November’s gathering, titled “Everything but the Bird” featured a mix of side dishes and desserts to consider for the Thanksgiving table. We scoured websites and blogs, pulled out our cookbooks and recipe files and found some great recipes to test. Fourteen of us enjoyed 16 savory and 5 sweet recipes, a total of 21 dishes since we had 7 over-achievers who made 2 each!
First up was Becky’s Cranberry Salsa, from a recipe on a package of cranberries. Easy to make in the food processor. All agreed it would be delicious with turkey but also atop cream cheese or even salmon. She also prepared Curried Sweet Potato Latkes, a variation on the typical Hanukah dish, which she said produced a mess because of frying in oil.
Sweet potato was also featured in Mary’s cornbread, contributing a sweet and moist “something extra,” and in Jackie’s spectacular Swiss Chard, Sweet Potato & Feta Tart with Teff Crust (pictured at left), with chard from her own garden! She felt it needed a taller tart pan, but it looked beautiful.
Brussels sprouts were featured by two: Kim’s Maple-Caraway Brussels Sprouts (a staff favorite from Cooking Light) and Christina’s Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Cinnamon Butternut Squash, Pecans & Cranberries, both of which provided layered flavors for this fall favorite. Christina gets extra points for having made a test batch and advised cutting way back on the pecans.
We welcomed a new member, Dianne, at this month's gathering. She also used butternut in the deliciously creamy and wonderfully spiced Moroccan Butternut Squash & Goat Cheese Soup (from Halfbakedharvest.com) with a variety of condiments. She was challenged by using whole squash instead of the already cut variety, and excelled by using her own homemade vegetable broth. Dianne also prepared Leek & Potato Galettes, which benefited from creamy goat cheese, pink peppercorns, and with pistachios in the crust. Needless to say, she fit right in!
Mary’s Red Cooked (Asian Spiced) Butternut Squash was an interesting red color, which many thought was from the Asian 5 Spice. She recommended less soy sauce than the recipe called for.
Pearl Onion Gratin with Parmesan, Savory and Thyme was provided by Shelley, and featured a rich, creamy sauce and crunchy topping.
Mary Lou’s “Viv’s Addiction” spiced pecans – crunchy, rich and spicy with a “marshmallow-like” coating – were enjoyed before as well as during the official feast. The recipe is from Vivian Howard's cookbook, Deep Run Roots. ML also prepared Sourdough Stuffing with Kale & Dates (a recipe from the NY Times Cooking section) featuring her own home-baked sourdough bread, chilies, spicy Italian turkey sausage and Deglet Noor dates. Yum!
Another stuffing was provided by Jen, whose Gluten Free Persimmon Stuffing with Baby Bella Mushrooms and Gruyère was a good as any of the gluten-based variety. A long list of interesting ingredients in her brilliant combination of three different recipes. You have a winner here, Jen!
Salads were a welcome addition: Healthy Asian Ramen Salad brought by Susie provided a delightful counterpart to the many rich dishes, as did Sari’s Raw Beet & Cucumber Salad (from Bon Appetit) which featured lots of herbs, lemon zest and ricotta cheese; definitely worth the long preparation time she reported.
Desserts were all absolutely wonderful: Linda’s Cranberry Upside-Down Cake from Alice Waters was rich and beautifully enhanced with whipped cream; Sandy’s Pumpkin Roulade with Ginger Buttercream (an Ina Garten recipe) was gorgeous and flavorful. Yotam Ottolenghi's new dessert cookbook Sweet was featured in three of our desserts. Michele excelled with two offerings: the lovely Coffee & Walnut Financiers, which had “lots of stages” in preparation, and rich Tahini & Halva Brownies. Jackie’s Persian Love Cakes, were very tasty, prepared precisely with 90 grams of eggs and attractively garnished with powdered sugar, mascarpone, pomegranate arils and pistachios.
With so many terrific dishes, we had a tough time deciding our favorites! Most popular in close voting: #1 – Dianne’s Moroccan Butternut Squash & Goat Cheese Soup; #2 Becky’s Cranberry Salsa; #3 Sandy’s Pumpkin Roulade with Ginger Buttercream. Nicely done everyone!
Our gratitude to Mary, for being such a gracious host. We are all ready for our Thanksgiving Day feast! Until next time...
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