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The Way The Turkey Gobbles

Thanksgiving in America is supposed to be a holiday where families, friends, and relatives gather together to celebrate early colonial food staples. However, for the most part, it has become a festive, stomach-bursting affair unique to each family, mostly because everyone has different dishes they prepare. This is why every year on my family’s thanksgiving dinner table, there are no fewer than twenty dishes, ranging from starters like beet salad and spinach pockets, to fried potatoes with garlic and rosemary, to finally honey cake with almonds and pecans. Here are some of the dishes that I grew up eating every 4th Thursday in November that you may choose to put on your table.

1. Corn and Beet Salad (source: Yummly.com)

Ingredients

2 tbsps extra virgin olive oil

1/2 cup beet greens

1/2 cup swiss chard

2 tbsps scallions (thinly sliced)

3/4 cup beets

3/4 cup corn kernels (sweet, off the cob)

1/2 cup feta (small dice)

salt

pepper

Recipe

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Cut beets in half and mix in a roasting dish with olive oil, salt and pepper. Cover with aluminum foil and roast in the oven for 45 minutes. The vegetables should be fork tender. Once done, cool, and cube them. Then, cut the beet grens and swiss chard into small pieces, and saute them with scallions and olive oil (salt, pepper to taste) for 5 minutes. Cool them, and mix in beets, corn kernels, and feta cheese. Season at the end, to taste.

This is a great salad starter for Thanksgiving and in general. With the bright fall yellow of harvest corn, combined with a hearty root vegetables like beets and chard, and the soft salty taste of feta, this dish will greet your guests as an early stage munch in your feast. For all those of you who prefer to keep all toppings on the side, instead of mixing in the feta, you may choose to leave it to the side for each guest to decide how much savory goodness they wish to include in their salad.

2. Butternut Squash Wonton (source: Yummly.com)

Source: kitchendaily.com

Ingredients (for sauce)

11/2 tsps olive oil

11/2 cups leek (thinly sliced, 2 medium)

1 garlic clove (minced)

1/4 tsp crushed red pepper

1/8 tsp sea salt

1/8 tsp black pepper (freshly ground)

141/2 ozs tomatoes (undrained and chopped)

1 orange rind (3 inch, strip)

1 bay leaf

1 fresh tarragon (sprig)

(for wontons)

1 butternut squash (12 pounds)

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup ricotta cheese

3 tbsps fresh parmesan cheese (grated)

2 tbsps breadcrumbs (dry)

1/4 tsp sea salt

1/4 tsp black pepper (freshly ground)

1/8 tsp ground nutmeg

1 tsp water

1 egg (lightly beaten)

24 wonton wrappers

cooking spray

Recipe

To prepare sauce, heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add leek and garlic; cook 8 minutes or until tender (do not brown), stirring frequently. Increase heat to medium-high. Add red pepper and next 6 ingredients (red pepper through tarragon); bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low; simmer 15 minutes or until thick. Discard rind, bay leaf, and tarragon. Preheat oven to 375°. To prepare wontons, cut the squash in half lengthwise; discard seeds and membrane. Place the squash halves, cut sides down, in a 2-quart baking dish; add 1/2 cup water. Bake at 375° for 45 minutes or until squash is tender when pierced with a fork; cool. Scoop out pulp to measure 1 cup, and reserve the remaining pulp for another use. Combine 1 cup pulp, ricotta, and the next 5 ingredients (ricotta through nutmeg), stirring until well combined. Combine 1 teaspoon water and egg, stirring with a whisk. Working with 1 wonton wrapper at a time (cover remaining wrappers with a damp towel to prevent drying), spoon about 2 teaspoons squash mixture into center of each wrapper. Brush edges of dough with egg mixture; bring 2 opposite corners together. Press edges together to seal, forming a triangle. Repeat procedure with remaining wonton wrappers and squash mixture. Place the wontons on a large baking sheet coated with cooking spray, and brush lightly with remaining egg mixture. Bake at 375° for 17 minutes or until golden and crisp. Serve with the sauce.

Butternut squash wontons were always that greasy finger food that everyone reached for first once they got to the table at Thanksgiving, and I hope they will be for your Thanksgiving too. Squash is a traditional November vegetable, and the spicy kick in the sauce plays perfectly with the sweet and soft center of the crunchy wonton wrapper. A note to all the flimsy cooks out there: be careful while making the wontons, because they can be pretty easy to rip, and no one wants to have a baking sheet full of leaked squash mush.

