Down The AisleGather Journal

Co-Founders Michele Outland and Fiorella Valdesolo Interview and Images by Aimee Brodeur

I have been a fan of Gather Journal ever since the moment I laid eyes on their “Magic” Issue. I may have been a couple issues late to the game but it didn't matter. It opened my mind, in a way, to see food as contemporary culture and then culture through the lens of food. Each themed issue bends the rules on what is possible with ingredients, through extraordinary visuals, storytelling, and creative combinations of flavor and texture. We caught up with co-founders Fiorella and Michele to talk about their favorite recipes from past issues, cooking techniques they picked up while on set, and what items are routinely stocked in their fridge.

Wow, 5 years of Gather! Does it feel like it’s been 5 years?

F: No, not at all. I feel like it’s gone by super fast. I feel that way in general though, maybe it’s just a sign of getting older. Time is just slipping through my hands. I feel like we have progressed in a really fantastic way. I look back at the first issue and… Well, it’s hard to look back at the first thing that you did.

So many people want to talk about the beginning or the ending of things, but it’s rare that we sit down and talk about what’s happening with a project as it’s evolving. 5 years is a good amount of time- so how’s it going?

F: I think it really helps that each issue is themed and delves into something completely different. We try to create a new world each time. That’s what keeps it interesting and fresh.

M: It feels like a totally new experience every time.

F: Sometimes we forget how to do things… (laughing)

M: I’m like, “Come on guys, we have done this for 11 issues now!” I’m all about systems. (laughing)

F: Not me!

What’s your favorite part of putting an issue together?

F: I like researching and trying to envision weird stuff through the lens of food. It’s a fun challenge to pull together old books, movies, or music.

M: I like brainstorming to find ways to relate food to pop culture and art. Personally, I also just love doing the photo shoots.

What’s a favorite issue of yours?

F: I love Number 3, our summer film edition.

M: … Lots of fun researching that one, and a lot of good movie watching.

F: I loved the visuals of our desert issue because…

M: We love the desert! (laughing)

F: … And then the 70’s issue was really fun for me. I love the 70’s, and I got to do a centerfold! (laughing)

M: Issue 1… Nothing like your first issue.


“I don’t know if it speaks to our generation more, but all these books that we were reading were full of strong and brave girls. I think that surely has had an effect on how we turned out.”

 

So onto your current issue. Let’s talk about it!

F: It’s the “Heroine” issue. After the election we were obviously…

M: Reeling.

F: Still reeling! I’ve always considered myself a staunch feminist, but so many things have been revealed since the election, so we were thinking, “How can we approach this through food?” So we landed on this idea of heroines, and we wanted to focus primarily on creative heroines. We asked ourselves, “Who were our heroes when we were kids, and what female characters did we look up to in books and on TV? Who were the visual artists whose work speaks volumes?” Art is obviously very important now as a way to get a message across, so we wanted to focus on women through the lens of creativity. It’s a pretty dope issue, and we are really excited about it!

M: It’s timely, obviously, but I’m also proud that we are a publication run by women in a world that is very male dominated. The political relevance of this issue is important to us.

What recipes can we look forward to?

F: We looked into some childhood literary figures like Judy Bloom, and books like A Wrinkle in Time. We did a recipe inspired by Anne of Green Gables and Pippi Longstocking. Our writers felt such a kinship to these characters, and eventually we developed this recipe for a beautiful upside-down skillet carrot cake.

M: It’s a cornbread base with goat cheese, and is delicious. Gorgeous too! I love the fact that our writers were so inspired by these strong female characters of the past. I don’t know if it speaks to our generation more, but all these books that we were reading were full of strong and brave girls. I think that surely has had an effect on how we turned out.

So let’s get into your approach to groceries. Do you have routine places you always go to?

F: I live right around the corner from the Whole Foods in Gowanus. I know that’s not a “cool” answer, but I do love that I can pick up trusted name brands like Bob’s Red Mill, and I do like the 365 brand. I don’t do full shopping trips there, and I don’t  buy my meat from there. I go to Fleishers for my chicken and Staubitz for our sausages. I also go to Paisanos butcher shop, another great old school place. I don’t eat meat often, but I will make the trip to each of those places about once a month.

 


“So many things have been revealed since the election, so we were thinking, ‘How can we approach this through food?'”

 

Where do you usually go for produce?

F: There is a place across the street from Union Market that is kind of a random Korean fruit and vegetable place. The quality and prices are great. I’m not married to “organic”. I would rather spend my money on high quality meat, and with produce I mostly care that it is fresh.

I started going to Atlantic Produce after Samin Nosrat told me about it, and I have to say that it has changed my life. I buy so much produce there, and if I were to buy that much at Whole Foods, I would be broke.

F: At Whole Foods, I know that they do smaller bunches of produce on the weekends.

What? No Way!

M: It’s all about the weekend shoppers. Places in the Hamptons do that too.

How about you Michele?

M: I come here to the Abingdon Square farmers market every weekend. I’ll pick up eggs and some greens, then drop off my compost. My neighborhood butcher is Hudson and Charles. I also rarely cook meat, but when I do, they are fantastic. I also go to Westside Market on 14th and 7th Ave., where I’ll do my more traditional grocery shopping. I cook simply at home. It’s usually brown rice, an egg, and some greens or a salad.

