“Bringing it Home” by Gail Simmons with Mindy Fox: Red pepper-pomegranate dip

Best cookbooks of 2017

“Bringing it Home” by Gail Simmons with Mindy Fox

When “Top Chef” judge, Gail Simmons, says she’s bringing her eating adventures from around the world home, she means it. She shares recipes for eggs in crispy potato skins that she had in a diner in Massachusetts, shrimp and grapefruit salad she learned to make at a resort in Bali, and pork and bean stew from a Montreal bistro. She also offers snippets on what the difference is between mezcal and tequila or what to look for when buying scallops, and kitchen wisdoms on how to modify spice blends and salt-bake fish. A curious traveler or home cook will love the book.

Gail Simmons says: You can use ⅓ cup panko or plain breadcrumbs if you don’t have bread. 

Thanksgiving, what?: I am Canadian, and so I don’t have any long-standing family traditions around Thanksgiving. As my family back home doesn't celebrate the same weekend as we do, we are free every year to do whatever we want in terms of menu and even location. Over the years we have used the weekend to go home to Canada and see our families and not make a traditional American meal at all. Some years we choose to have a big Friendsgiving.

When she does cook: When I do cook I truly love the holiday. I often delegate dessert and wine duties or even a salad or side. But I love making the turkey myself as well as the soups and at least one potato dish. I've made Asian-flavored turkey with soy and lemon glaze and Mexican-flavored turkey with mole. I love making salt and vinegar smashed potatoes for the holiday as I use malt vinegar in them, which always reminds me of home. And I love finding new ways to roast or bake winter squash.

But, why?: I have never understood putting marshmallow on sweet potatoes. I know it's a sacred way to serve them for Thanksgiving but it's far too sweet for me and not something I grew up eating.

Red Pepper, Pomegranate and Walnut Dip

PG tested

Texture is key in this dip, so be sure not to overblend the mixture.

2 cups small torn pieces rustic whole-wheat bread or ¾ cup panko breadcrumbs

½ cup walnuts, coarsely chopped

1 (12-ounce) jar roasted red bell peppers, drained

2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon tomato paste

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

¾ teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon ground cumin

⅛ teaspoon red pepper flakes

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving

Pomegranate seeds for serving, optional

Torn fresh basil or mint for serving, optional

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Spread bread pieces on a rimmed baking sheet and toast in oven for 2 minutes. (Panko crumbs don’t have to be toasted.)

Add walnuts and continue toasting until bread is dry and lightly golden and nuts are fragrant and lightly toasted, about 7 minutes more. Transfer bread and nuts to a plate and let cool completely.

Set aside about 1 tablespoon of toasted nuts.

Combine remaining nuts and toasted bread with red peppers, pomegranate molasses, tomato paste, lemon juice, salt, cumin and pepper flakes; puree until well mixed in a food processor. With machine running, add oil in a slow and steady stream until you have a coarse mix.

Transfer spread to a serving bowl. To serve, drizzle with additional oil and sprinkle with reserved nuts, pomegranate seeds and basil or mint if using.

Makes about 1½ cups.

— “Bringing it Home” by Gail Simmons With Mindy Fox (Grand Central Life & Style; October 2017; $30)


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