Friday, November 27, 2009

Thanksgiving Part One: Starters

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving. Ours was a tremendous success (despite the 7.5 hour drive from DC to NJ). Since we were arriving in NJ on Wed. night, I had to do some of the Thanksgiving preparation in DC on Tuesday evening and bring it along with me. My sister and I prepared the sweet potato casserole and butternut squash soup in advance. Similarly, my mother prepared the stuffing in advance and went to pick up the turkey on Wed. Thursday morning, we woke up at 7 am to get ready for the meal. I will organize my posts around the meal, starting with the starters.


Our family friends (a family that comes each year to Thanksgiving) brought over the appetizers. A fantastic collections of Mediterranean favorites: hummus, pita, stuffed grape leaves, eggplant salad, and chickpea salad. We also had a soft brie, Havarti, and cheddar cheese with crackers and grapes. We started snacking at 2:30 with the arrival of our first guests.


After the finishing touches on the turkey, gravy, and salad as well as debate, discussion, and catching up, we moved to the table and served the soup. The soup was a butternut squash soup I prepared in advance in DC on Tuesday. The recipe for Butternut Squash Soup came from Flavor Diva, and is available here. I tripled the recipe and had a bit of trouble, when I tasted the soup-- it tasted more like garlic than like butternut squash! Turns out that the squash I used were not very flavorful, while the garlic was strong. I had to throw away 1/3 of the soup and replace it with two new butternut squash and an apple. After adding in these additional ingredients, the soup turned out wonderfully.

I made this fall salad last year as well. It is delicious and a good compromise because the recipe I had picked out for this year had goat cheese in it (which my mom is convinced she won't like). While I am going to work on the goat cheese with my mom over the next year so that we can hopefully have it next time, this salad with candied pecans hit the spot. I tripled the recipe for a ton of salad!

Fall Salad (from the Food Network)

What You Need:
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
- 1/2 cup raw pecans
- 1 small shallot, finely diced
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 teaspoons maple syrup
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 head endive, separated leaves
- 2 hearts frisee, hand torn
- 1 large radicchio, torn leaves
- 1 red pear, sliced
- 1/4 cup shaved Parmesan

What You Do:

1. To make the candied pecans, set a nonstick pan over medium heat.
2. Add the butter and sugar and once it has melted toss in the pecans and continue to toss to coat and cook evenly, about 1 minute.
3. Transfer to a sheet tray lined with waxed paper (use 2 forks to separate pecans) while you prepare the salad.
4. Make the dressing by combining the chopped shallot, Dijon and balsamic vinegar in a large mixing bowl.
5. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil while you whisk to emulsify.
6. Add the maple syrup and season, to taste, with salt and pepper.
7. Assemble salad by tossing greens and pear slices in a large mixing bowl with maple-balsamic dressing.
8. Top with shaved Parmesan and candied pecans.

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