Turducken ramen is a thing, a very very delicious thing. It’s the ideal solution for Thanksgiving leftovers, or to make for a Friendsgiving feast. Check out the recipe that I developed in tandem with Justin Cucci and Mashable here.
I’m a total nerd when it comes to the holidays. The baking, the decorating, the gift giving, and general merry making are totally my thing.
And while I do love the bountiful produce that the local farmers markets offer in the spring and summer months, the winter has some goodies too. Pomegranates and persimmons, I think, are some of the greatest fruits this time of year. They’re greatly misunderstood, but once you get the courage to play with them, you’ll see how great their flavors can be.
Besides, anything with the name Simmons in it has to be good, right?
Let’s start with those Japanese persimmons. (I’ll show you some cool DIY projects I’ve been working on with the pomegranates later this week.)
This sweet orange fruit is actually native to China, which I just visited earlier this year, and is now grown widely in Japan, where it’s their national fruit. Persimmons are traditionally consumed on the Japanese New Year as a sign of prosperity and good luck in the year to come. (Hopefully eating these will give me the good fortune of traveling to Japan in 2015!)
I came up on some wonderful fuyu and hichaya persimmons after including them in a cute Thanksgiving centerpiece that I made, which you can see here.
Fuyus are the persimmons you’ll find with a flat bottom, and are sweet when they are just slightly ripe. Hichayas, on the other hand, are incredibly tart and tannic until they are absolutely jelly-like ripe. I used 2 of each variety for this recipe, pureeing them together because the fuyus have a more solid texture.
Just like avocados, you can ripen both types of persimmons by putting them in a paper bag. Once they’re super tender to the touch, they’re ready for baking into this fantastic holiday bread, which tastes super toasted with a slathering of salted butter.
The reason I love this bread is twofold: first and foremost the recipe is adapted from the great James Beard, the godfather of American cooking; secondly, it uses my favorite spirit, bourbon. It also makes a wonderful holiday or host gift since the recipe makes 2 loves.
Here’s how it’s done.
Spiced Bourbon Persimmon Bread
Makes two 9-inch loaves
3½ cups sifted flour
1½ teaspoons salt
2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 to 2½ cups sugar
1 cup melted unsalted butter and cooled to room temperature
4 large eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
2/3 cup Bulleit bourbon
2 cups persimmon puree (this comes from about 4 persimmons)
1 cup nuts (I used a mix of walnuts and pecans)
1 cup dried cranberries
Preheat oven to 350ºF. Butter 2 loaf pans, then dust with flour and tap out any excess.
Remove persimmon flesh from the skin and put into a food processor to puree. Set aside.
Sift the flour, salt, baking soda, nutmeg, and sugar in a large mixing bowl.
Make a well in the center, then stir in the butter, eggs, liquor, persimmon puree. After that’s mixed, add in the dried fruit and nuts. (I used much less in this recipe because I’m not nuts for nuts. The original recipe calls for double nuts and dried fruit that I used here.)
Bake for about 1 hour and 15 minutes or until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
The bread will keep for about a week, if well-wrapped, at room temperature. It can also be frozen.
When it comes to cooking, sometimes the simplest things are the easiest to mess up. Dumplings are one example: they can be delicate and delicious perfection or a sticky mess.
Several chefs specializing in the craft opened up their kitchens to my brother Danny and I while we were on assignment exploring regional Chinese cuisine for Quest magazine. So to document it all and share the knowledge, we made a video of one of our favorite, more basic preparations from the chefs at the absolutely stunning, brand-new Waldorf Astoria in Beijing.
In the video you’ll see how to make the dumpling wrapper dough, how to mix the succulent pork stuffing, and finally how to crimp the edges before boiling these little clouds of glory. Here’s how it’s done:
Looking for a simple but somewhat exotic drink to serve at your holiday gatherings this year? This lovely internationally-inspired cocktail does just the trick. It can easily be scaled to serve in a punch bowl, or done in individual portions for a more intimate affair.
