By Nancy Caivano
It seems to me that the days are flying past. It was only about 2-1/2 months ago that I was lying in front of the pool at the Jersey shore, and now I'm writing about Thanksgiving menus—wherever did the time go?
In New York, the days have gotten crisp, clear and cold. The changing leaves are spectacular, the heat and humidity are gone and the holiday season is about to get into high gear. Autumn and winter are my favorite seasons, partly because I know I'll see my family more often, as well as some people I only get to see this time of the year. While having good food is always preferable, sharing that food with loved ones always seems to make it taste better.
In November, many of us reflect on the past and present. Whether we speak them aloud or not, sitting at the Thanksgiving table with family can make us aware of things we should be grateful for...the roof over our heads, the food on the table, the people around us. Taking a moment or two while passing the cranberry sauce to reflect on it can bring a smile to your face and make everyone else wonder what the heck you are smiling at!
This month, I bring you a variety of recipes to choose from. Two pastas and two risotti can be a first or second course in your holiday dinner, or maybe a weeknight dinner for some lingering relatives. Besides this, I have an easy-enough Thanksgiving menu with many components you can make-ahead, and you can add some of your favorite recipes to with the ones listed here. To top it off, I have a special dessert for those who aren't thrilled with pumpkin pie. Enough teasing, let's get to the recipes.
First up, our pastas. Prosciutto & Mushroom Ravioli with Sage Butter makes an extremely easy first course or family dinner. You can make the ravioli weeks ahead of time and freeze them, then pop them right into the boiling water. No difficult or heavy sauce for these ravioli, they are tossed in a simple sage butter to let the flavor of the filling come through. Pasta with Roasted & Sautéed Spaghetti Squash is easy to put together also, as the squash can be roasted and sautéed beforehand. Roasting the squash gives it a nutty flavor, and it is combined with spicy red pepper flakes, tomatoes and a touch of balsamic vinegar for a delightful combination of flavors.
For our risotti, I keep the fall theme going. Risotto with Roasted Tomatoes, Acorn Squash and Olives contains a recipe within a recipe. The roasted tomatoes are fabulous and have many uses, such as in this risotto. The combination of the tomatoes, the sautéed squash and the savory olives makes this risotto perfect as a first course, supper or even a rich accompaniment to any meat. Risotto with Pork, Butternut Squash and Sage uses yet another autumn squash with a great mixture of flavors. Pork scallopine are sautéed and put in the risotto with the squash, aromatic vegetables, Romano cheese and sage. This dish makes a fabulous first course or entree.
The Thanksgiving menu has dishes that border on the traditional but with a decidedly Italian accent. The menu is centered on Italian Stuffed Turkey Breast. This boneless turkey breast is stuffed with a combination of pancetta, spinach, Romano cheese and breadcrumbs with a hint of nutmeg. It slices beautifully with the filling showing and is topped with pan juices. To go with this lovely turkey I have Baked Two-Potato Mash with Garlic and Romano, Braised Fennel with Orange and Almonds and Spinach and Apple Salad with Sugared Almonds. I especially like the potatoes, as you can boil and mash the potatoes early in the morning and pop the casserole in the oven. The potatoes are combined with warm roasted garlic and garlic oil, Romano cheese and parsley in a casserole that makes the entire house smell divine. I am not a person that especially likes fennel, but this recipe changed my mind. Braising the fennel in orange juice with the orange segments mellows the flavor of the fennel and the contrast of the anise-y fennel with the sweet oranges and crunchy almonds is phenomenal. The salad is simple but delicious. Fresh spinach and tart Granny Smith apples are tossed in a mixed vinegar vinaigrette with warm, sweet almonds that are sautéed with butter and sugar. You can add any of your favorite vegetable dishes with this menu, some warm bread and your dinner is done.
Naturally, we must have dessert. I have some relatives that don't really like pumpkin pie, even though I make it every year. So I use this cake to keep the pumpkin in the menu but make it a bit more palatable to my finicky relatives. Pumpkin Apricot Cake is as pretty as it is tasty and easy to prepare. The cake is spicy and full of pumpkin and a scrumptious apricot purée filling. The frosting is made with more pumpkin, more apricot purée and cream cheese. The spicy cake, sweet/tart filling and creamy frosting combine to make a dazzling ending to your holiday meal...or Thursday night dinner.
Well my friends, that's all for this month. I expect that before the next column you'll be gearing up for the Christmas rush. The catalogs are arriving here hot and heavy as I type. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving and I'll see you again in December.
This page created November 2000
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