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Nom Nom November: Gather Journal

Gather Journal, a James Beard Award-winning indie publication dedicated to good food and good conversation, is a feast for the eyes and the appetite. On the eve of the magazine's issue four launch, we talked to editor and co-founder Fiorella Valdesolo, and asked her to share a recipe from the cozy, Cocoon-themed issue, perfect for your Thanksgiving table. 

How did you get involved in the wonderful world of food?
I am a longtime lover and appreciator of all things food-related, but a relative newbie to the so-called food world. My entry point was through Gather Journal, a biannual recipe-driven magazine that I co-founded with my friend, the amazing Michele Outland, in the summer of 2012. The response since our launch has been greater than we could have ever imagined and we are having such a blast dreaming up the content for each issue. Our latest edition, the fall / winter 2014 "Cocoon" issue, is released on November 15th.

What is your idea of the perfect meal?
I can always get down with a bloody steak, oysters and a great bottle of red, but usually the best meals have everything to do with the company; if I'm sharing food with the people I love, that's pretty perfect.

What do you like to cook at home?
I'm first generation Italian and my repertoire at home definitely reflects that. There's a lot of carb love in my house.

Where to you love to go out to eat?
That list is constantly evolving but some of my favorite spots in and around the city right now are Battersby, Locanda Vini e Olii, Nightingale 9, Saraghina, Calliope, Buvette, Ganso (the Chez Jose pop-up in Williamsburg), and breakfast at Fort Defiance.

Sweet tooth or salt fiend?
Salt, salt, salt.

Your guilty food pleasure?
Anything deep fried.

Tell us about the new issue of Gather
The theme for the new fall / winter 2014 edition is Cocoon, and we explore every incarnation of the word—there are recipes that impart a warm, cozy, cocoon-like feeling, and those that visually mimic its wrapped and bundled form. We explore the idea of metamorphosis and renewal through the lens of food; devote a chapter to all things delicate, soft and silken, pay homage to the everlasting appeal of comfort food, and get up close and personal with butchery casings in a weird and wonderful way.

What is your most memorable food experience?
Gosh, that's a tough one. The few times I've managed to score a reservation at the Chef's Table at Brooklyn Fare I'm blown away by the food. I had an incredible meal at this tiny, inexpensive restaurant in a village in Piedmont, Italy. Also, anything my nonna cooks is always memorable.

Winter is upon us! How are you keeping cozy this season?
An oversize cableknit Nili Lotan sweater, No. 6 shearling clog boots, and plenty of whiskey and ramen.


DRUNKEN UPSIDE-DOWN CAKE 
Serves 8 - 10

The season’s bounty is on glorious display in this moist cake of juicy, nestled-together pear halves, and currants, figs, and cranberries that have taken a nice, long whiskey bath. We like to think of it as a lazy, fall fruit cake—short on effort, long on pleasure.

1⁄2 cup dried cranberries
2 Tbsp dried currants
4 dried figs
1 cinnamon stick
1⁄2 cup rye whiskey or bourbon
1 & 3⁄4 sticks butter, softened, divided
3⁄4 cup packed light brown sugar
3 pears, halved and cored
1 & 1⁄2 cups all-purpose flour
1 & 1⁄2 tsp baking powder
1⁄4 tsp salt
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1⁄2 cup whole milk

1. Simmer cranberries, currants, and figs in whiskey with cinnamon stick 5 minutes then let stand 1 hour or overnight. Drain, reserving liquid. Slice figs in half.

2. Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly butter sides of a 9-inch cake pan. Smear a layer of butter using 3⁄4 of a stick on bottom of pan. Sprinkle evenly with brown sugar. Arrange pears, cut sides down, and dried fruit over sugar.

3. Stir together flour, baking powder, and salt.

4. Beat granulated sugar and remaining butter with an electric mixer until pale and light. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each. Beat in vanilla and reserved whiskey. On low speed, beat in half of flour mixture, then milk, then remaining flour. Gently spread batter over fruit.

5. Bake until cake is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Let cake stand in its pan set on a rack 10 minutes before inverting onto a plate to cool completely.