At first, I wrote this recipe to include tequila blanco, which you can totally use, but recently I’ve been making it with mezcal.
For the uninitiated, mezcal is basically tequila’s cousin. It’s made with a type of agave from Oaxaca, Mexico called maguey. It has a wonderful smokiness to it, and just a hint of spice, which I think goes wonderfully with this fall twist on a classic margarita.
My friend Bricia Lopez — one of the owners of L.A.’s great Oaxacan restaurant Guelaguetza — once taught me the popular colloquialism, “para todo mal, mezcal, y para todo bien también,” which translates to, “for all the bad, mezcal, and for all the good, too.” I have to agree. You can easily sip on this drink during holiday time, or if you’ve had a long day at work. (Believe me, I’ve had a few of those lately. And this cocktail makes it alllll better.)
Another little Oaxacan element I added to my festive cocktail was mole bitters. Guelaguetza makes some of the best mole in town, and the dish holds a very special place in my heart. Even though I don’t have Oaxacan heritage, my mom used to make it all the time and to this day it’s one of my favorite dishes of hers to this day. I love the layers of rich spiciness. It’s truly a unique flavor, which you get just a hint of with the mole bitters.
For my fall cocktail I also used pomegranate juice, as pomegranates are typically used in another popular Mexican holiday dish, chiles en nogadas. You’ll see this dish — made of poblano chiles stuffed with dried fruits and nuts, covered in creamy walnut sauce and sprinkled with pomegranate seeds and parsley — as the pomegranates start to come into season in the fall. It really is a celebration of the season’s bountiful harvest.
I hope that sometime soon I can get to Oaxaca to try this awesome spirit in it’s homeland, but for now, I’m happy to share this great little libation with good friends and family during the holidays. Cheers to that!
2 oz POM Wonderful pomegranate juice
1 oz mezcal
1 oz fresh lime juice
1 oz Cointreau
2 shakes Bittermans mole bitters (you can also use regular Angostura or Fee’s Orange bitters if you can’t find the mole version and they’re great!)
Combine all ingredients in a Boston shaker over ice, and shake vigorously for 30 seconds. Strain into a coupe glass and serve. This cocktail can also be pre-batched using the same ratios and served in a punchbowl for holiday parties.
I’m gonna come out and be honest here, folks: I don’t watch college football. I know, I know. I could go and blame it on the fact that the good ol’ Banana Slugs didn’t have a football team, but I’m not the biggest fan of spectator sports in general. Save for basketball, of course, but watching the Lakers right now is downright depressing. Truth be told, I’d much rather play sports than watch them.
But one thing I DO love is cooking for fans on game day. Seeing people fight over the last piece of cornbread is my kind of dogpile.
Which is where this bison chili comes in.
I’ve been totally digging on bison lately. This game meat really is the ultimate protein: it’s lean, it’s delicious, and it’s a heckuva lot cheaper than good cuts of grass fed beef at Whole Foods. If you treat it right, it can be just as delicious as a proper steak.
Seer the flanks, and you’ve got the ultimate kale salad-topper or accompaniment to Vietnamese bun. You can use the chuck for savory braises or a hearty wintertime stew. Buy it ground and swap it in for burger meat, in pasta sauces, or in chili like this one. The possibilities are endless, so long as you follow the golden rule: DO NOT overcook bison, because it is quite lean and can get tough if it’s overdone.
When cooked right, it makes a great chili, which is totally easy to make, and incredibly flavorful when you add in a pint of porter into the mix. (Just make sure you buy an extra pint for the chef.) And just like most stews and chili, it gets better over time so you can make it a day ahead.
I call this chili California-style because it’s unfussy and it’s served using a few of my favorite local brands: Sriracha from LA-based Huy Fong Foods and a smooth porter from Lagunitas in Petaluma. In my humble opinion, chili isn’t chili without some slices of California avocado and a dallop of plain yogurt in place of sour cream. Call me a crunchy Californian, but I dig the healthy zing. Oh, and unlike the Texans, I like beans in my chili. They are a magical fruit and I love them. Maybe you Texans can convert me when I’m in Austin in a few weeks, but for now that’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it.
