In the kitchen with Gail Simmons from “Top Chef”

"Top Chef" judge Gail Simmons is used to cooking with an array of ingredients.  However, when it comes to using cottage cheese, she may have topped herself.  The culinary expert has partnered with Hood Cottage Cheese to creates some tasty dishes.  Loaded with protein, cottage cheese is making a comeback -- some are calling it 'the new Greek yogurt.'

PIX11's lifestyle correspondent Ojinika Obiekwe joins her in the kitchen to try out some of her recipes.  And to try them out yourself, see below:

Warm Southwest Quinoa Bowls with Creamy Herb Dressing
By Gail Simmons
Serves 4

INTRODUCTION: A hearty and complete meal for lunch or dinner, my Southwestern-inspired quinoa bowls combine a little smoke, a hint of spice and the creamy richness of a ranch-style dressing, with lots of fresh veggies and satisfying sautéed chicken. Lightly pickling the shallots adds a pop of brightness that brings everything together, and makes you look like a pro.  

INGREDIENTS
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
Kosher salt
3 cups water, divided
1 large shallot, thinly sliced
1 cup multicolored quinoa
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts (about 1 1/2 pounds), rinsed and pat dry
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup Hood Country Style Cottage Cheese
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped, divided
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, plus more for serving
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill, plus more for serving
1 medium red bell pepper, seeded and sliced into thin strips
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1 15-ounce can chickpeas, washed and drained
2 cups packed arugula

DIRECTIONS
In a small bowl, whisk together the apple cider vinegar, sugar, 1 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 2 weeks.  

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Rinse the quinoa under cold running water. Place in a small saucepan with 2 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 2 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 7 minutes. Turn the chicken over and brown the other side, another 7 to 8 minutes. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pan and finish cooking, until the internal juices run clear, about 20 more minutes. Remove the chicken to a clean plate to cool for about 5 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, 1 clove minced garlic, 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, parsley, dill, 1/4 teaspoon salt, several grinds black pepper, and 3 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 1 minute. Add the red peppers strips and 1/8 teaspoon of salt. Continue to cook until the peppers are slightly soft, 3 to 4 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 4 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.

 

Crunchy Berry Parfait with Morning Glory Granola
By Gail Simmons
Serves 4

INTRODUCTION: Mornings in my house are hectic, which is why having breakfast options on hand that can be assembled quickly is key. Crunchy homemade granola, loaded with nutritious ingredients, can be made in big batches to eat all week long. Layer it with juicy berries and Hood Cottage Cheese with Strawberry for a balanced meal that gets everyone up and moving! Kids will love helping to assemble these pretty parfaits, and any excuse to get them involved in the process makes mealtime more fun! Bonus: The combination of orange zest, maple and coconut oil in this recipe fills your kitchen with the sweetest, most intoxicating scent as it bakes…

INGREDIENTS
Morning Glory Granola
2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
3/4 cup raw almonds, roughly chopped
3/4 cup raw pepitas or pumpkin seeds
1 tablespoon orange zest, plus more for serving
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup coconut oil, warmed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
1/2 cup candied ginger, finely chopped

Berry Parfait
2 cups sliced strawberries
1 cup blueberries
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon orange juice
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil, plus more for serving (optional)
2 cups Hood Cottage Cheese with Strawberry

DIRECTIONS
Preheat the oven to 300°F.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, mix together the oats, almonds, pepitas, orange zest, maple syrup, coconut oil and salt. Spread the granola mixture on the prepared baking sheet in an even layer and bake for 15 minutes. Add the coconut flakes and stir the granola to combine. Continue to bake, stirring the granola at the 15-minute mark again, until dry to touch, 30 more minutes. Remove from the oven and stir in the candied ginger. Allow to cool.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, toss the berries with the sugar, orange juice, and basil if using. Set aside at room temperature for about 30 minutes.

To assemble the parfaits: In 4 rocks glasses or small glass bowls, spoon 1/4 cup strawberry cottage cheese in an even layer, followed by 2 tablespoons of berries with their juices, and 2 tablespoons granola. Repeat each layer ending with granola, a pinch more orange zest and basil.

Note: the remaining granola will keep in an airtight container for 4 weeks, or can be frozen in a resealable plastic freezer bag for several months.

 

Creamy Mango-Avocado Salsa
By Gail Simmons
Serves 4-6

INTRODUCTION: This bright, fresh take on guacamole packs a ton of flavor, and protein, in every bite. The combination of sweet and tart mango, creamy avocado, and savory cottage cheese makes it the ideal snack to feed a hungry crowd, or a quick, healthy weekday lunch. Note the technique of using a serving spoon to make a well in the center of the cottage cheese, so the salsa can be piled within it. This not only creates a clean and pretty presentation, but also allows you to achieve the perfect ratio of salsa to cheese on every chip!

INGREDIENTS
2 large ripe mangos, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
1 1/2 large ripe avocados, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
1 lime, zested and juiced
1/4 cup chopped cilantro, plus more whole leaves for serving
1 small jalapeño, seeded and finely chopped
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for serving
Freshly ground black pepper
1 16-ounce container Hood Cottage Cheese with Cracked Pepper
Extra-virgin olive oil, for serving
Blue corn tortilla chips, for serving

DIRECTIONS
In a large bowl, gently toss together the mango, avocado, lime zest and juice, cilantro, jalapeño, red onion, salt, and several grinds of black pepper.

Place the Hood Cottage Cheese with Cracked Pepper in a large shallow serving bowl (or divide among 4 to 6 smaller shallow bowls). Create a well in the middle by pressing and spreading the back of a large spoon into the middle of the cottage cheese while turning the bowl in the opposite direction. Pile the mango salsa into the center of the well. Drizzle a teaspoon or two of olive oil over the salsa and cottage cheese. Garnish with a few whole cilantro leaves and a pinch more salt on top. Serve alongside tortilla chips.

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