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Gail Simmons is a native Torontonian who took her big food dreams to New York. She became a famous culinary expert, food writer, and judge on the popular Emmy-winning series, Top Chef.
She’s spent time travelling all over the world and now, she’s sharing recipes inspired by her journeys in her first cookbook, Bringing It Home: Favourite Recipes from a Life of Adventurous Eating. 

Golden Milk Manjo Lassi

Tinkering in the kitchen one day with two of my favorite classic Indian drinks, I came up with this striking, refreshing hybrid. It combines lassi, a cooling yogurt beverage, with golden milk, a gently spiced and brightly colored tea that has developed something of a cult following in Western wellness circles in recent years, due to its inclusion of the super-spice turmeric, which is said to offer myriad health benefits. While I can’t promise this drink will cure what ails you, I can tell you this: The lightly sweet tropical flavors of mango and coconut; accented with spices and gingery notes, are delicious and invigorating.

WHAT YOU NEED:

  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 1 ½ cups plain low-fat yogurt (see note)
  • 1 ripe red mango, peeled and diced (about 1 ½ cups); or 1 ½ cups frozen cubed mango
  • ½ cup well-shaken unsweetened coconut milk
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped peeled fresh ginger (from a 1 ½ - inch knob)
  • ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 3/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 4 to 6 ice cubes (about ¾ cup)
  • 1 tablespoon shopped unsalted shelled pistachios

WHAT YOU DO:

  1. In a small dry skillet over medium-low heat, toast the coconut flakes, occasionally shaking the pan back and forth, until the coconut is lightly fragrant and golden, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool.
  2. In a blender, puree the yogurt with the mango, coconut milk, ginger, turmeric, salt, pepper, cinnamon, and ice until well blended and frothy. Divide the lassi among four glasses. Serve cold, topped with the cooled toasted coconut flakes and chopped pistachios.
  3. NOTE: I love the way that low-fat yogurt lightens up this rich drink, buy any sort of plain yogurt works well. If you’re using a thicket Greek-style yogurt, add a splash of chilled water or extra coconut milk to achieve the desired drinkable consistency.

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The Perfect Bagel Brunch with Beet-Cured Salmon

Serves 8-12
Weekend brunch is a meal worth savoring and, when I have the time, I try to make it as special as possible, inviting friends and family to linger around my table. Along with eggs of all kinds, cured salmon and warm, fresh bagels are favorites in my house. Curing your own salmon is both deceptively easy and perfect for serving (and impressing!) a crowd. Beets add a touch of sweetness and a stunning pink-to-red ombré color, created as the salty-coated salmon absorbs the beets’ dark purple juices during the curing process. The cream cheeses with flavorful mix-ins add another fun savory twist to the traditional feast of bagels, lox, and cream cheese. Both the salmon and the cream cheeses can easily be doubled or even tripled if you’re serving a larger crowd.

WHAT YOU NEED:

  • Beet-Cured Salmon, recipe follows
  • 1 or more of the Three Cream Cheeses, recipes follow
  • Toasted Bagels Toppings: sliced cucumber, red onion, tomatoes, capers, lemon wedges

WHAT YOU DO:

  1. Thinly slice the salmon and arrange on a large platter. Pile the toasted bagels on a plate and the toppings and cream cheeses in separate bowls. Dig in!

Three Cream Cheeses

Each makes enough for 4 servings
Toasted Fennel Seed-Lemon Cream Cheese
  • 2 teaspoons fennel seeds
  • 8 ounces plain cream cheese, at room temperature
  • Pinch kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons freshly grated lemon zest
  • 2 generous pinches freshly cracked black pepper
Aleppo-Chive Cream Cheese
  • 8 ounces plain cream cheese, at room temperature
  • Pinch kosher salt
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped fresh chives
  • 2 teaspoons Aleppo pepper
Everything Cream Cheese
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
  • 8 ounces plain cream cheese, at room temperature
  • Pinch kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon poppy seeds
  • 1 teaspoon dried onion flakes
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
Feel free to make one, two, or all three of these piquant cream cheeses. Each makes 8 ounces of cream cheese. A good rule of thumb while serving a crowd is 2 ounces of cream cheese per person. The cheese can be mixed up to 3 days ahead, and you can use full-fat or low-fat cream cheese. Keep them covered and refrigerated until ready to serve.

