Last week we started totake the Thanksgiving plunge, but it was really only toes-in. This week we are definitely swimming! I contacted some of our local home cooks who have been featured in this column previously, wanting to see what kind of “different” holiday they had planned.

Results varied. Some might make you smile; others will have you checking your pantry to see if you have the makings of one of these Thanksgiving favorites. I know I am glad to be reminded of Susan Branch’s creamed onions; I might add that to my list for next Thursday, November 26.

Martha Tarafa cooks with me at Highfield Hall & Gardens, and she also offers cooking classes at Falmouth Academy. “There is no Thanksgiving without Susan Branch’s creamed onions; it’s from her ‘Christmas from the Heart of the Home’ book. For many years, Thanksgiving was a constant—always at my parents’ house, always the same guests. Later, as they aged, Thanksgiving was at our house. After they passed, I started spending it with friends at their homes. This year, because of the pandemic, it will be just Skip and myself,” she told me.

She plans on roasting a turkey breast and making all the trimmings—sweet potato casserole, Ina Garten’s Brussels sprouts with pancetta, stuffing, cranberry sauce, apple pie. And, of course, those creamed onions.

Susan Branch’s Creamed Onions

1 pint tiniest white pearl onion, peeled and trimmed

2 tbsp unsalted butter (Kerry Irish Gold)

½ cup each: chicken broth and dry white wine (Fish Eye pinot grigio)

1 cup heavy cream

1⁄8 tsp each: salt, white pepper and freshly grated nutmeg

1 tsp minced parsley

In a large covered skillet, simmer peeled onions in butter, broth and wine for about 20 minutes, until tender; add cream and boil uncovered 4 to 5 minutes until slightly thickened. Stir in salt, white pepper and nutmeg; pour into serving dish, and sprinkle with parsley.

Colleen Wood has what I think is an interesting plan. “Although we have enjoyed a traditional style turkey dinner with close friends at their house for many years, this year, being on our own, I’m going back to our West Coast roots and making recipes using less traditional New England ingredients. The menu is slightly different, a little more California than usual,” she added with a smile.

She intends to serve a caramelized Vidalia onion dip with sweet potato chips, a pumpkin soup with pumpkin sea-mint pesto, black rice salad with butternut squash and pomegranate seeds, golden olive oil roasted potatoes, turkey with a chile-orange glaze and an artichoke parmesan sourdough stuffing, roasted Romanesco broccoli. “And finally...apricot nut tart for dessert! But,” she added, “I certainly won’t make all of these recipes, just one or two besides the turkey...yet it’s nice to dream these days, isn’t it?”

A couple of interesting recipes were contributed by Judy Kleindinst, who also works with me at Highfield. “I will be making my turkey on my Primo (a ceramic cooker similar to the Big Green Egg), but we will be a much smaller number this year. We will miss the larger family gatherings of the past years, but we are thankful that our family remains healthy.”

“I’m sending a couple of recipes that I will be making this year: The first is a simple date nut bread that is a requirement on our table and one that my grandmother used to make. When I was a kid, it was one of my favorite Thanksgiving treats, probably because it is sweet. I was only about 11 or 12 when she shared the recipe with me, and I remember being thrilled thinking that ‘now I can make Grandma’s bread and I don’t have to wait for Thanksgiving!’ The only change I’ve made over the years, as noted in the recipe, is to reduce the amount of sugar. I think half white and half brown sugar would be a nice change, too,” she said. She suggests making this into one large or two small loaves. “The pan I use is an unusual size—13 by 4.5 inches—but it is the one my grandmother used, so it has sentimental value as well as being an antique,” she added.

Date Nut Bread
(Makes one large loaf
or two small loaves)

1½ cups very hot or boiling water

8-oz package of chopped dates

1 tbsp butter

1 cup sugar (original recipe calls for 1.5 cups)

2 tsp vanilla

1 beaten egg

2 tsp baking soda

½ tsp salt

2¾ cups AP flour

½ cup chopped pecans

Combine dates, butter, sugar and vanilla in large bowl; pour hot water over, and let stand until cold. Add the egg, then whisk flour, baking soda and salt together, and add to date mixture along with chopped nuts. Make sure your bread pan is well greased and floured, as the bread tends to stick; bake in a preheated 350 degree Fahrenheit oven for about 1 hour. Let cool on rack for 15 minutes before turning out. Note: “The original recipe calls for 1.5 cups of sugar, but as I tend to do with most older recipes, I reduce the sugar. The dates add plenty of sweetness to the recipe. This is best made a day ahead, so it has the right ‘sticky’ texture. I bake it ahead of time and put it in the freezer and then defrost the day before or morning of Thanksgiving. You can serve with butter or cream cheese; personally, I like it plain,” Judy said.

Herb, Apple and Sausage Dressing
(Adapted from Ina Garten)

1 loaf day-old bread (preferably Italian or peasant, something that is not too soft and squishy but not too hard and chewy either), cut into approximately ¾-inch cubes

4 tbsp butter

1 cup medium-diced yellow onion

1 cup medium-diced celery (2 to 3 stalks)

1 to 2 Granny Smith apples, large-dice (could use pear instead)

2 tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley

½ to ¾ lb sweet Italian sausage, casings removed

1½ cups chicken stock

1 cup dried cranberries

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit; place the bread cubes in a single layer on a sheet pan, and bake for 10 to 15 minutes, until somewhat crisp. Remove, let cool and then place the bread cubes in a very large bowl. Raise the oven temperature to 350 degrees; in a large sauté pan, melt the butter and add the onions, celery, apples, parsley and salt and pepper to taste. Sauté over medium heat for 10 minutes, until the vegetables are softened but not browned; add dried cranberries before finishing so that they plump up a bit with the heat and moisture, then stir into the bread cubes. In the same sauté pan, cook the sausage over medium heat for about 10 minutes, until browned and cooked through, breaking up the sausage with a fork while cooking; stir into the bread cube mixture. Add the chicken stock and mix well, then pour into a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Bake for 30 minutes, until browned on top and hot in the middle; serve warm.

