Tag Archives: Thanksgiving

Emerging from the holiday food hangover

After a brilliant Thanksgiving dinner, an ample supply of leftovers and various other festivities during the weekend, I’m officially stuffed! With the holiday behind us, my husband and I were craving something clean, healthy, and flavorful  – in other words, something that would taste good and make us feel good. We definitely don’t buy into the idea that eating well should feel like a form of deprivation. Last night, we put together a soup and salad combo that rose to the challenge.

I found this recipe for Tom Kha Gai (Thai coconut chicken soup) on Food52, one of my favorite sites to search for dinner inspiration. The galangal (use ginger if you can’t find it), lemongrass, and lime really brighten up the flavor of this soup and contrast perfectly with the creamy coconut milk. Since we’d eaten plenty of poultry over the last few days, we opted to use shrimp instead. They only require a few minutes to cook, so we added about 6 ounces of shrimp (peeled and deveined) to the hot soup 3 to 5 minutes before we were ready to eat.

To go with the soup, I made a cucumber salad with smashed ginger and garlic, based on a recipe in Plenty, one of Yotam Ottolenghi’s fantastic cookbooks. It’s been one of our favorites since it landed on the kitchen bookshelf a couple of years ago; it’s full of creative vegetable dishes that have definitely expanded our culinary repertoire and the gorgeous photography doesn’t hurt either. The cucumber salad is a great option when you’re looking for a fresh, clean dish. The cucumbers make a great partner for the garlic, ginger and vinegar and the result is vibrant and pleasantly sharp.

The soup and salad combo makes enough to feed a hungry couple for dinner, with leftovers to supply lunch for one of you the next day.

Cucumber salad with smashed ginger and garlic
From Plenty

3 tbsp rice wine vinegar
2 tsp sugar
2 tbsp sunflower oil or olive oil (not extra virgin)
2 tsp toasted sesame oil
1/2 a red onion, very thinly sliced
1 1/2 inches fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 garlic cloves, peeled
4 small, or 8 mini cucumbers (about 1 1/4 lbs in total), peeled
1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
3 tbsp chopped cilantro

  1. Whisk all the dressing ingredients together in a medium bowl. Add the sliced red onion, combine well, and leave to marinate for up to an hour.
  2. Place the ginger and salt in a mortar and pound well with a pestle. Add the garlic and continue pounding until it is crushed, but stop before it becomes a paste. Using a spatula, scrape the garlic, ginger and salt mixture into the bowl with the onion and dressing and stir everything together.
  3. Cut the cucumbers lengthwise in half, then slice on an angle into 1/4 inch thick slices. Add the cucumber, sesame seeds and cilantro to the bowl. Stir well and let the salad sit for 10 minutes.
  4. Before serving, stir the salad again, and if a lot of liquid has accumulated at the bottom of the bowl, pour some of it out. Taste for seasoning, and add a few more drops of toasted sesame oil if you like.

Thanksgiving, Italian Style

We’re just a few days away from Thanksgiving, which for most of us probably means a weekend full of food, family, friends, and…. food. Many of us have a roster of food-centered rituals and familiar recipes that we break out at this time of year. I grew up in an Italian family, which means broccoli rabe and homemade focaccia appear alongside the turkey and cranberry sauce on our Thanksgiving table. It definitely ranks as one of my favorite meals of the year, and something I was very excited to share with my now husband when we first got together. Being from England, it wasn’t just a new meal, but a new holiday for him, one that he was excited to learn involved plenty of eating and drinking, along with a four day weekend.

We always kick off our Thanksgiving dinner with a course of antipasti – some cheese, cured meat and marinated vegetables. I’ve inevitably eaten too little (or nothing) at breakfast earlier that day to save room, which means I’m starving by this time and usually tend to overdo it on this course. Then it’s on to the pasta course – turkey soup with tortellini – a well-established Thanksgiving favorite among my family. Then, and only then, it’s on to the main event. And while the turkey is the centerpiece of the meal, isn’t the necessarily the highlight– at least for me. It’s mainly a vehicle for things like cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, all manner of roasted veggies, and of course, stuffing. And my parents’ stuffing is one of the dishes I look forward to most each year. It’s definitely an Italian spin on the dish – made with sweet sausage, mozzarella, and rice. It’s best served hot, when the edges are browned and you’ve got slightly crisp pieces of sausage and gooey cheese scattered throughout. It’s not a typical stuffing, but it tastes unmistakably like Thanksgiving to me. Want to give it a try at your Thanksgiving dinner? Check out the recipe below…

Thanksgiving stuffing ingredients

My parents’ Thanksgiving stuffing
Serves 6-8, with leftovers

2 tbsp olive oil
2 medium onions, diced
4 celery stalks, diced, and leaves chopped and reserved
¼ cup parsley, chopped
2 lbs sweet Italian sausage, removed from the casing (or use ground pork)
(Optional) a couple of pinches of crushed red pepper
3 cups white rice
1 lb mozzarella, cut into small cubes
½ cup grated Parmiggiano-Reggiano cheese
2 eggs, beaten
½ cup chicken stock
salt & pepper

Note: The stuffing can be prepared ahead through step 5 and stored in the refrigerator until you’re ready to bake it.

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Heat the oil in a large pan over medium heat (or use two pans if needed to avoid overcrowding). Add the onion, celery, and parsley and sauté until the onion and celery are soft and translucent.
  3. Add the sausage meat to the pan, breaking it up into small pieces with a spatula or wooden spoon as it cooks. At this stage, you can add a couple of pinches of crushed red pepper flakes. If you’re using unseasoned ground pork, you can also add a pinch of crushed fennel seeds (if you’re using sweet Italian sausage they’ll already be in the mix). Once the sausage is cooked and has started to brown, remove the mixture from the heat and allow it to cool.Sausage, onion, celery and parsley at work
  4. Meanwhile, cook the rice according to the package instructions. Remove from the heat and allow it to cool.
  5. Combine the sausage mixture and rice in a large bowl. Add in the mozzarella, celery leaves, stock, and all but two tablespoons of the Parmiggiano-Reggiano. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper as needed, then mix in the beaten eggs until everything is combined.
  6. Fill two 9 x 13 baking pans with the stuffing – the pans shouldn’t be filled all the way to the top.  Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top.
  7. Thanksgiving stuffing ready to bakeBake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, until the cheese is melted and the stuffing is heated through and starting to brown at the edges. Serve with turkey, gravy, cranberry sauce and the rest of your Thanksgiving lineup!   

Thanksgiving stuffing