I long associated Martha Stewart with Superwoman, someone I try hard NOT to be. I’m a lousy housekeeper who can’t survive without a cleaning lady. I cook but let my husband do the dishes. I even pile dirty clothes in a corner of our bedroom like a teenager at heart. In other words, I may be the anti-Martha.
I remember watching her show years ago when Martha was showing how to make a three-tier wedding cake from scratch, including pretty little marzipan flowers. I freaked. Not only did it feel out of my comfort zone, it felt out-of-touch with my life (apologies to women who are into tiered wedding cakes, I mean no diss). Bottom line, I never watched the show again.
Years passed during which time I became a full-time food writer always on the lookout for interesting recipes. And so it happened one day that, planning for a get-together, I pulled a recipe for spicy ginger cocktail nuts out of my Filemaker 8,000+ recipe database. A Martha recipe. I may have snorted “yeah right” and certainly I hesitated, my bias was that strong. But I am both pecan and ginger crazy, so I put my reservations aside and cooked the best darn cocktail nuts of my life. Thus started my Martha rehab.
When I joined the Twitterverse a year ago, only a few weeks passed before I received notification that Martha Stewart was following me. I fell off my chair. I was stunned, excited and, dare I say, a bit stressed out. I’m not starstruck, believe me. I have worked with Québec artists on various advertising projects, I even crossed path late at night in a Montreal park with my personal idol — theatre guru Robert Lepage — and never even stopped to say hi. Still, given the blood rushing to my head, Martha following me on Twitter meant… something… I actually received congratulatory tweets from people, so obviously it also meant something in the larger realm of things?
I have never cooked a complicated Martha Stewart recipe. Baby steps, you know. But here are two favourites, the cocktail pecans of course, and the sour cream banana bread. A certain 4 year old helped with the bread baking last night, perched atop his chair in front of the kitchen counter. Messy but fun—and that’s a good thing. Sorry, Martha (is it okay if I call you Martha?), I couldn’t resist.
Mommy Insight: By the way, you know that thing experts say: When a child helps to choose or prepare the food, he is more likely to eat it. Duh. Kiddo baked but refused to taste. I may not be Superwoman but unless it’s chocolate cake, he remains Superpicky.
Sour cream banana bread
Adapted (lawyer-speak…) from Martha Stewart
Makes 1 loaf
• 125 ml (1/2 cup/1 stick) butter, at room temperature, plus more for pan (I used unsalted, that’s all we ever buy)
• 250 ml (1 cup) granulated sugar
• 2 large eggs
• 375 ml (1 1/2 cups) unbleached flour
• 5 ml (1 tsp) baking soda
• 5 ml (1 tsp) salt
• 250 ml (1 cup) mashed very ripe bananas
• 125 ml (1/2 cup) sour cream
• 5 ml (1 tsp) vanilla
• 125 ml (1/2 cup) chopped walnuts or pecans (I used walnuts)
1. First preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F) and butter a standard loaf pan.
2. Using a hand or electric mixer with paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar, then beat in eggs.
3. In a bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt. Mix into butter mixture until just combined. Add in bananas, sour cream, and vanilla, mixing just enough.
4. Incorporate nuts, then pour into loaf pan.
5. Bake about 1 hour 10 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in centre comes out clean (with my oven, it took 1 hour).
6. Rest in pan for 10 minutes, then transfer to a rack to cool.
Cocktail hour ginger pecans (sorry, no picture)
Makes 5 cups
Note: I usually make these with rosemary honey, an idiosyncrasy since it may or may not add layers of taste. For the reason why I can’t tell, see here.
• 1.25 L (5 cups) pecan halves
• 125 ml (1/2 cup) sugar
• 10 ml (2 tsp) salt
• 5 ml (1 tsp) ground ginger
• 10 ml (2 tsp) honey
• 30 ml (2 tbsp) water
• 10 ml (2 tsp) canola oil
1. Preheat oven to 160°C (325°F).
2. Place pecans in a single layer using two large baking sheets. Toast 10 to 15 minutes until nuts are fragrant. (Martha says to rotate the pans halfway through but, hum, I just realized blogging this that I never do.)
3. While nuts are roasting, mix sugar, salt, and ginger in a large bowl.
4. In a saucepan large enough to fit all the nuts, combine honey, water and oil, then bring to a boil over high heat.
5. Reduce heat to medium and add pecans. Stirring a couple of times, cook 3 to 5 minutes or until liquid has evaporated.
6. Transfer nuts into sugar mixture bowl and toss until nuts are dusted all over. Place nuts in a single layer on parchment paper or a silpat, and let cool.
P.S. Store in an airtight container. They should keep 1 week or so. I can’t testify to that, in my house, they last only a couple of days. These pecans are perfect with drinks before supper or with mint-ginger ice tea on a summer day. They are ideal as a hostess gift presented in a pretty tin box.