Linda Despres, my friend and neighbor in Waquoit, offered a spin on a customary dessert. “This year we are definitely making pumpkin whoopie pies instead of traditional pumpkin pie! Also, we alternate each year: Ron likes his stovetop stuffing, but I prefer this pork stuffing. It’s French-Canadian and has been improved over the years by my mom,” she explained.

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

15-oz can pumpkin puree

1 cup vegetable oil

2 large eggs

2 cups packed brown sugar

1 tsp each: salt, cinnamon, baking powder, ginger and baking soda

3 heaping cups AP flour

2 tbsp molasses

Whisk the first four ingredients together; in another bowl, whisk the dry ingredients together, then add the pumpkin mixture, along with the molasses. When well-blended, scoop large spoonfuls of batter onto greased cookie sheets, and bake in a preheated 350-degree Fahrenheit oven for 13 to 15 minutes. Meanwhile, make the filling:

8 oz softened cream cheese

3 heaping tbsp Marshmallow Fluff

2 cups powdered sugar

Beat together until smooth; spread the filling between the cooled cookies.

Turkey Pork Stuffing

5 large potatoes, cooked and mashed

1 tbsp poultry seasoning

1 medium onion, diced

1 lb ground pork

1 cup dry stuffing mix

1 can cream of mushroom soup

½ tbsp salt and ½ tsp black pepper

Mix all ingredients together and use to stuff the turkey, or bake separately until fully cooked.

Ever wonder what to put out before the spread? Esther Ann Price always serves her Emerald Dip, which she says has become one of her traditional Thanksgiving dishes.

Esther Ann’s Emerald Dip

1 package frozen spinach, thawed and drained

1 cup each: mayonnaise and sour cream

½ cup each: minced green onion (or chives) and freshly chopped parsley

¼ tsp dill weed

½ tsp salt

Lemon juice to taste

1 bread boule, top cut off and bread removed to make a shell for serving

Crudités

Mix all ingredients together and chill; serve in bread bowl and use the pieces from the inside of the bread to dip with, along with assorted raw vegetables.

I also checked in with Michelle Itzkovitz, owner of Inner Glow Yoga. She has an interesting story as well as a fabulous recipe. “I am usually at a small gathering of 40 to 50 people, but due to, well, you know, there will be two of us. I am 90 percent plant-based, and my other half is 90 percent not. I don’t eat meat, and he does not eat green! There are a few exceptions: Caesar salad, naturally without anchovies or some vegetable-based soups,” she said. “Since we are so different, this Thanksgiving will be a bit of a challenge. There are usually lots of choices for both of us, so fewer recipes and smaller quantities of some holiday favorites will be prepared. After teaching a morning donation-based [yoga] class benefiting the Falmouth Service Center, we are looking forward to a quiet day together, a bunch of Zoom calls to family and dessert—definitely dessert!” she added, laughing.

“Here’s our menu for Thanksgiving,” she said. “For Brian: cream of celery soup, roasted turkey with stuffing and roasted garlic mashed potatoes. For Michelle: cream of celery soup, smashed Brussels sprouts, mashed cauliflower with roasted garlic and roasted veggies with crispy tofu.” For dessert (of course!) they will have a Washashore Bakery chocolate cake and apple pie with Smitty’s vanilla ice cream. The following recipe includes a delicious aioli that can be used as a dip with almost any roasted fall vegetables.

Smashed Brussels Sprouts
with Parmesan and Lemon Aioli

Brussels sprouts, tip trimmed, rinsed and ready to go

Parmesan cheese (vegan if desired)

Shredded mozzarella

Zest of one lemon

Aioli

1 cup mayonnaise (Sir Kensington’s Vegan preferably)

½ cup lemon juice

Small clove garlic, minced

Lemon zest for garnish

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit: place the prepped Brussels sprouts into salted boiling water and boil for 15 minutes, according to size and thickness (you want them to be able to smash easily without being overcooked, so start checking after 10 minutes). Scoop them out of the water and directly into an ice bath to cool down and retain their nice green color; drain them in a strainer when cool. Line a baking sheet with parchment and drizzle with olive oil; one by one, take a cooked sprout and place it inside a tea towel, covering it totally, then with the palm of your hand, flatten it—you will see moisture come out of the sprout onto the towel—that’s a good thing! Just be careful because it will be hot. Place the flattened sprouts on the baking sheet and sprinkle grated Parmesan on top of each, along with a light sprinkling of mozzarella (which is optional). Drizzle the tops with olive oil and roast in the preheated oven for 20 minutes or until charred to your liking; turn the sprouts and add more cheese, if desired. Continue roasting until crisped; place on a platter, scatter with lemon zest and serve with aioli.

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl, and season to taste with salt and pepper; garnish with lemon zest, and serve with the Brussels sprouts or other cooked vegetables for dipping.

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