Tastemaker: Keeping it Local with Former Gourmet Magazine Staffer Ian Knauer

November 21 2012, 10:30 AM

When Gourmet magazine folded in 2009, it was a dark day in the food world. The closure scattered the publication's editors and staff to the four winds and left readers searching for a new touchstone. The magazine lives on in different forms—the archives and GourmetLive.com among them—but my mailbox still feels empty each month.

One of my favorite Gourmet editors to read and learn from was food editor Ian Knauer, who spent nearly a decade at the magazine. (His instructional Test Kitchen videos, like this one on how to cut up a whole chicken, continue to be invaluable.) Lucky for food lovers, Knauer has launched a website cataloging the recipes he develops and cooks on his family's generations-old farm in Pennsylvania. He's also recently released a cookbook, The Farm: Rustic Recipes for a Year of Incredible Food, which serves as the backbone of a forthcoming PBS television series.

In addition, Knauer has teamed up with TakePart.com, an organization encouraging people to get involved in the world around them. As a TakePart Tastemaker, Knauer's role is to champion the local food movement. The idea is simple: When you buy locally grown food, you're not only supporting the farmers and ranchers—and thus the economy—around you, you're also eating food that tastes better because it hasn't traveled thousands of miles.

Knauer has developed a handful of recipes for TakePart, which not coincidentally, tie into the holiday season. Even if your menu is set, these dishes (pumpkin cheesecake! crispy beer-roasted duck!) are worth bookmarking for future inspiration. The ingredients are easy to find locally and the instructions are straightforward, especially after watching the videos.

For my Thanksgiving feast, I baked (and loved) the cheesecake because it's made with soy milk. As a parent of a child with severe food allergies, I'm always on the hunt for tried-and-true allergy-friendly dishes. I kept it local by making my own pumpkin purée with a gourd from my Grant Family Farms CSA. (Just peel and seed a pie pumpkin, cut into chunks, bake with a little water, and purée when soft. Knauer recommends freezing the remaining purée in one cup increments for future use.)

Bonus: A couple weeks ago we published a recipe for Pizzeria Da Lupo's Brussels sprouts salad. It would be easy enough to swap that dish with this one from Knauer, or simply substitute Swiss chard for the Brussels sprouts. Knauer encourages home cooks to think of recipes as templates. The pumpkin cheesecake could be made with puréed sweet potatoes if that's what you have on hand. Or use kale instead of Swiss chard in the salad. "A recipe will steer you in the right direction, think of it as a guide," he says. "You might end up with something even better."

—Photo courtesy of TakePart

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