No matter where your chili comes from, it always goes best with cornbread. Admittedly my favorite recipe is from Paula Deen, but instead of using cornmeal, I use Bob’s Red Mill — the same stuff I use to make polenta and grits. It’s a courser grind, but I’m sort of obsessed with that Southern style of hearty, rustic cornbread. (Did I mention how excited I am to get to Texas so I can eat my weight in BBQ and cornbread?!?) If coarse cornbread isn’t your thing, keep it as is.
Either way, cornbread always better with a heaping dose of honey butter, which is basically just one parts honey two two parts softened butter whipped up in a Cuisinart. The key is, of course, to use great ingredients. I just discovered Anchor dairy from New Zealand and am obsessed with the flavor and the quality of baked goods it’s turning out, plus they are nice to their cows. And happy cows put me in a good mood.
And so does this chili. In fact, you might even say I’m excited for game day. And no, that’s not just the beer talking.
2 strips bacon
1 pound lean ground bison
1 medium onion, diced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 tablespoon Mexican chili powder
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon Sriracha
2 cloves garlic, minced
One large can crushed tomatoes
One can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
One can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
One pint Lagunitas Porter
2 cups chicken stock
Optional: Avocado, yogurt or sour cream, cilantro, cheddar cheese, and lime wedges
Heat bacon in large soup pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat until crispy. Remove from heat and reserve. Add the bison and cook in the rendered bacon fat until browned, taking care not to break the meat into very small pieces, about 10 minutes. Transfer the bison to a plate using a slotted spoon and set aside.
Keep the pot over medium-high heat and sweat the onions. Add the bell peppers and carrots and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Then add tomato paste, chili powder, coriander, cumin, salt, cayenne pepper, paprika, and garlic. Cook and stir until the spices are fragrant and toasted, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes with the juices, and bring to a simmer while scraping any browned bits off the bottom of the pan, about 2 minutes.
Return the bison to the pot and add the pinto beans, kidney beans, sriracha, stock and pint of porter beer. Chop up bacon and add that in too. Bring to a boil, and then reduce the heat, cover and simmer until thickened, about 45 minutes. Season with salt. Serve with the yogurt, cheese, cilantro, onions, lime and avocados, and of course, some cornbread and honey butter.
Photo by Matt Armendariz
Maybe it’s the colors, maybe it’s the spices, perhaps it’s my obsession with yoga, but I’ve always been fascinated with Indian culture. So it’s only natural that at the tip top of my travel bucket list is an edible journey through the country, exploring the regional cuisine — hopefully with a few stops for some downward dogs along the way.
To be honest, that Big India Trip was part of my pre-30 bucket list. And seeing as how The Big Day is coming up in a few weeks (eep!), I don’t think it’ll happen. Life kinda gets away from you like that. But it will this year. I’ll make it be so, gosh darn it.
Since I can’t make it to India before the ol’ three-oh, I might as well make something so that my tastebuds can take the journey. So to toast this birthday month (yes, I celebrate for a whole month, and so should you!), I’m going to be making these gorgeous Indian donuts called gulab jamun. (It’s prounounced GOO-lahb JAH-moon, for the record.) I wrote about them for LAist in honor of my friend and Food Network Star Aarti Aarti Sequeira, who also used to write for our site. The recipe comes from her new cookbook, Aarti Paarti: An American Kitchen With Indian Soul.
She gives her gulab jamun— which she and Nathan Lyon made for her book party — a modern twist by drizzling them with chamomile cardamom syrup. They’re the perfect treat for any special occasion, and are often served at weddings, birthday parties, and holidays.
So rather than running from this landmark birthday that admittedly has me a bit freaked out and questioning EVERYTHING, I’m going to run towards it with these ooey gooey, delicious donuts in hand. (There’ll likely be a cocktail or two, too. Let’s be real.)
