October 20, 2017
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Cherry Bombe’s War on Food Bros
KERRY-CB-TASTE_41

The indie food magazine may have started as a Kickstarter campaign in reaction to popular food culture, but with a radio show, a conference series, and a new cookbook, the company has become much more.

The kitchen is the first room you see when you walk into the Brooklyn headquarters of Cherry Bombe magazine. It’s cozily old-fashioned: The floor is a yellow floral linoleum, the cabinetry is blonde wood with a gingerbread aesthetic, and there are multiple stained-glass windows. “This one blows my mind,” says editorial director Kerry Diamond, pointing to a window featuring a parrot, a windmill, and a cornucopia. “How did someone decide that those three things go together?”

A Cherry Bombe tote hangs next to a bright pink apron on a wall, and the room is accented with neatly stacked cookbooks by women (Prune by Gabrielle Hamilton, Everything I Want to Eat: Sqirl and the New California Cooking by Jessica Koslow, Salad for President by Julia Sherman) and pale pink Le Creuset dishes. “Some of it was gifted to us; I won’t lie,” Diamond tells me. In the other room, the bathroom door is ajar, revealing a pink-and-white shower curtain.

Elsewhere, the apartment sports plain white walls and parquet floors, a mini-fridge tucked in a corner, a blonde-and-beige Ikea Poang chair, those ubiquitous black rolling desk chairs, and Apple computers. These rooms are where the lion’s share of work gets done: the making of the biannual magazine and the cookbook, as well as planning for the now biannual food conference, called Jubilee, and the weekly radio show. But the kitchen is the heart of the place. It’s here that the team shares a daily lunch, cooked by intern Romilly Newman (a 19-year-old blogger and self-trained cook), who runs the test kitchen. Currently, food photographer Andrea Gentl’s Lemony Lentil Stew, which appears on page 80 of the new Cherry Bombe Cookbook, is simmering on the stove. It smells incredible.

In May 2013, the Kickstarter-funded first issue of Cherry Bombe was published, featuring model-slash-“cookie entrepreneur” Karlie Kloss on the cover. The idea for the magazine had come the year before, when Diamond and Claudia Wu, the magazine’s creative director (the two met while working at Harper’s Bazaar), decided to team up to combat “a very bro-y time in food.”

“I’d had a great community of friends, mentors, coworkers in beauty and fashion,” Diamond says, “but I found myself with no community in this industry, and I missed having a community. There were obviously women in the food world, but we didn’t feel like they were getting their due. Part of starting Cherry Bombe was to shine a spotlight on these women who we felt deserved more recognition.”

That fall, Time did a story called “The 13 Gods of Food,” featuring—you guessed it—all men. “Then Eater did some reporting on the lack of female participation in food conferences around the world,” says Diamond. And with that idea for the Cherry Bombe Jubilee, a female-first food conference, was born; the first one was held at the High Line Hotel in New York City on March 30, 2014.

Since then, there’ve been nine issues of Cherry Bombe. The covers are aesthetically so uniform as to appear as a set, meaning if you have one, you’ll probably want them all. They’re styled with white backgrounds, pops of color that often include actual Maraschino cherries (the “Cherry” in the title of each magazine gets its own complementary hue), and, most importantly, an impressive woman—or, in the case of Lena Dunham and Jenni Konner, women—who embodies the Cherry Bombe aesthetic, a kind of intersection of power, beauty, passion, and food.

The magazine may be niche, but Diamond and Wu have the cachet to convince people like Christina Tosi, Chrissy Teigen, Ruth Reichl, Padma Lakshmi, and Martha Stewart to pose. Inside, readers find stories by and about women in the food world, photography that will make you drool, and, of course, recipes. The print run is always 10,000 copies. “I’m a big believer in when it’s sold out, it’s sold out.” The 10th issue will be released November 13, and while Diamond is keeping cover details under wraps, the theme is “chefs and restaurants.”

But the magazine is just part of the growing empire. On Thursdays, Diamond heads to Bushwick pizzeria Roberta’s to record Radio Cherry Bombe, a weekly show produced by Heritage Radio. “The radio, interestingly enough, has become the biggest part of our business,” she tells me. “We had over a million downloads last year. It just continues to grow. There are young women who listen to the show who don’t even get the magazine.” There have been five Jubilees, the latest of which just took place last weekend in San Francisco, the first on the West Coast.

Along with panels like “The Melting Pot Boils Over: Assimilation, Appropriation, and Affirmation” and “What We’re Hungry For: From Self-Care to Comfort Food to Recognition,” the conference included a keynote talk from Alice Waters, an extensive sustainability mission (flower arrangements made from foraged materials!), and “a lactation lounge for nursing moms and moms who need a pump. The dream is one day, maybe child care for the conference,” says Diamond.

