Saturday, April 13, 2013

Thanksgiving in the Spring!

Recently, we invited the girls and their boyfriends over for a turkey dinner.  I made several different sides and a cheesecake for dessert.  As I was serving the meal, Carly started looking for the traditonal Thanksgiving fare:  mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce... "Just because we're having turkey doesn't mean we're having a THIRD Thanksgiving!" I told her.  "And by the way, there's NO pumpkin pie!" 

You're probably wondering what I mean by "Third Thanksgiving."  Every year, we have Thanksgiving dinner at my dad's place with the whole Valentino clan.  And although it's a a great, delicious, (and loud) time, we always felt a little disappointment in not being able to cook the meal ourselves, and enjoy the leftovers the next day.  So years ago, we began a tradition called "Second Thanksgiving."  It occurs the Sunday after the real Thanksgiving and is something we all look forward to just as much as the traditional holidays.

When the joke was made about a third Thanksgiving, it occured to me that I didn't have to wait until next November to enjoy all those delicious flavors.  And that's when the Thanksgiving Salad was born.  I started with some mixed greens, then cut up some rotisserie turkey from the deli.  Sweet potatoes were roasted with olive oil, sea salt and pepper and sprinkled with goat cheese when they came out of the oven.  Ok, so goat cheese has nothing to do with Thanksgiving, but I'm in love with it, and it takes good on everything.  The cheese starts melting on the hot sweet potatoes and it is just so...  ok, I'm salavating now.

One of my favorite things to make is salad dressing.  I'm obsessed, and I haven't bought any bottled dressing in years.  It's fun to create different flavors and I like being able to control the levels of salt and sweetener that go in.  For this one, I started with pommegranate vinegar because my dad always puts out a few pommegranates after dinner and the kids all share them.  I had some squash seed oil from F. Oliver's so that seemed like a good choice.  Salt, pepper, and some minced fresh sage, and I had a flavorful dressing that meshed well with the turkey and sweet potato.  For toppings, I chose whole toasted pecans, to represent the nut cracking parties we have at dad's (which is what I am usually doing when the kids are digging into the pommegranates), and some dried cranberries to represent the cranberry sauce.  The only important dish not reprented thus far would be the stuffing, so it seemed reasonable to throw some whole wheat croutons on top.

And that, my friends is Thanksgiving salad.  Here is a rough recipe from what I remember, although I didn't write anything down.  I am increasingly cooking without recipes and just using my instincts.  The problem arises when someone askins me to replicate something and I have to rack my brain to remember!  I guess I should start leaving a note pad on the island when I'm cooking!


Thanksgiving Salad

Sliced rotisserie turkey, or leftover roasted turkey
Mixed salad greens
1 sweet potato, sliced into spears
Olive oil, sea salt, pepper
4 oz. goat cheese
croutons, dried cranberries (as desired)
1/2 cup whole pecans, toasted in a frying pan.  (Then try to avoid eating all of them before the salad is ready.  Very difficult for me!)

For dressing:
1/3 c. pommegranate vinegar
Sea salt, pepper to taste
1- 1/2 tsp. finely chopped fresh sage
1/2 c. squash seed oil (or nut oil, or Canola)

Toss sweet potatoes in about 1/4 c. oil and salt and pepper to taste.  Roast in a 350 degree oven until fork tender.  Remove pan from oven, sprinkle sweet potatoes with goat cheese and let stand.
Meanwhile, make the dressing:  Whisk vinegar with salt, pepper and sage in a bowl.  Slowly whisk in oil until emulsified.  Taste dressing and add more vinegar or more oil according to your taste.
Top greens with turkey, sweet potatoes and cheese, and pour desired amount of dressing over it.
Top with croutons, pecans, and dried cranberries.  Eat it.  It's really good!


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