I’ve always loved Thanksgiving because it invites all Americans to the table, regardless of their religion or ethnicity.
When I grew up, back in the 20th century, life was less competitive than it is now, more Norman Rockwell than Top Chef. Because Thanksgiving recipes were traditional and wholesome, varying little from year to year, holiday foods were welcoming to kosher families.
I recall my mother roasting a turkey, merely seasoning it with salt and pepper. Admittedly, she served cranberries straight from the can, but the mushrooms, celery and onions in her stuffing were fresh. Early on, she perfected her baked yams and string bean casserole, never veering from these recipes.
No one expected my mother to regularly reinvent the Thanksgiving menu and up the ante every year. No one expected her to become a dazzling gourmet chef on a holiday celebrating the harvest.
However, with the rise in recent decades of television cooking shows and food magazines featuring gratuitously lavish recipes, even for Thanksgiving, simple fare is passé. Yesterday’s recipes don’t impress an audience hungry to wow the guests at their table. While many chic new dishes are resplendent in cream, butter, cheese and bacon, causing some people to swoon, they aren’t practical for kosher cooks preparing a turkey dinner.
However, there are foods to serve on Thanksgiving that are as mouthwatering as they are stunning. Try roasting a turkey sprinkled with rosemary, sage and thyme. Simmer a pot of cranberries and oranges, sauté zucchini in zesty ginger and garlic, and whip pumpkin into a soufflé. And yes, in case you’re wondering, these sensational recipes are kosher.
Pumpkin Soufflé | Pareve
Serves 4-5 per soufflé, or 8-10 in all
Equipment: food processor, plus two 6-cup oven-proof soufflé dishes or deep casseroles
Nonstick vegetable spray
1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin, divided in half
¾ cup, plus ¾ cup almond milk
⅛ teaspoon, plus ⅛ teaspoon allspice and cardamom
⅜ teaspoon, plus ⅜ teaspoon cinnamon
2¼ tablespoons, plus 2¼ tablespoons flour
⅜ cup, plus ⅜ cup sugar
3 eggs, plus 3 eggs
6 tablespoons, plus 6 tablespoons melted unsalted margarine
Coat the two soufflé dishes with nonstick spray. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
You are going to make two soufflés. Start by fitting a food processor with a metal blade.
Into the bowl of the food processor, place half the can of pumpkin, ¾ cup almond milk, ⅛ teaspoon allspice and cardamom, ⅜ teaspoon cinnamon, 2¼ tablespoons flour, ⅜ cup sugar, 3 eggs and 6 tablespoons of melted unsalted margarine. Process until all the ingredients are well combined. Move them to one of the prepared soufflé dishes. Then repeat the process with the remaining half of the ingredients and fill the second soufflé dish.
Place both soufflé dishes in the oven and bake them for 45 minutes or until the edges are slightly brown and the centers are cooked through. Serve immediately.
Or to make ahead, cool to room temperature, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.
Return the dish to room temperature. Heat your oven to 350 degrees F and place the soufflés inside until they are bubbling at the edges.
Note: When served immediately, the soufflés puff up. They never reach the same height when reheated.
Stuffing With the Works | Meat
Serves 8-10 as a side dish
Equipment: 8-cup soufflé dish or equivalent deep ovenproof casserole
3 chicken bouillon cubes
Nonstick vegetable spray
1½ pounds sliced peasant bread or sourdough bread
8 ounces of mushrooms of any kind, sliced
6 celery stalks, diced
1 large onion diced
1-2 Granny Smith apples, cored, skinned and diced
1 teaspoon each: rosemary, thyme and sage, or more if desired
Place the bouillon cubes into a 1-quart Pyrex dish or other heatproof item. Bring 4 cups of water to a boil and pour it into the Pyrex. Stir the mixture occasionally until the bouillon cubes dissolve. Reserve.
Coat the soufflé dish with nonstick spray. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
Place all of the ingredients — except the chicken broth — in a very large bowl. Mix all the ingredients together.
Gradually drizzle in the chicken broth a little at a time, stopping and stirring as you add it. Once the mixture sticks together, forming a pasty mass, stop adding the chicken broth. Use the remainder for another purpose.
Spoon the stuffing into the prepared soufflé dish. The stuffing can be made to this point up to three days in advance if covered and refrigerated. Bring the stuffing to room temperature before proceeding. Place the soufflé dish in the oven and heat it until it is bubbling. Serve immediately.
Cranberry-Orange Sauce | Pareve
1 (12-ounce bag) cranberries
½ (15-ounce box) raisins
1½ cups sugar
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup chopped pecans
Place the cranberries in a colander and rinse them under cold water. Discard any shriveled cranberries. Move the cranberries to a large pot. Pour in enough water to barely cover the cranberries. Cover the pot and simmer the cranberries on a medium flame until they start to pop open.
Meanwhile, cut the orange in half. Cut the halves into thick slices and then cut the slices into wedges. Leave the skin on.
When the cranberries are popping, add the orange wedges, raisins, sugar and cinnamon.
Mix until combined. Cover the pot again and reduce the flame to medium-low. Simmer until the water reduces, creating a gloppy sauce. If, at any point, the cranberry mixture starts to stick to the pot, lower the flame and add a tablespoon or two of water. Cool the mixture briefly. Then add the nuts, mixing well.
Bring the cranberry-orange sauce to room temperature. Place it in a container with a cover and refrigerate until serving. This can be made 2 days ahead. Remove the sauce from the refrigerator an hour before serving. Display the cranberry sauce in a glass bowl.
Sautéed Zucchini with Ginger | Pareve
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 shallots, peeled and sliced thin
2½ inches of ginger root, peeled, diced and then chopped fine
4 cloves garlic, chopped fine
Kosher salt to taste
Cut the zucchini into pieces the shape of fat carrot sticks. Start by cutting each zucchini into thirds crosswise, so there are 3 barrel-shaped chunks. Cut each barrel in half lengthwise. Then cut each half lengthwise again into 4-5 pieces. Reserve.
In a large skillet, heat the oil on a medium-low flame. Add the shallots, ginger and garlic. Sprinkle with salt and sauté until wilted. Add the zucchini and continue to sauté, stirring every few minutes. Sauté until the zucchini are soft on the outside but slightly firm on the inside.
Serve immediately or prepare a couple of hours ahead and briefly reheat before serving.