Then there’s the new Cherry Bombe Cookbook, the first in a two-book deal with Clarkson Potter. It compiles recipes from “100 of the most creative and inspiring women in food today,” and Diamond is currently on a 16-city tour to promote it. As with the magazine, there’s a keen and consistent vision, with food photography that’s as palatable as it is simply gorgeous, and a mission to put the work of women front and center on the table. The recipes are, as Diamond and Wu put it, “dependable, interesting, nostalgia-inducing, maybe even a little quirky.”

They’re also diverse in terms of their backstory (shared in mini intros to each), the chefs’ backgrounds and ethnicities, the skill level required for cooking, and where the food might fit in a meal. Jessamyn Rodriguez, founder and CEO of Hot Bread Kitchen, a New York City–based nonprofit, shares her brisket with sweet and sour onions, which she describes as her “crowning glory.” Cookbook author Priya Krishna offers up a roti pizza party, inspired by her mom’s take on American fare. Food designer and artist Laila Gohar gives us hollowed-out zucchini cooked in tomato broth and drizzled with yogurt sauce, a dish passed down in her family for generations. And New York DJ and pastry chef Justine D. contributes cherry bombe cake balls with buttercream frosting and their own green candy stem (you’ll want to lick them off the page).

That all of these projects grew out of a Kickstartered magazine makes them seem all the more magical. “We diversified just as a fluke, to be honest. We didn’t have a business plan. The conference happened because it was a reaction to that Eater story, the radio because it was a suggestion from one of our contributors.” Diamond explains. “I bootstrapped the whole thing. We haven’t taken anybody else’s money, aside from the Kickstarter, which I’m grateful for. It’s really just been slow and steady. A lot of opportunities have come our way that we just haven’t taken advantage of for fear of doing a shitty job. We only have so much bandwidth.”

This year, the Cherry Bombe team doubled in size. There are now five employees, including Diamond and Wu, as well as two interns. All of them are women, which isn’t an active choice so much as it’s naturally reflective of the magazine’s mission to represent women and food. “Guys aren’t flooding us with résumés, let’s put it that way,” Diamond admits. With the expanded staff and the 10th issue put to bed, Diamond is thinking about what’s next. “The magazine business is hard right now, whether you’re in the indie magazine business or the mass-market magazine business. I think what you’ll see is the niche get niche-ier and the mass get more mass,” she says. “And today, everybody has to be this 360 media brand. You can’t just be print; you can’t just be online; you can’t just be anything, any one thing. If you are, God bless, I don’t know how you do it.”

But there’s a clear ideology of putting your money where your mouth is—and supporting women—that extends across the brand. Diamond mentions a conversation at the New York City women’s social club the Wing that she was part of earlier in October. “We talked about supporting female-fueled businesses and making sure that you have a favorite female chef,” she says. “‘Cause it’s one thing to read the stories and think, Oh, this is nice, or listen to the radio and think, That’s nice. But you really have to take the next step and buy their products, go to their restaurants, buy their cookbooks.”

Lunch is ready, so we gather in the kitchen to eat. “You guys are gonna love this!” Diamond tells us excitedly. We help ourselves, and staffers stand propped against counters as you do when you’re hanging out with family during the cooking of a holiday meal, bowls of “Gentl’s Lentils,” as the turmeric-and-ginger-infused stew has been nicknamed by the team, in hand. (It’s fantastic.) Discussion is casually food-oriented: Topics include the scoby—“symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast,” used for making kombucha—from the former Lucky Peach kitchen, what Newman needs to buy to cook lunches while Diamond is traveling, and plans for adding more of the past radio shows to the recently revamped website.

Diamond has to run—she’s off to Seattle the next day, and then on to San Francisco for the Jubilee—but as she goes I ask her another question. How would she describe her food aesthetic? “I wish it was like the cookbook, but it’s more like the Pinterest fail,” she admits. “It tastes good, but it might not look like the Cherry Bombe Cookbook. That’s a bit of the fantasy element.”

Yet here is where fantasy and reality seem to converge for Cherry Bombe: The magazine started due to a desire for community, and now there’s a definite community, as seen in the growing number of women in the food world, as well as the Bombe Squad—the avid fans who tune in for the radio show, bid for sold-out copies of the magazine, and come out in droves for book events and the forward-thinking Jubilee.

“These times are distressing and troubling, and whatever adjective you want to throw at it,” Diamond admits. “At the same time, we’ve seen a lot of improvement. It’s weird that you could be at this state where things have gotten unimaginably worse, but at the same time, the thing you’ve been fighting for for years is improved.”

