August 1, 2015
Some early issues of Gourmet were absolutely stellar. This one, April 1951, was one of those issues. Yesterday we looked at a few Chinese recipes. Today I'm adding a few recipes from an article on produce in the Veneto by a writer named Dorothy Giles. I haven't been able to find any information on Ms. Giles, who wrote this wonderful little aside on American produce of the time:
"Throughout the United States, even in good fruit-growing regions, fruits are like children brought up by an emotionally unstable mother. Either they early give up the struggle for security and grow neurotic themselves, or they develop a tough hide and a self protective lack of personality. "
In Italy, she said, things were quite different. She went on to extol peaches, pears, stracchino cheese, fresh ricotta – and this lovely-looking vegetable tart.
Made the torta last night, which reminded me that in the fifties Gourmet didn't have a test kitchen. This recipe needs a LOT of help. Basil, for one thing, which was unavailable in 1951. (Angelo Pelligrini didn't publish the first American recipe for pesto until the middle of the decade.) I'd forgotten that eggplant slices were such serious assassins of olive oil; they simply soaked it up. Next time I'll salt them before frying, which draws out the water and makes them less absorbent.
You also need really great tomatoes (which I lacked), a little garlic would be good, and unless you've got real mozzarella, use some other cheese like a fresh teleme in place of those supermarket slices that turn to rubber. And next time, I'll use half and half instead of milk, and sprinkle the top with grated parmesan.
I'll let you know how that turns out. Meanwhile, should you be interested in another vintage ad, here's your chance to help select Miss Rheingold, 1952.
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