Martha Stewart: Close to a 'Happy' Settlement With SEC

Martha Stewart may be cooking up a new recipe in her kitchen: humble pie.

The domestic diva said yesterday that she's not fighting insider-trading allegations by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Instead - contrary to a flurry of recent media reports that predicted she would continue seeking to clear her name - Stewart said, during an appearance yesterday morning on NBC's "Today" show, she's hoping to settle the three-year-old civil case.

"I think we're very close to a happy settlement," was the terse reply Stewart gave "Today" host Ann Curry, who asked for an update on her personal legal woes before the domestic diva could launch into a lesson on jazzing up terra cotta plant pots.

Stewart's comment was a surprise since many observers expected her to put up a vigorous fight over the image-denting scandal involving her well-timed sale of ImClone Systems stock in December 2001.

Stewart, who last year completed a five-month prison sentence for lying to investigators about the stock sale, could face another embarrassing trial this summer if she fails to settle with the SEC.

Stewart appeared calmer on yesterday's "Today" show than during her now-infamous appearance on CBS's "Early Show" in June 2002.

Then, irritated by questions about her legal battles, Stewart snapped, "I want to focus on my salad," as she hacked into a head of cabbage with a long, sharp knife.