WHAT YOU DO:

  1. For the Toasted Fennel Seed-Lemon Cream Cheese: In a small, dry skillet, toast the fennel seeds over medium heat, occasionally shaking the pan back and forth, until the seeds are fragrant and lightly toasted, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board and let cool, then coarsely crack with a mortar and pestle, or by rocking the bottom of a heavy skillet back and forth over the seeds.
  2. In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or in a mixing bowl with a standard hand mixer, whisk the cream cheese and salt on medium-high until airy and smooth, 1 to 2 minutes. Fold in all but a generous pinch each of the cracked fennel seeds, lemon zest, and pepper. Transfer to a serving bowl and sprinkle with the remaining fennel seeds, zest, and pepper.
  1. For the Aleppo-Chive Cream Cheese: In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or in a mixing bowl with a standard hand mixer, whisk the cream cheese and salt on medium-high until airy and smooth, 1 to 2 minutes. Fold in all but a generous pinch each of the chives and Aleppo pepper. Transfer to a serving bowl and sprinkle with the remaining chives and Aleppo pepper.
  1. For the Everything Cream Cheese: In a small, dry skillet, toast the sesame seeds over medium-low heat, occasionally shaking the pan back and forth, until the seeds are lightly golden, 4 to 6 minutes. Transfer to a plate and let cool.
  2. In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or in a mixing bowl with a standard hand mixer, whisk the cream cheese and salt on medium-high until airy and smooth, 1 to 2 minutes. Fold in the sesame seeds, all but a pinch of the poppy seeds, the onion flakes, and garlic powder. Transfer to a serving bowl and sprinkle with the remaining poppy seeds.
Beet-Cured Salmon

WHAT YOU NEED:

  • ¾ pound beets (4 to 5 medium), well-scrubbed, trimmed, and quartered
  • 2 teaspoons coriander seeds
  • 2 teaspoons white peppercorns
  • 2/3 cup kosher salt
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup finely chopped fresh dill
  • Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 (2-pound) skin-on salmon fillet
Special equipment: food-safe rubber gloves (if needed); 13 x 9-inch baking dish
In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the shredding blade, shred the beets. (If you don’t have a food processor, put on the rubber gloves and use the large holes of a box grater to grate the beets.) Set aside.

WHAT YOU DO:

  1. In a small, dry skillet, heat the coriander seeds and white peppercorns over medium-low heat, occasionally shaking the pan back and forth, until the spices are fragrant and lightly toasted, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board and let cool. Coarsely crush with a mortar and pestle, or by rocking the bottom of a heavy skillet back and forth over the seeds. Place in a bowl and stir in the salt, sugar, dill, and lemon zest to combine.
  2. Before beginning the curing process, check for pin bones in the fish by running your index finger along the center seam of the flesh (you’ll feel them if they’re there). Working one by one, using tweezers or small needle-nose pliers, grasp the tip of each bone, then pull up and out at a slight angle to remove.
  3. Rinse the salmon under cold running water and pat dry with paper towels. Place in a nonreactive baking dish, skin-side down. Rub about one-third of the salt mixture into the top and sides of the fish, then pat the remaining mixture over the top and sides, fully covering the fish. Top with the beets and their juices.
  4. Cover the fish with plastic wrap, pressing the wrap directly into the fish, then place a second baking dish or a heavy pan on top and weight the dish with several heavy cans. Cure in the refrigerator for 3 days.
  5. Gently scrape off the curing mixture and discard before cutting the salmon into thin slices (see Chef Tech).
  6. The cured salmon keeps, covered and refrigerated, for up to 1 week or frozen for up to 3 months. Cut into portions before freezing to avoid freezing again once thawed.

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Christmas Brisket Fried Rice

Here’s a tasty dish inspired by two North American Jewish traditions: making brisket for Hanukkah and going out for Chinese food on Christmas. I like to make an extra big Hanukkah brisket (regardless of how many people are actually coming over to eat), so that we have plenty of leftovers to put to delicious use in this fun twist on classic egg fried rice. You can use the brisket recipe on page 140, or purchase cooked brisket from your local BBQ joint of super market.

WHAT YOU NEED:

  • 1 cup jasmine rice
  • 3 teaspoons canola oil, divided
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • Kosher salt
  •  5 scallions cut crosswise into ½- inch lengths, white and green parts separated
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped peeled fresh ginger (from a 3 inch knob)
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • ¾ pound cooked brisket (page 140), shredded (about 3 cups)
  • ½ cup of frozen peas, thawed
  • ¼ cup finely chopped cilantro stems, plus ¼ cup coarsely chopped cilantro leaves for serving
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Sriracha hot sauce for serving
  • 1 lime, cut into wedges, for serving
  • Special equipment: Large wok or 12-inch skillet.

WHAT YOU DO:

  1. Cook the rice according to package instructions. Spread on a baking sheet and let cool until ready to use.
  2. In a large wok or 12-inch nonstick skillet, heat 1 teaspoon of the oil over medium-high heat. Add the eggs and ¼ teaspoon salt and cook, stirring, until just set, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer the eggs to a plate and set aside.
  3. Add 1 teaspoon oil and the scallion whites to the skillet. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until fragrant and beginning to soften, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the ginger and garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute more.
  4. Add the remaining teaspoon oil, then the brisket, and cook, stirring occasionally, until warmed through, about 3 minutes. Add the rice and cook, stirring frequently, until well incorporated and beginning to crisp, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the peas and reserved eggs. Stir well, breaking up the eggs with a wooden spoon, about 1 minute.  Add the scallion greens, cilantro stems, soy sauce, and a generous pinch each of salt and pepper. Continue stirring, until the scallions are just tender, about 1 minute more. Adjust seasoning to taste.
  5. Sprinkle with the cilantro leaves and serve warm with Sriracha and lime wedges.

