The Truth about Thanksgiving & Kale & Radicchio Salad with Roasted Butternut Squash

Whether it is your first foray into cooking for the feasts of feasts, you are an old hand or a guest not host this year, there are certain inalienable truths about Thanksgiving. At least, they are true for me.

Truth Number One: You’re going to be a little nervous, maybe a lot nervous. I don’t want to increase your anxiety but Thanksgiving is kind of a big deal. Whether you’ve been doing it for years or not, cooking Thanksgiving dinner has a fair number of moving parts. There will be last minute cancellations, additions and changes. One year, I had to pack up all the food, pots and pans and move the entire feast to my brother’s house. Why? The dog was sick and couldn’t travel.

Don’t worry; you are not alone in your anxiety and it’s easy to conquer. First, you can dial back the menu. No one will notice if you skip the creamed onions. Another possibility, you can give a shout out for help. You never know; your cousin might be delighted to bring the creamed onions. Finally, you can judiciously buy other people’s cooking. Check your local bakery, the farmstand and your favorite caterer or restaurant to see what’s on offer. Even if the pies at the farmstand weren’t baked in your oven, they are homemade. The same goes for biscuits from the bakery and stuffed mushrooms for the gourmet deli.

Truth Number Two: You can leave that baggage at the door. You think yours is special? Forget about it. All families are complicated. However, when push comes to shove, and please no shoving or wrestling in the house, you can behave. Your brother can promise to stop talking politics for a few hours. For your part, you can hold him to it and refuse to take the bait when he wanders into dangerous territory. Your parents can agree to stay mute on your single status and you can put the complaints about your ex on hold. Remember, it’s only one dinner. Talk about the good times. I’m sure your family and friends have a few good memories.

Offer to bring a dish for your son’s vegetarian girlfriend. Yes, we know you don’t really like her but you love your son. Both quinoa and kale make a great peace offering. Alert your hosts of any new (real or imagined) food intolerance but don’t expect them to design the entire menu around you. Remember, there’s another faction within the family who thinks the menu should come straight off of Nana’s recipe cards. The ones she gave your mom in 1973.

Thanksgiving is a celebration. For goodness sake, just eat around your dietary issue or nostalgic yearnings. The Thanksgiving table is loaded with possibilities so don’t expect a whole lot of sympathy. Incidentally, there is no dairy in turkey and no gluten in mashed potatoes. And another thing, if Nana’s butternut squash is not on the table, enjoy the Brussels Sprouts.

Truth Number Three: Thanksgiving is always wonderful. It doesn’t matter how many little mishaps try to thwart you. Don’t worry. Like loaves and fishes, I once fed nineteen people from a eleven and a half pound turkey. Everyone had a last minute friend from out of town to bring along. I could have bought a larger turkey but it would not have fit in my apartment’s pint size oven.

Remember, everyone loves Thanksgiving. Outside it’s dreary and gray. Inside it’s warm and cheery. Family and friend love getting together. Whatever you cook, it will be delicious. Whatever anyone brings will be delicious. The conversation will flow. If things start to get a little unruly or teeter on the edge of civility, just say, “I’m thankful for _________” and fill in the blank. It works like magic.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving with friends and family. Bon appétit!

Kale & Radicchio Salad with Roasted Butternut Squash
Serves 8

About 1 pound butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into bite-sized pieces
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Apple cider vinegar
Olive oil
About 8 ounces baby kale
1/2-1 small head radicchio, cored and cut in thin ribbons
Dijon Vinaigrette (recipe follows)
Pickled Red Onion (recipe follows)
About 2 ounces pecorino Romano cheese
About 1/4 cup toasted pumpkin seeds
About 1/4 cup dried cranberries

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Put the squash on a rimmed baking sheet(s). Sprinkle with thyme, salt and pepper, drizzle with enough vinegar and olive oil lightly coat, toss to combine and spread in a single layer. Roast at 375 degrees for 30 minutes or until lightly browned and tender. Let cool for a few minutes.

Can do ahead. Cover and store in the refrigerator. Serve the squash at room temperature or warm. To reheat – spread the squash on a baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for about 5 minutes.

To serve: Toss the kale and radicchio with enough Dijon Vinaigrette to lightly coat. Put the greens on individual plates or a large platter and top with squash and pickled onion. Using a vegetable peeler or a course grater, make pecorino Romano cheese shavings. Sprinkle the salad with the cheese, pumpkin seeds and dried cranberries and serve.

Dijon Vinaigrette
Makes about 1 1/2 cups

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
3 cloves garlic
3 tablespoons chopped shallot or red onion
2 tablespoons whole grain Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon or to taste hot pepper sauce
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
About 1 cup or to taste extra virgin olive oil

Put the vinegar, garlic and shallots in a blender, season with salt and pepper and process until the garlic and shallot is finely chopped. Add the mustards, Worcestershire sauce and hot sauce and process until smooth. With the motor running, slowly add the olive oil and process until thick and creamy. Transfer the vinaigrette to a storage container with a tight fitting lid.

Let the vinaigrette sit for 30 minutes or more to let the flavors combine. Give the vinaigrette a vigorous shake before using. Cover and store extra vinaigrette in the refrigerator.

Quick Pickled Red Onion
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1 red onion, thinly sliced
2-3 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
6 pepper corns
1 bay leaf

Put the sugar, salt and vinegar in Mason jar, let everything sit for a minute or two to dissolve and give it a good shake. Add 1 cup of water and shake again.

Add the onion, garlic, peppercorns and bay leaf. If necessary, add a little more vinegar and water to cover the onion. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to two weeks. Drain before using. Cover and store leftover onion in the refrigerator.

Print-friendly version of this post.

One Year Ago – Homemade Butternut Squash Ravioli with Browned Butter
Two Years Ago – Thanksgiving Leftovers
Three Years Ago – Cranberry Clafoutis
Four Years Ago – Black Friday Enchiladas (Enchiladas with Turkey & Black Beans)
Five Years Ago – Snowy Pecan Balls
Six Years Ago – Chocolate Truffles
Seven Years Ago – Smoked Salmon Mousse
Eight Years Ago – Roasted Beans
Ninen Years Ago – Winter Soup with Pasta, Beans & Greens

Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

What are you serving this Thanksgiving? Feel free to share!

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2017

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