1/2 cup nonfat instant dry milk powder
3 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon distilled white vinegar
1 tablespoon melted ghee or unsalted butter, cooled
2 to 3 tablespoons whole milk
Sunflower oil for deep frying
For the chamomile cardamom syrup:
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 cups water
4 chamomile tea bags
4 green cardamom pods, crushed open but left whole
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon minced pistachios
grated lemon zest
vanilla ice cream
In a large bowl, stir together the milk powder, flour, lemon zest, baking soda and a pinch of salt with a fork until well-combined.
Make a small well in the ingredients, and add the vinegar and ghee. Stir until the mixture takes on the texture of sand, 1 to 2 minutes.
Now add the milk in a thin, slow stream, stirring all the while with your fork. The mixture will first look like wet sand, then come together and come away from the sides of the bowl into a loose dough that somewhat resembles cottage cheese. The dough should be soft, light and pretty delicate, but not too sticky; add a few pinches of flour if it’s sticking to your fingers too much.
Don’t dilly-dally; this dough dries out quickly! Divide the dough into 8 equal portions. Roll them into small balls, about 1 inch in diameter. They’ll look a little puny to you, but don’t worry—they will swell in both the oil and the syrup. Place them on a plastic wrap-lined plate. Top with a lightly dampened paper towel, then with another piece of plastic wrap.
Pour oil into a small, heavy-bottomed Dutch oven to a depth of 2 inches. Heat the oil over low to medium-low heat until it registers 325ºF on a deep-fry or candy thermometer (if you don’t have one, then drop a small piece of dough into the oil—it should sink to the bottom, then pop to the surface in about 15 seconds).
Meanwhile, line a plate with a double layer of paper towels.
When the fat is at the right temperature, use a slotted spoon to carefully drop four of the dough balls into the pot. As soon as they pop up to the surface, use a spider or slotted spoon to keep them gently moving and rolling in the hot fat so that they brown evenly. Cook in this way for 2 to 3 minutes, until they’re a light mahogany or acorn color. Scoop them out with a slotted spoon and lay them on the paper towel-lined plate. Repeat with the remaining balls of dough, making sure that the fat returns to the correct temperature before adding the dough.
For chamomile cardamom syrup:
In a small saucepan, combine the sugar, water, tea bags and cardamom pods and bring to a boil over medium heat, uncovered. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for about 3 minutes. Push the tea bags to the side, and lay the fried doughnuts in the syrup. Stir to ensure the doughnuts are well doused in the syrup and simmer, partially covered, for 5 minutes, until they swell and soften. Remove from the heat, and pull out the tea bags and cardamom pods. Carefully stir in saffron (if using), crushing it lightly between your hands, then add the lemon juice and a pinch of kosher salt. Let the whole thing cool off for a couple of minutes.
Serve 2 doughnuts per person (hot or warm) with a couple of tablespoons of the syrup. Top with pistachios and lemon zest. And if you’re my mum, top with a scoop of vanilla ice cream!
Depending on the climate you’re cooking in, you may need more or less milk. Don’t add the entire 1/3 cup at once. Add a little at a time until the dough comes together. You may not need it all.
Some consider Labor Day to be the end of the summer, but here in L.A. it feels like the season is still going strong. Like, really, really strong. Blazing in fact. This weekend I found myself sweltering in my apartment with no sign of reprieve (or central air), so I decided to do what any logical person would do: make myself a cool, refreshing cocktail that sings of the summer and reminds me why we wait so anxiously for this season in the first place.
Perusing my bar cart, my eyes fixed on the gorgeous bottle of Art in the Age Rhubarb that arrived on my doorstep a few weeks ago, but I’d yet to try. (Yes, I can exhibit self-restraint. Sometimes.) I popped the cap, took a whiff, and was immediately enveloped by the tart, welcoming aroma of ripe strawberry rhubarb pie. The tipple itself wasn’t at all as sweet as it smelled. It was really nicely balanced, likely because the distillers build it like a traditional colonial era rhubarb tea, blending cane sugar, beets, lemon, cardamom, pink peppercorns, rhubarb, and more. (You can watch a video on the history of this Pennsylvania-based spirit below.)