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Jerk Shrimp Rolls

Some of my most memorable meals have been at roadside jerk shacks in and around Negril, Jamaica. At each shack, chicken (and often fish, lobster, and shrimp) is rubbed with an intoxicating blend of sweet and spicy seasoning and herbs that make up jerk; chilies, ginger, scallions, garlic, and allspice. Each shack makes its own version of the seasoning, and—having dutifully sampled many—I can honestly say that I haven’t yet met a jerk chicken or fish that I didn’t wholeheartedly love. The seasoning has inspired my own riffs on jerk, including this shrimp roll. Blending the style of a classic New England lobster roll with those spicy-sweet jerk flavors, it’s a wildly delicious mash-up and, since it’s quick to assemble and easy to double or triple, one that’s great for feeding a crowd.
Serves 4

WHAT YOU NEED:

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil, plus more for grilling
  • 1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • Kosher salt
  • 5 scallions, divided
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
  • 3 tablespoons coarsely chopped peeled fresh ginger (from a 2-inch knob)
  • 1 large clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 Scotch bonnet pepper, stemmed, seeded, and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 4 hot dog buns
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

WHAT YOU DO:

  1. Heat a grill or grill pan to high heat and brush it with oil. In a bowl, toss the shrimp with 2 teaspoons oil and ½ teaspoon salt. Grill until bright pink, opaque, and slightly charred, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate and set aside to cool, then coarsely chop.
  2. Clean the grill and brush with more oil if required. Season four of the scallions with salt and pepper; grill until softened and charred in spots, about 2 minutes per side. Allow to cool, then trim off the root and coarsely chop.
  3. In a food processor, combine the grilled scallions, allspice, ginger, garlic, thyme, Scotch bonnet, lime juice, and ¾ teaspoon salt. Pulse to form a coarse paste, scraping down sides a few times between pulses to evenly incorporate. Transfer to a mixing bowl and stir in the mayonnaise. Fold in the shrimp.
  4. Split open the hot dog buns and brush the insides generously with the melted butter. Grill over high heat on the grill or in grill pan until just golden, about 2 minutes. Thinly slice the remaining scallion. Divide the shrimp mixture among the buns, sprinkle with the sliced scallion, and serve.

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Banana-Cardamom Upside-Down Cake with Salty Caramel

Banana bread was always a staple in my mom’s kitchen when I was growing up. Over the years, I have riffed on her recipe in dozens of ways: adding chocolate chips, nuts, or spices; swinging from quick bread to cake; icing or dusting it with confectioners’ sugar. Then, about a year ago, I decided to play with the idea of a banana upside-down cake, topped with banana slice and salted caramel, which both soaks into the cake and drips all around it when the pan is inverted. That little idea turned out to be a total keeper. Here it is.

WHAT YOU NEED:

For the Banana Topping
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • ¾ cup packed dark brown sugar
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 firm-ripe bananas, peeled
For the Cake Batter
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup packed brown sugar
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, cubed, at room temperature
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 bananas, peeled and mashed
  • ¾ cup sour cream (preferably full-fat)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 ¾ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons ground cardamom
  • ¾ teaspoon backing soda
  • ¾ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • Special equipment: 10-inch cast iron skillet

WHAT YOU DO:

  1. Heat the oven to 350°F with the rack in the middle
  2. For the bananas: Melt the butter in a well-seasoned 10-inch cast iron skillet. Stir in the brown sugar and salt and cook over medium heat, stirring, until evenly combined, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from the heat.
  3. Cut the bananas in half crosswise, then the halves lengthwise in thirds. Arrange the slices, cut-side down, on top of the caramel.
  4. For the batter: In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the granulated sugar, brown sugar, and soft butter. Beat on high until light and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. Reduce the speed to medium and beat in the eggs, one at a time, then the mashed bananas, sour cream, and vanilla until combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl between additions as needed.
  5. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cardamom, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Slowly mix the dry ingredients into the banana mixer until evenly distributed. Pour the batter into the skillet over the bananas. Smooth the top evenly.
  6. Place the skillet on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake until lightly browned and a cake tested inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean, 40 to 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool completely. To invert the cake from the pan, run a butter knife around the edge of the cake, and then place the skillet over very low heat to just warm the bottom, about 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, and then invert the cake onto a large plate.