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed and finely chopped
  • 2 small small shallots, finely chopped
  • 1 ½ cup Petite Crimson lentils or toor dal (split pigeon peas)
  • ¼ cup coconut oil
  • 1 (1-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 ½ teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1 (1½-inch) piece fresh turmeric, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 preserved lemon, quartered and seeded
  • 1 small dried Indian red chile
  • ¼ teaspoon dried Aleppo pepper
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed
  • Fresh cilantro and plain Greek yogurt, for serving

This hearty but delicate stew, is packed with good-for-you ingredients, includ­ing ginger, garlic, and Andrea Gentl’s current obsession, turmeric. She developed the recipe while on a monthlong cleanse when she needed to cook food that her family would like, too. Food isn’t the only family affair for Andrea: she and her husband are two of the most in-demand lifestyle photographers around, shooting under the moniker Gentl & Hyers. Their extensive travels influence what she cooks at home. “I always look to foreign lands for inspiration and new tastes,” she says.

  1. Warm the olive oil in a large heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the garlic and shallots and sauté until translucent, 2 to 3 minutes. Don’t let them brown.
  2. Add the lentils, coconut oil, ginger, fennel seeds, and turmeric. Reduce the heat to low. Let the coconut oil melt into the spices and lentils for about 2 minutes to release the flavors and coat the lentils.
  3. Tuck the lemon quarters into the lentils to melt down during the cooking process, then add the red chile, Aleppo pepper, salt, and 5 cups water. Cover the pot and simmer over medium heat for 40 minutes, or until soft and soupy. Stir occasionally to break up the preserved lemon and add more water if the mixture seems too dry. Remove the red chile before serving and taste for seasoning. Add more salt if necessary. Ladle into bowls and serve with a sprinkling of cilantro and a dollop of yogurt.

Ingredients

  • 5 pounds brisket, fat layer intact (ask your butcher for a piece with at least ¼ inch of fat)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 yellow onions, sliced into thin rounds, plus more if needed
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • ¼ cup ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro or parsley

When someone tells you her brisket is her “crowning glory,” you drop every­thing and you make that brisket. “Cook it low and slow and I promise you a brisket you can serve with pride,” says Jessamyn Rodriguez. Brisket boasts aside, Jessamyn is best known for baked goods and for doing good. She’s the founder and CEO of Hot Bread Kitchen, the New York–based social enterprise that helps immi­grant women and others launch careers and food businesses. When you make Jessamyn’s brisket, save some for sandwiches and make them with challah or brioche. (Just FYI, you can order those breads from Hot Bread’s website for overnight delivery!)

Tip: To serve the brisket later, lay the slices in another roasting pan, cover with aluminum foil, and refrigerate. Transfer the onion reduction from the pan to a large jar and refrigerate. The brisket and onions will keep for up to 5 days. When ready to serve, remove and discard the layer of fat from the top of the sauce. Spoon the rest of the sauce over the brisket and cover with foil. Warm for 30 minutes in a 300°F oven and serve according to the recipe. To make sandwiches, heat the slices in a skillet (Jessamyn prefers cast iron) over medium-high heat until they start to brown and the fat and edges get crispy, about 2 minutes on each side. Toast the bread or rolls you plan to use, spread with some warmed-up onion reduction, add the meat, sprinkle with cilantro, and enjoy.

  1. Preheat the oven to 300°F and adjust the racks to accommodate a large, lidded roasting pan with a heavy bottom or a Dutch oven. The pan should be large enough for the meat to lie flat.
  2. Generously season both sides of the brisket with salt and pepper and set aside.
  3. Spread the onions over the bottom of the roasting pan or Dutch oven, adding extra onion slices as needed to completely cover the bottom.
  4. In a bowl, combine the garlic, ketchup, tomato paste, soy sauce, brown sugar, ¼ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Spread half the sauce on the non-fatty side of the brisket, massaging it into the meat. Place the brisket, sauce-side down, on top of the onions. Spread the remaining sauce on the fatty side of the brisket. Put the lid on the pan.
  5. Bake for 3 to 4 hours, or until the meat shreds easily with a fork. Remove the lid and bake for about another hour, until the onion and the liquids have reduced to a thick sauce. Remove from the oven and let cool for 30 minutes.
  6. Slice the brisket against the grain into ¼-inch-thick pieces.
  7. To serve, lay the brisket slices on a serving platter. Using a spoon, remove and discard some of the fat floating on the onions at the bottom of the pan. Spoon the onion reduction over the brisket and top with the cilantro. Serve any leftover onion reduction in a gravy boat.
Cherry Bombe Cake Balls

