Thursday, October 8, 2009

A Gourmet beginning

The news of Gourmet magazine's closing hit me like the loss of an old friend I haven't seen in years. Memories of our time together came flooding back, along with a certain chagrin that I hadn't kept in touch. Having moved on to other sources for culinary information and inspiration years ago, Gourmet magazine was now a source of nostalgia, profound nostalgia as it turns out.

I first encountered the magazine as a young 11 year old girl at my mother's side. My mother was a young girl herself at that time. At age 29, she was a new bride beginning a second marriage with three children from a previous marriage in tow. My mother's cooking at that point was simple and serviceable, with specialties being spaghetti and meatballs and meatloaf. Her new husband was European and so our mother decided that we needed to learn how to cook more sophisticated food for him, to sweeten the domestic pot as it were. He was, in fact, Scottish and his culinary viewpoint was even more narrow than our own, but we did not know that then. He resembled George Harrison, had a cool accent and was putting up with three kids, so impress him we must.

My mother embarked on her subscription to Gourmet magazine and each month would pass the issue around to my younger sister and I to mark off recipes we wanted to try. My mother had no qualms about setting us youngsters up at the stove and the results were staggering. We were making fancy, delicious dishes out of what seemed to us piles of unrelated ingredients. Following the instructions as closely as chemistry lab experiments we tried out our first gazpacho, our first curries, our first cassoulet. Culinary courage and curiosity exploded in our home as we poured over the beautiful pages that represented exotic sophistication to our young inexperienced selves.

As the years went by and my family grew, my brothers were also drawn into the kitchen. We became known to our extended family and friends as the cooking family. No occasion was lost for a group cook-a-thon with way too many of us in the kitchen, but fortunately no spoiled broth. My mother continued her subscription throughout her life and as an adult I would look forward to curling up with copies of the latest issues when visiting her and my step-father for weekends in Sag Harbor. My mother died way too young at age 65 in 2003 and now Gourmet is gone. I will always have them linked in my mind. And I am grateful for the culinary push they both gave me.
A prize specimen from my local nursery in Forest Hills, Queens.  Cinderella would be proud to ride around in this!

In the spirit of culinary adventure I thought of this soup which can be made from any of the winter squashes including pumpkin. The most recent version I made was with acorn squash. I like to roast the squash first to really intensify the flavor and get some caramelization going. Winter squashes tend to be sweet and can handle a lot of strong flavors as a counter balance. So don't fear the cayenne. It will give the soup some integrity. The addition of the apple brings some tart, acidic sweetness to the mix and is a trick my mother picked up from reading Gourmet.
Chili peppers are the spice of life!

Acorn Squash Soup with Ginger and Coconut milk
1 Acorn squash, peeled and chopped into large cubes
1 green apple, peeled and chopped
2 inch piece of peeled ginger
4 cloves of peeled garlic
2 Tbs. vegetable oil
1 teas. salt
1 onion, chopped
3 cups vegetable or chicken stock or water
1 cup coconut milk
1 tsp. cayenne pepper

Butternut squash makes great soup too.

Preheat oven to 400 F
Lay the acorn squash and the apples in a single layer on a large roasting pan. Sprinkle with a little s & p and roast in the oven for 20 minutes until the squash begins to soften and brown a little bit.

If you have a mortar and pestle pound the ginger and garlic into a paste. If you don't have one, put them in a food processor with a tablespoon of water to blend into paste.
Heat the oil in a large sauce pan and add the ginger-garlic paste. Cook over a medium low heat until the paste begins to slowly turn a golden color, about 2 minutes. Add the onions and salt and cook till softened and translucent, about 5 minutes more. Add the roasted squash and apples and the stock or water and bring to a simmer. Let the pot simmer for 25- 20 minutes until squash is completely tender when poked with a fork.
Turn off heat and allow soup to cool for a bit before adding to a blender or food processor (try to wait because hot food really expands and splashes out when blended). Blend until very smooth. Pour soup back into the pot and TASTE IT.
At this point you want to adjust the seasonings. If it is too bland, add a little salt and/or sugar ( a pinch at a time, keep tasting). Once the flavor tastes balanced to you add the coconut milk and the cayenne and bring the soup up to a simmer. Let soup simmer for 5 minutes till all the flavors are blended and the soup is warm enough to serve.


Beautiful commentary on Gourmet magazine, Deb. I loved the magazine as well, but it obviously holds a much deeper connection for you. I always referred to the magazine around the holidays - no magazine could compete with their Thanksgiving issue!


  1. Yes, that was a really nice story on Gourmet magazine and your mom. I was very sad to learn about the ending of Gourmet as it was something that I first subscribed to in my first years out of college. It was there when I started to really love to cook, inspiring me with ideas and broadening my culinary perspective. Sigh....

  2. I love this entry. Yes, it's the end of an era. So many good meals have come out of their issues--meals that have inspired so many happy memories of family and friends...I'm pretty sure Gourmet guided me through my first souffle. : )


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