Working with those base flavors, I figured Barkeep’s local fennel bitters and the Italian blood orange soda I’d been sipping on earlier would be a natural pairing. I had picked up some fresh mint from the Silverlake market in the morning, and added that for zip and freshness too. To keep things spirits-forward (and to help me forget about my stickiness) I used Silversun’s vibrant Hedge Trimmer gin, which uses watermelon rind and citrus peels in their botanical mix.
The end result was quite a treat. This drink would be the perfect addition to your long weekend festivities too, if pre-batched and placed in a pitcher for friends. So, take this as my gift for the long Labor Day weekend. May your last few days of summer be as lovely and pleasant and cooling as this delightful cocktail. And if you have central air, even better.
2 oz Art in the Age Rhubarb spirits
2 oz Sun Liquor Hedge Trimmer gin
1 oz Trader Joe’s blood orange soda
4 shakes Barkeep Fennel bitters
2 sprigs fresh mint
Slap the mint between your hands a few times, then add to the bottom of a boston shaker. Add about 5 cubes of ice, rhubarb, gin, bitters and blood orange soda. Stir for about 15 seconds. Strain into a coupe glass and garnish with a sprig of mint.
Angeleno cooking seems to be all about mash-ups these days. It’s hard to turn a corner without seeing some sort of Korean taco or Filipino ube cupcake, upped with awesome local produce and Cali fusion flare. Exhibit A is an awesome little restaurant I discovered last week in Downtown L.A. called Badmaash. (The restaurant has been open for a little over a year now, but I went for my first visit during Dine LA.’s Restaurant Week. Quick slacking, Simmons!)
Badmaash serves both updated and traditional Indian food in an ultra-hip-yet-laid-back modern gastropub setting. There are things like Punjabi pork belly and chicken tikka poutine on offer, but they also do traditional dishes too, like chaat, baingan bharta, and a ridiculously delicious version of saag paneer made with freshly chopped spinach and the fluffiest paneer you’ve ever tasted.
The thing that’s great about Baadmash and other modern Cali fusion spots like A-Frame and Escala is that they also really pay attention to freshness and quality produce. No one is claiming they’re “authentic.” It’s just good, fun food with some international flare.
And to be honest, that’s how I like to cook at home. I travel a lot, and love taking those international influences and bringing them into the kitchen so I tap into those sense memories when I’m not on the road. The quick little salad I whipped up did just that.
The flavors I used are a little bit Indian, a little bit Mexican, and a whole lot of California. (Admittedly I haven’t been to India yet, but it’s at the tip top of my travel bucket list and gosh darn it, I will get there within the next year. Gotta manifest that!)
As a typical California kale nut, I’d usually opt for that as my greens, but I discovered a new addition to TJ’s salad aisle called Cruciferous Crunch, which is made up of kale, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and green and red cabbage. It’s pretty darn tasty!
This salad is even better if you allow it to sit in the fridge for an hour or so because the acid breaks down the cruciferous veggies making them less fibrous, but you can also eat it right away if you’re feelin’ hangry.
Here’s how it’s done:
*serves 4 as a side, 2 as a meal
3 cups shredded greens (I used TJ’s Cruciferous Crunch mix)
1 can organic black beans
1 cup crumbled cotija cheese (you can use feta if cotija isn’t available)
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1 avocado, cut into cubes
2 tbsp mint cilantro chutney (I used Mirch Masala)
4 tbsp olive oil
1 lemon, juiced
Whisk together lemon juice, chutney, and olive oil in a small mixing bowl and set aside. In a large mixing bowl, add in greens, beans, cheese, and tomatoes. Pour in dressing and toss, then add avocado. Toss making sure not to bruise the poor avo, then serve.