3. Citrus Baked Salmon (source: foodnetwork.com)

Ingredients

4 slices fresh lemon

4 slices fresh orange

4 (6 to 8-ounce) skinless salmon fillets

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons freshly chopped dill

2 tablespoons sun-dried tomatoes in oil, plus 1 tablespoon oil from jar

2/3 cup white wine

Recipe

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. In a large 9 by 13 shallow baking dish place 1 lemon slice with 1 orange slice side by side so you’ll end up with 4 groups. Each salmon fillet will have its own bed of citrus. Season each fillet with salt and pepper then place each salmon fillet over the 2 slices of lemon and orange. In a small bowl mix the dill, sun-dried tomatoes and tomato oil. Divide mixture on top of the salmon fillet, then drizzle with the wine. Place the baking dish in the oven and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or longer for well done.

My mom always makes a second protein dish, beside the turkey of course. Since turkey is so common and probably will be on your table anyway, I decided to bypass giving you the boring “Turkey and Stuffing” dish. Here we have a juicy, flavor-packed piece of fish that will supplement the usually dried up pieces of red meat that are left for everyone who did not get a hold of the better parts. The addition of citrus lemon and orange peel enhances the fish’s natural taste, and helps it stay moist.

4. Roasted Potatoes with Mushrooms (source: foodnetwork.com)

Source: mission-food.com

Ingredients

2 cups button mushrooms, halved

2 tablespoons olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 pound baby new red potatoes

1 clove garlic, smashed

3/4 cup reduced-fat sour cream

1/4 cup low-fat plain yogurt

1/4 cup well-shaken buttermilk

Small pinch cayenne

1/4 cup roughly chopped parsley leaves

1/4 cup chopped chives

2 tablespoons chopped green onion

2 tablespoons chopped dill

1 tablespoon chopped tarragon leaves

Recipe

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. On a rimmed baking sheet, toss the mushrooms with 1 tablespoon olive oil, and season with salt and pepper, to taste. On another rimmed baking sheet, toss the potatoes with the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil, and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Put both pans in the oven, and roast until the mushrooms are browned and the potatoes are cooked through, about 20 minutes, tossing once and rotating the sheets halfway through. Remove the pans from the oven, and let cool slightly. While the potatoes and mushrooms roast, make the dressing. Add the garlic, sour cream, yogurt, and buttermilk into a food processor and blend to combine. Add the cayenne, and herbs. Blend until fully incorporated and the dressing is a pale green. Season the dressing with salt and pepper, to taste, if needed. Add the potatoes and mushrooms to a serving bowl and pour in the dressing. Toss to coat and serve warm or room temperature.

This is my favorite childhood dish. My mother always prepares it for us during fancy dinners, and Thanksgiving is no less significant. Mushrooms and potatoes make a great starchy, homey accompaniment to our fairly light proteins: fish and turkey. The salty crispy frites and the native earthy taste of the mushroom will definitely fill your stomach, so make sure not to eat too much of it; save room for desert.

5. Honey Cake (source: epicurious.com)

Source: smittenkitchen.com

Ingredients

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground clove

3 large eggs

1 cup sugar

1 1/4 cups vegetable oil

1 cup pure honey

3/4 cup lukewarm coffee (brewed, or instant dissolved in water)

1 1/2 teaspoons packed grated orange zest

Recipe

Heat oven to 350°F with rack in middle. Generously spray pan, including center tube, with baking spray. Whisk together flour, baking powder and soda, salt, and spices in a large bowl. Whisk eggs well in another large bowl and whisk in sugar, oil, honey, coffee, and zest until well combined. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and add the honey mixture, then stir with the whisk until the batter is smooth. Pour batter into pan (it’s liquid enough to level itself in the pan), and bake in oven until springy to the touch and a cake tester comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes. Let cake cool in the pan on a rack for 20 minutes.

One of my favorite deserts of all time should most definitely be a part of your thanksgiving meal. This cake is not too sweet, has a texture equivalent to that of very moist bread, and does not fall apart very easily. With some sweet coffee or milk, this may be the most perfect way to end the feast, simply because this cake is just too hard to resist. For a bit of a crunchy element, you can add pecans or crushed peanuts to the batter, and some cranberries for a sweeter bite. However you wish to make this cake, it will be a delight to everyone to look at, smell, and of course, eat.

These are just five dishes that my mom cooked for our family on Thanksgiving, and even though your family may hold Thanksgiving in its own unique way, I hope you may have gotten some inspiration from the recipes I presented to you above.             Happy Thanksgiving!

 David Kheyman

Cover photo source.

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