Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Papaya Cocktails

Like every food show fan, I’ve seen Gail Simmons on tv for years. But, I somehow never knew her career history until reading her first cookbook Bringing It Home: Favorite Recipes from a Life of Adventurous Eating of which I received a review copy. I was fascinated to learn that she was once Jeffrey Steingarten’s assistant, and her description of the research and ingredient gathering she did in that capacity sounds like a lot of fun. She also worked on Daniel Boulud’s PR team and then on Food and Wine magazine’s marketing team before becoming a judge on Top Chef. Her new book is about what she cooks at home and how her work experience, travels, and family have influenced her cooking. The dishes include breakfast, salads, soups, noodles, seafood, meat, party food, drinks, and sweets. I’ve marked the page for Chocolate Ginger Scones, made with coconut milk and coconut oil, that she makes for her dad who is now vegan. Also, the Beet Cured Salmon is something I’d love to try for the pretty pink edges on each sliced piece. I should point out that this is a book of real food. It’s not trendy food or food specific to any particular way of eating. Instead, it’s from-scratch, home cooking with lots of different influences and some great tips. One of those is to grill limes before juicing them for a vinaigrette. It will give you charred flavor and the warmed lime is easier to juice. The Singapore-Style Hokkien Noodles, inspired by a street-food dish enjoyed while shooting in Singapore, is adaptable with suggestions for changing out the meat used. I remembered from reading Cherry Bombe: The Cookbook that the recipe from Gail Simmons in that book was a cocktail. So, I was curious to see the recipes both alcoholic and non- in the drinks chapters here. The Cardamom-Walnut Date Shake sounds delicious, but I pulled out the blender when I read about the papaya cocktail. 

The cocktail was inspired by Nilou Motamed, the former editor of Food and Wine magazine, and in the book it's called The Nilou. In the head note, there’s a story about how papaya is a love-it or hate-it kind of fruit. This drink changed Gail’s mind about it. For me, my first encounter with papaya wasn’t a great one. I wasn’t sure I’d picked a good papaya since I though the flavor was lacking. I ended up using it in a tea bread like banana bread only with papaya. Since then, I’ve discovered I like the fruit much better with a generous squeeze of lime. Here, chunks of papaya were blended with lime juice, rum, honey, and ice cubes. I was excited to use the avocado blossom honey I brought home from our summer trip to Santa Barbara. After pureeing in the blender, the mixture ended up thick, slushy, and a pretty coral color. 

Now, while it might seem fitting to serve tropical fruits for warm weather, summertime parties, I reach for them around the holidays. Maybe it’s because I love Mele Kalikimaka, but I think pineapples and papayas are perfect for Christmas. I’m already forming a plan for some tropical influence on our holiday menus, and these cocktails will be a welcome addition. 

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  1. You commented on my blog that I was lucky to grow dragonfruit. I grow papaya too, so will have to try this cocktail - it sounds delicious. Those scones also sound interesting.

  2. Sounds like a terrific cookbook---I tend to veer away from trendy, too. I think I'll turn up the heat and make a batch of these lovely papaya cocktails and dream of summer! Hope you had a nice Thanksgiving!

  3. It looks really pretty with that champagne colour!

  4. Sounds like a fun cocktail! And a pretty neat book. Thanks!

  5. some days, i think i'd like to have lived gail's life! gorgeous drink. :)


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