Cherry Bombe Cake Balls

24 cake balls

Ingredients

  • Chocolate Cake
  • 4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus more for the pan
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for the pan
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • ⅔ cups sifted Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • ¾ teaspoons baking powder
  • ¾ teaspoons baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • ½ cup buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 1 ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ cup strong brewed hot coffee
  • Swiss Meringue Buttercream
  • ⅓ cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons egg whites
  • ½ cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ⅛ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 24 ounces bittersweet baking chocolate
  • 2 cups sugar
  • ¾ cups light corn syrup
  • Green food coloring
  • Edible red pearlescent luster dust

These epic “cherries” are the most decadent cake balls around: They’re blended with homemade buttercream frosting, dipped in bittersweet chocolate, tickled with edible red luster, and finished with a glassy green candy stem. They don’t need a cherry on top—they are the cherry on top. These mini masterpieces were created by Justine D., who is both a popular New York DJ and a classi­cally trained pastry chef. To channel Justine’s rock-and-roll spirit, roll up your sleeves, turn up your playlist, and get ready for a good time in your kitchen. You’re the bombe, and so are these cake balls.

  1. Make the cake: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter and flour an 8-inch cake pan.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and mix on low speed until well combined. Slowly add the egg, buttermilk, butter, and vanilla, then increase the speed to medium and beat for 2 minutes. Slowly beat in the hot coffee.
  3. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake on the middle rack of the oven for 35 to 40 minutes, rotating halfway through baking, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool completely on a wire rack.
  4. Meanwhile, make the buttercream: Whisk together the sugar and egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer. Place the bowl over a pan of simmering water (do not let the water touch the bottom of the bowl) and cook, whisking continuously, until the sugar has dissolved and the temperature of the mixture registers 140°F on a candy thermometer.
  5. Return the bowl to the mixer and use the whisk attachment to beat the mixture on medium speed, gradually increasing to medium-high, until stiff peaks form. Once the meringue has completely cooled, begin to add the butter, several tablespoons at a time. Add the vanilla and salt, then switch to the paddle attachment and beat on medium-high speed for 2 minutes until smooth.
  6. To make the Cherry Bombes, in a large bowl, crumble the cooled cake with your hands until there are no large pieces left. Using a large spoon, add the butter¬cream and mix well. With your hands, roll the cake mixture into 1½-inch balls. Place the balls on a baking sheet lined with wax paper, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 2 to 3 hours, until firm.
  7. Once the cake balls are chilled, chop the bittersweet chocolate into chunks, reserving a 1-inch “seed” piece for tempering. (Tempering is a technique that ensures the chocolate coating will be glossy and crisp.) Put the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water (do not let the bottom of the bowl touch the water). Heat the chocolate, stirring if necessary, until it has melted and registers 115 to 120°F on a candy thermometer. Remove from the heat and drop the reserved 1-inch piece of chocolate into the bowl. Stir frequently and let the chocolate cool to 80 to 85°F.
  8. Place the chocolate back over the pan of simmering water and return the temperature to 88 to 91°F. Remove any remaining bit of the “seed” chocolate. The chocolate is now ready for dipping. If the temperature drops, rewarm it gently.
  9. Insert a wooden skewer into the center of a cold cake ball and dip the ball into the tempered chocolate. Shake off any excess chocolate, return to baking sheet, and remove the skewer. Repeat with the remaining cake balls.
  10. Line a separate baking sheet with wax paper. Place a Silpat liner on a third baking sheet.
  11. In a large saucepan, combine the sugar, corn syrup, and ½ cup water. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Cover and cook for 3 minutes to dis¬solve the sugar crystals. Uncover and cook over medium-high heat, without stir¬ring, until a candy thermometer registers 300°F. Remove from the heat and stir in the green food coloring.
  12. Place a double layer of latex gloves on your hands. Working quickly, pour half the melted sugar onto the Silpat and let cool until you can work it with your hands. The sugar should still be warm and easy to manipulate, with a texture similar to saltwater taffy.
  13. To make leaves, pull a small amount of sugar and form it into little cherry leaves with your thumb and index fingers pressed together. Place the finished leaves on the baking sheet lined with wax paper. The leaves should all look different. If the sugar hardens, place it back in the saucepan over low heat and melt again, repeating this process as many times as necessary.
  14. To make stems, dip a spoon into the melted sugar and drip in thin 2-inch lines over the Silpat. Use some melted sugar to adhere the leaves to each stem. Place on the wax paper–lined baking sheet to harden. Rewarm the reserved sugar if necessary.
  15. Using a paintbrush, dab the luster dust onto the chocolate-covered cake balls. Carefully place a stem into each cake ball through the skewered hole in the top. Serve at room temperature.
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