craft supplies, you name it, and her name is probably somewhere on it.

“When I got married and had a child and went to work, my day was all day, all night. You lose your sense of balance. That was in the late ’60s, ’70s, women went to work, they went crazy. They thought the workplace was much more exciting than the home. They thought the family could wait. And you know what? The family can’t wait. And women have now found that out. It all has to do with women, or the homemaker leaving the home and realizing that where they’ve gone is not as fabulous, or as rewarding, or as self-fulfilling as the balance between the workplace and the home place.”

So, Martha. And I bring you a recipe from Martha Stewart Living: Wild Salmon, Asparagus & Shitakes in Parchment (Martha Stewart Living, May 2013)

I know one of my goals for this project is to cook things I don’t have a lot of experience with. And while I do cook salmon about 2-3 times a month, I’ve never cooked anything in a parchment paper pouch before.
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While this recipe was really simple to put together, and clean up was a breeze, I didn’t love it, and neither did Graham, although for different reasons. He doesn’t like lemon, and there is lemon zest in the topping, as well as lemon slices between the salmon & the asparagus. The lemon slices were an addition I made, just because I hated wasting the lemon. I didn’t like the fact that the green onions overpowered every other flavor. Every single bite had a strong, onion flavor, and it was very unappealing.
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While the flavor didn’t blow me away, I really enjoyed the cooking method. The asparagus was perfectly cooked, the mushrooms were tender, and the fish was not overcooked or dry. I didn’t break out the meat thermometer, but I’d say this method & the cooking time resulted in medium doneness.

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And plating it couldn’t have been easier. Once I pulled it from the oven & let it rest for a few minutes, I just cut the excess parchment paper away, and moved this to the plate with a spatula.

Wild Salmon with Asparagus & Shitakes in Parchment
(Original recipe found here.)

Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces shiitake mushrooms, trimmed and thinly sliced
  • 8 ounces medium asparagus (about 1/2 bunch), trimmed
  • 4 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Zest of 1 lemon, and the rest of the lemon thinly sliced
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 4 skinless wild-salmon fillets (5 ounces and 1 inch thick each)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees with racks in upper thirds. Cut four 12-by-17-inch pieces of parchment. Fold each in half crosswise to make a crease, then unfold and lay flat. Toss mushrooms, asparagus, and scallions with oil in a large bowl. Sprinkle with lemon zest and season with salt and pepper.
  2. Remove asparagus from mixture and divide evenly among parchment pieces, creating a bed of spears on 1 side of crease. Top each with 2 lemon slices, 1 piece of fish, then with mushroom mixture. Drizzle each serving with 1 tablespoon water. To close, fold parchment pieces over each serving; make small overlapping pleats to seal the open sides and create 4 half-moon-shaped packets.
  3. Bake packets on baking sheets for 10 minutes. Carefully cut open packets with kitchen shears (steam will be released). Serve fish, asparagus, and mushrooms with lemon wedges for squeezing.

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