Local chef and musician Jessie Gold has been cooking for almost an entire lifetime. The Brooklyn resident has established some local celebrity and a pretty savory cooking gig at locally owned and operated Ortine in Prospect Heights. A sturdy bike, a flare for the fabulous, and a penchant for cooking make it obvious Jessie is going places. As we kick off the holiday season this weekend, and friends and family come together around their dinner tables, I thought I’d ask for some cooking help from a master, and luckily it got me some yummy perspective from this talented chef.
Queerespondence: What got you into cooking?
Jessie Gold: I was raised in a very food-centric household as a child. I grew up cooking elaborate, amazing meals with my mom, and my father was and still is a huge gardening and farming enthusiast; we always grew a full half acre of produce in our backyard throughout the entire growing season and kept bees. So I have always had a relationship to seasonal produce and what is best to eat when. I went from working on the home garden to working on organic farms and CSAs, and I started cooking in restaurants about 6 years ago, choosing to work at places that put an emphasis on seasonal, local, and sustainably grown produce and meats. Working with food is something that feels really natural to me and it will always be a part of my life.
Q: What ingredients are you most excited to work with? What’s in season?
JG: The Fall is a really exciting time for me when it comes to food. The air is getting colder, marking a return to those warming, comforting, hearty meals that involve more baking, roasting, and stewing. October is when you really finish harvesting all of your heavy winter squashes: butternut, acorn, delicata, pumpkin, as well as those hearty root vegetables like beets, turnips, parsnips, and rutabega, and pack them into a cool, dark root cellar to be stored for winter use. Hearty greens like Kale and Collards are reaching their peak at this time; the colder the weather gets, the sweeter and more flavorful your dark greens are going to grow. Pears and apples are bountiful as well, making for great dessert opportunities.
Q: Is there a go-to dish you like to create for friends?
JG: I love inviting friends over for really simple delicious meals that feature what is in season. At this time of year and throughout the winter, I love making a roasted melange of root vegetables and winter squash with extra virgin olive oil, whole garlic cloves, and thyme. It is really simple and delicious, and it can involve any combination of root vegetables in season, including beets, parsnips, potatoes, turnips, and any number of rich winter squash varieties. Another beloved go-to meal for this time of year is spicy lentil soup with greens; this has been a favorite of mine since I was a child and I don’t think I will ever tire of it!
Q: Where do you do your own grocery shopping?
JG: For the best produce, I usually go to farmers markets or the Park Slope food co-op.
Q: What is it like being queer in the kitchen?
JG: In general, the restaurant world is a very heteronormative straight male dominated space. I’ve definitely faced a number of challenges in the past, working with homophobic co-workers and head chefs, and have had to leave work environments because of too many offensive comments made to me. The great thing about New York recently, however, is that it is possible as a genderqueer chef to find work environments that are more inclusive. There has been a tremendous growth in queer visibility in food culture, and work spaces are slowly becoming more and more open to gender diversity.
Curried Kabocha Squash and Pear Soup
Jessie offered an exciting soup recipe for all the folks heading over to your place this Thanksgiving or [insert upcoming religious holiday here]. This is a perfect recipe for when the weather is getting cold; it’s hearty, earthy, and slightly sweet, and the spices used are warming. Pear season in New York begins in late summer and continues through the fall and winter. As it gets closer to winter, Anjou and Bosc pears will be in season, and are great cooking pears. Despite the long ingredient list, this recipe is very simple and works best if you have an immersion blender to puree it, but a regular blender or food processor works fine as well.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. The first step is to cut each kabocha squash in half, remove the seeds with a spoon, and place on an oiled pan. You will want to roast the squash until it is soft, around 45 minutes or so. While the squash is roasting, start working on the other aspects of the soup. When it is done roasting and soft, let it cool for at least 10 minutes, then scoop out the flesh with a spoon to use in the soup.
Start the soup by heating up the olive oil in a large pot on medium, and adding the onions. When the onions are cooked through and translucent, add all the spices, mix, and let heat on medium for a minute before adding the carrots and celery. After about five minutes, add the coconut milk, pears, lemon juice, and honey. Stir the mixture, put a lid on the pot, and let cook on medium for around 20 or 30 minutes.
Once the soup has been cooking for a while, add in your squash and veg stock or water. Put the lid back on the pot, and continue cooking on medium for another 20 minutes or so, then blend the soup, either by immersing an immersion blender into the soup, or by running the soup through a blender or food processor in batches until it is completely pureed. Once pureed, keep the soup simmering on low until you are ready to serve.
3 carrots, small dice
3 stalks celery, small dice
5 pears, peeled and large diced
2 large Kabocha squash
2 cans coconut milk
1 1/2 qts. veg stock or water
2 tbs. honey
2 tbs. lemon juice
2 tbs. extra virgin olive oil
1 tbs. cumin
1 tbs. turmeric
1 tsp. ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground coriander