F: I also do a lot of bowls- grains, greens, and an egg on top, and always with sauerkraut or kimchi.

 


“Six minutes in boiling water, then immediately put them into an ice bath. I keep them submerged in the water in the fridge, and they are good for up to a week.”

 

Do you have a favorite kraut or kimchi?

F: I am obsessed with Hawthorne Valley Farm’s Sauerkraut. I love everything they do. They have an amazing beet kvaas.

M: I’m half Korean, but I’m a bad half Korean because I don’t make my own kimchi. My mom makes amazing kimchi though. Since I was little, she has had a separate fridge in the garage that’s just for kimchi, just because it smells so bad (laughing).  

F: I’m Italian, so I had that too, but it was just meat… a meat fridge.

Has there ever been a recipe you developed for Gather that has become part of your regular routine?

M: The Fallen Chocolate Aperol Cake. It’s so easy- such a great go-to, and it’s delicious.

 

A lot of people have told us how much they love making this dish.

F: We did a chicken recipe in our 70’s Issue that I always come back to, with sauteed lettuce and peas, and just a little bit of vermouth and lemon. It’s so easy and good. Our recipe for Roasted Tomato with Ash Cheese is great for when you have people over.

Have you ever picked up a kitchen hack or tip while on set for Gather that you want to share?

F: Yes! I just learned this one 2 weeks ago, and I have already done it 3 times. I learned it from this guy named David Malosh. He shot the Egg Shop cookbook, and fittingly his tip has to do with eggs. He has the perfect recipe for a soft boiled egg that stays fresh all week. Do six minutes in boiling water, then immediately put them into an ice bath. I keep them submerged in the water in the fridge, and they are good for up to a week.


“I would want a chicken because then I could have infinite eggs! And if I was really hard up I would just eat the chicken… Or he could just be my companion.”

 

M: We did a frittata recipe with Maggie Ruggerio (food stylist extraordinaire), and she told me that the secret to a fluffy frittata is to add a little bit of water to the whisked eggs. I do that trick with scrambled eggs too, and it works!

What are some items you like to splurge on?

F: Anita’s Coconut Yogurt. That stuff is like crack! I’m just going to keep telling people that I’m addicted to it until Anita starts sending me her yogurt.

Do you love it too?

M: I havn’t even tried it because I’m like, “I’ll just eat regular yogurt.” I’m the basic bitch, she is fancy.

F: Once you have it you won’t be able to stop. I have to limit myself.

Do you have any newfound ingredients that you’re obsessed with?

M: Probably this black cocoa that we used recently in a recipe for eclairs. We also used it in a recipe that we reprinted for a Blackout Cake from Ovenly.

What is black cocoa? Does it taste the same as regular cocoa?

F: It has a more intense flavor, and  it’s beautiful because it’s goth-y!

M: We used it for the chocolate sauce over our eclairs in the recent issue for a piece on female directors. We did this recipe for Jane Campion because her movies are so dark and moody, a good example is “The Piano”. We wanted to illustrate the black piano keys with these black eclairs… But it totally colors your mouth, so it’s not the sexiest thing to eat.

Okay, so if you were stranded on an island and could only take 5 ingredients with you, what would you take?

F: I thought about this question on the train ride over…

I gave you a heads up.

F: I know… Okay! I would take olive oil, really good bread, tequila or mezcal, citrus, and I figured I could catch fish…

M: I would like to see you catch a fish.

F: Michelle, me too, I’m very sporty!

F: … And then I thought about how I would want eggs, but then I thought, “Oh, I would want a chicken because then I could have infinite eggs! And if I was really hard up I would just eat the chicken… Or he could just be my companion.

 

Take-aways:

  1. Gather JournalHeroines: The Women and Art Issue
  2. Hudson & Charles ButcherWhole animal butcher
Recipe Recipe

Recipe:

Gather Journal’s Chicken with Sautéed Lettuces and Peas

"We did a chicken recipe in our 70’s Issue that I always come back to, with sauteed lettuce and peas, and just a little bit of vermouth and lemon. It’s so easy and good. I cook it at least once a week."

Ingredients:

  • 4 chicken legs, split into thighs and drumsticks
  • 1 1⁄2 tsp celery salt
  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter, divided
  • 1 1⁄2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 3 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1⁄2 cup dry vermouth
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen peas
  • 1 head romaine, trimmed and sliced crosswise into 2-inch pieces

Serves

4

  •  Preheat oven to 400°F. Season chicken with celery salt and 1⁄2 tsp pepper. Heat one Tbsp each of butter and oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Cook chicken, in batches if necessary, skin-side down until golden, for about 6 minutes.
  • Turn chicken over and cook 2 minutes. Pour off all but 2 Tbsp fat and stir in vermouth, zest, and garlic. Transfer pan to oven and roast, uncovered, until chicken is cooked through, 25 to 30 minutes.
  • Towards the end of cooking time, heat a large skillet over medium-high with 1⁄4 cup water, 1⁄4 tsp salt, the remaining Tbsp butter and 1⁄2 Tbsp oil. Bring to a simmer then add peas and cook until barely tender and water has almost evaporated, 2 to 3 minutes. Add romaine and cook just until wilted, turning over once, about 2 minutes.
  • Transfer chicken to a platter. Swirl 1⁄2 Tbsp lemon juice into sauce. Check seasoning then spoon over chicken. Serve with lettuce and peas.
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