Supposing the snow lands the first week of November, we have lots to be thankful for this year.
I can’t remember ever spending more time digging in the car for my sunglasses or just sitting out on the back deck.
And the local produce this year? Fantastic!
This is the kind of year we should celebrate a little more aggressively at the family table, because next may be nothing like it.
Light Vegetable Soup
With a substantial main dish waiting in the wings, the starter should definitely be light and fresh and inviting, something to urge you into the meal instead of pushing you to the couch.
This quick but rich harvest soup makes a great first course, but can be a meal all by itself with the addition of white beans or shredded chicken.
Add whatever herbs or veg that might be aging in your fridge — this is a forgiving mixture — just remember you have lots of other dishes coming and you might want to keep it simple at the Thanksgiving table.
This will make eight to 10 small cups or 6 substantial bowls.
2 tbsp. olive oil (not the expensive kind)
1 large onion, diced
1 stalk celery, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1/2 tsp. salt
2 medium carrots, thinly sliced
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and diced
1 14-oz. can diced tomatoes
6 cups vegetable or chicken broth
2 fresh or 4 dried bay leaves
1 cup each frozen corn kernels and baby peas
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
Heat the oil in a Dutch oven. Add onion and celery and fry until wilted, but not brown. Add garlic and salt and cook, stirring, until fragrant.
Add carrots, sweet potato, tomatoes, broth and bay leaves and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, until vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes.
Add corn and peas and cook until they are thawed — just a few minutes. Add pepper and parsley, and a little more salt if needed. Remove bay leaves and serve.
I know many of you don’t think you’ve had turkey unless it was stuffed to the gunwales, but there’s no question dressing served as a side dish is safer and lets you feel more organized in the midst of holiday chaos. As an added benefit, an unstuffed turkey cooks faster and the breast doesn’t dry out waiting for the middle of the dressing to reach a safe temperature.
This is the traditional mixture pressed into muffin tins and baked, so there are crispy bits on every plate. If you’re feeling adventurous try the extras and enjoy something just a little bit different.
You will get 12 extra-large or 16 large muffins from this recipe, but many will go back for seconds, so don’t be alarmed with the amount.
1 loaf white sliced bread
1/2 cup butter or margarine
2 large onions, finely diced
3 tbsp. dried savoury
1/2 tsp. poultry seasoning
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup cooked breakfast sausage, drained of fat
1 large green apple, peeled and finely diced
Cut bread into 1/2-inch cubes and spread on a cookie sheet. Bake at 300 F for about half an hour, until the bread is dry, but not brown. You can do this up to two days ahead of time.
Heat butter in a non-stick pan and fry onions and savoury until onions are soft, but not brown.
Add poultry seasoning, salt and pepper; cool a few minutes.
Toss bread cubes with onion mixture and add broth. Mix well and push into greased muffin cups. Bake at 375 degrees F about
25 minutes or until golden brown on top, with lots of crispy tips.
If you choose to add sausage and apple, stir them in last, but reduce the amount of salt by half.
This mixture can also be baked in a 9x11-inch greased dish or even stuffed in the bird.
Pumpkin Pie Panna Cotta
Dessert is always my holiday dinner challenge. A sweet is critical, but I don’t want to send my guests into a coma with a heavy dessert.
This light yet creamy dish can be made up to a couple of days in advance, yet delivers all the flavours of a fresh pumpkin pie.
1-1/2 cups whole milk
1 envelope unflavoured gelatin
1 cup whipping cream (unwhipped)
1 cup canned pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie filling)
1/4 cup each granulated and firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 tsp. each ground cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and ginger
1/2 cup toasted pumpkin seeds or crunchy granola
Before you start, rinse 8 ramekins or serving dishes in cold water, pour out the water and set aside.
Pour milk into a heavy-bottomed pot and sprinkle gelatin over the top. Set aside for
5 minutes to allow the gelatin to soften.
Whisk together cream, pumpkin, white and brown sugar and spices until sugar is completely dissolved and mixture is smooth. A food processor does the job faster, but then you will have more dishes to wash — up to you.
Place milk and gelatin over low heat and stir until gelatin completely dissolves — it will take a few minutes, but don’t be tempted to turn up the temperature. Add the pumpkin mixture and increase heat to medium. Cook, stirring, until it steams and bubbles are just starting to form around the edges. Divide among 8 individual serving dishes or ramekins, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve, at least 6 hours, but overnight is even better.
Serve them right in the dishes with pumpkin seeds or granola (or both) sprinkled on top, or dip the ramekins in hot water and turn out onto plates for a more dramatic presentation. Add a dollop of whipped cream for added elegance.
Cynthia Stone is a writer, editor and teacher in St. John’s. Questions may be sent to her c/o The Telegram,
P.O. Box 86, St. John’s, NL, A1E 4N1.