Gail Simmons isn’t going anywhere! Despite being MIA from Top Chef season 16 due to the birth of her son Kole, now 11 months, the reality show judge exclusively tells Us Weekly that she will most definitely be a large part of season 17 of the Bravo hit.
“I will be back, full on as usual,” the 42-year-old says. “Unfortunately, they decided to shoot [season 16] three days before I had a child so there was nothing I could do about [missing most of it], but I did really love how they sort of integrated my pregnancy into pieces of last season.”
Though Simmons tells Us that Top Chef’s upcoming season is “just at the beginning of production stages right now,” she does reveal that the cast, which includes host Padma Lakshmi, Tom Colicchio and Graham Elliot are “all excited to get back on the road together.”
In the meantime, the Recipe to Riches alum has partnered with Hood Cottage Cheese and created some tasty recipes using the oft-overlooked food. “For me, the best thing about cottage cheese is its versatility, I really love that there’s so many ways to use it in the kitchen,” Simmons explains, noting she loves it as a dip or snack and also uses in place of other ingredients, such as ricotta or yogurt. As she puts it: “The great thing about cottage cheese is you can do so many different things with it and you don’t have to be restricted by just eating it alone.”
One recipe the cookbook author crafted – a warm Southwest quinoa Bowl with creamy herb dressing – uses the dairy product as the base for a ranch-style dressing. The dish also includes fresh vegetables, chickpeas and more. “I’m really big on texture in my food. Texture is a part of what makes things delicious and interesting and adds so much to the experience,” Simmons tells Us of the dish. “I think this quinoa bowl gives you all of those things. It’s all about the fresh ingredients that are the base of the bowl so that simple quinoa can serve as great texture, along with the piling on of fresh veggies and then a really savory, delicious dressing that I make with the Hood Cottage Cheese with Cracked Pepper.”
Adds the culinary expert: “Every single bite of the bowl is covered in all of that great flavor and texture.”
Intrigued? Check out the recipe below!
Gail Simmons’ Warm Southwest Quinoa Bowls with Creamy Herb Dressing
Makes 4 servings
• 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
• 1 tsp granulated sugar
• Kosher salt
• 3 cups water, divided
• 1 large shallot, thinly sliced
• 1 cup multicolored quinoa
• 3 tbsps extra-virgin olive oil, divided
• 2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts (about 1 1/2 pounds), rinsed and pat dry
• Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
• 1 cup Hood Country Style Cottage Cheese
• 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped and divided
• 1/2 tsp lemon zest
• 2 tbsps lemon juice
• 2 tbsps chopped fresh parsley, plus more for serving
• 2 tbsps chopped fresh dill, plus more for serving
• 1 medium red bell pepper, seeded and sliced into thin strips
• 1/4 tsp onion powder
• 1/2 tsp chili powder
• 1 15-ounce can chickpeas, washed and drained
• 2 cups packed arugula
- In a small bowl, whisk together the apple cider vinegar, sugar, one teaspoon salt and 1/2 cup of warm water. Add the sliced shallots and stir to combine. Let stand at room temperature for at least one hour. If making ahead, the mixture can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to two weeks.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Rinse the quinoa under cold running water. Place in a small saucepan with two cups of water and 1/2 teaspoon salt, and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover and cook until the quinoa is tender and the water has absorbed, 15 to 20 minutes. Fluff quinoa with a fork then spread it on the prepared baking sheet to cool slightly.
- Meanwhile, in a large sauté pan, heat two tablespoons of the olive oil over medium-high heat. Season both sides of the chicken breasts with 1/2 teaspoon salt and several turns of black pepper. Add the chicken to the pan and cook until the underside is golden and crisp, about seven minutes. Turn the chicken over and brown the other side, another seven to eight minutes. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pan and finish cooking, until the internal juices run clear, about 20 more minutes. Transfer the chicken to a clean plate to cool for about five minutes, then cut into strips or shred with a fork. Reserve the pan.
- While the chicken cooks, make the dressing: In a medium bowl, combine the cottage cheese, one clove minced garlic, 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest, two tablespoons lemon juice, parsley, dill, 1/4 teaspoon salt, several grinds black pepper, and three tablespoons of the shallot pickling liquid. Set aside.
- Heat the same pan from the chicken to medium and add the remaining tablespoon of oil. Stir in the remaining clove of minced garlic and cook for one minute. Add the red pepper strips and 1/8 teaspoon of salt. Continue to cook until the peppers are slightly soft, about three to four minutes. Add the chili powder and onion powder, stirring to coat. Add the chickpeas and the remaining 1/4 cup of water and stir, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan, until the water is completely reduced. Immediately remove the pan from the heat.
- To assemble: Divide the quinoa, pepper and chickpea mixture, chicken and arugula among four bowls. Top the arugula with pickled shallots. Spoon the dressing over the quinoa and serve with an additional pinch of dill and parsley on top.
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