Saturday, November 20, 2010

Thanksgiving Ideas - A Round-Up

Thanksgiving is only a week away and if you're still putting your menu together, here are some suggestions that you might consider.

I like to include old favorites along with a few new fun dishes. Whenever I'm planning a dinner party or a feast of some sort, I always consider color, texture, warm and cold as elements of the dining experience and it never fails me. I believe we "eat" with all five senses, so engaging the visual and tactile senses is almost as important as what we taste, smell and hear - the crunch of nuts or the crackle of crusty stuffing!

 Cheese and crackers might feel a bit too heavy as an appetizer as a prelude to that huge bird in the oven. This Spinach and Artichoke Dip is a little lighter and the green of the spinach and the tang of the marinated artichokes eases the cheesiness of the dip. Plus, it can bake up in its serving dish in a toaster oven, not taking up precious space in the oven. Don't make too much because everyone will be gobbling it all up and then groan that they have no room for turkey!

While Liver Pate is not for everyone, it does signal a "special" dinner. Making this ahead of time makes it a great appetizer that can simply be pulled from the refrigerator a little before guests arrive to be served at room temperature. Don't forget some sliced red onion as a topping!

These Balsamic Green Beans with Goat Cheese and Almonds cook in a flash on the stove top. You could probably cook them after removing the turkey from the oven as it rests before carving. If you make the vinaigrette ahead of time, this dish comes together in a snap.

 Cauliflower Gratin is one of those dishes that truly feels like a gift from the gods. It's buttery nutty flavor melds with cheese and breadcrumbs to become an intoxicating concoction. The dish can be prepared ahead of time and then popped in the oven at the same temperature as the bird and allowed to bake. Make more than you think you need because people will definitely be sneaking seconds and thirds!

 Ahh, Caramelized Brussels Sprouts, nature's gift to us in such a tiny package. The beauty of this dish is you can make it on the stove top in about 7 minutes. Make sure to shred them as finely as possible. A trick to cutting them is to slice them in half and then cut them flat side down. Adding garlic or shallots is also a fun addition.

 For the more adventurous cooks (and with guests willing to set aside traditional flavors) Roasted Butternut Squash with Pomegranate Molasses and spices will wake your taste buds up! Sometimes I want to temper sweetness with a little tart and that's exactly what this dish brings. No marshmallows here but amazing flavors of tart and sweet and spice like you've never had!


Romanescu is a beautiful, almost spiritual vegetable for me. Its tiny spirals spin into infinity and its nearly iridescent color seems almost  supernatural. Aside from its gorgeous looks, it tastes more mellow and nuttier than its cousin, cauliflower, when roasted. If you can find it - most likely at a farmers' market - snatch up all you can carry; it's another vegetable that will intrigue whomever you serve it to.

 I waxed poetic about this gluten-free Smoked Oyster and Cornbread Stuffing and have little more to add. Suffice to say that using smoked oysters makes all the difference, and requires very few of them to make such a big impact. I find that smoked anything - bacon, cheese, meat - is one of the best flavors in the world, so its hard to beat when you combine it with butter, cornbread and alliums!

Coleslaw; it can be the dreck of a deli counter or the zip that makes the rest of the meal sing. This version is a Creamy Root Vegetable version As a lover of cabbage of historic proportions (I used to eat raw chunks of it in my high school brown bag lunches...honestly), I love cabbage salads. Whether your dressing is creamy with mayonnaise or light with lemon and olive oil, its crunchy freshness is always a good accompaniment to hearty fare, at least at my table. Add fresh herbs or red onions to liven it up. Make it your own!

 This "Naked" Carrot and Apple Slaw is my favorite new original recipe - I'm pretty darn proud of it. And like so many great inventions (no modesty here!) it happened by accident. No matter its origins, it's a great use of seasonal veggies and fruits. It could only be improved with a sprinkle of chopped nuts, like walnuts, almonds or even pecans.

Thanksgiving dinners need to be drawn out affairs so that people have time to create room for the piece de la resistance - Desserts! While pumpkin pie is probably one of my all time favorites, I love the simplicity of a fruit tart like this Goat Cheese, Walnut and Pear Galette. Rustic in appearance but gourmet in taste with some goat cheese and walnuts tucked inside, it's perfect with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

If you can buy fresh apples at a roadside stand or better yet visit an orchard, than this Apple Pie is a must for your feast. Simple spices, a sprinkle of sugar and some lemon transform the quintessential American fruit into a slice of heaven. Add homemade whipped cream and you have topped your feast with the perfect finale!

I hope your feast is one filled with love, laughter, joy, and deliciousness!



Nutmeg Nanny said...

Yum! Look at all that delicious Thanksgiving inspired food :)

nic@nipitinthebud said...

it's such a lot of work (and so close to Christmas!) but sounds like fun planning it all out. At least the cook doesn't have to wash up (I hope that's the rule you'll be abiding by anyway!)

Katie Zeller said...

I'm torn between the Brussels sprouts and the cauliflower.... May have to try both!

The Food Hunter said...

There's some really good recipes here.

Reeni said...

Everything looks delicious Kristin! I'm in love with the cauliflower gratin!