Thanksgiving is the official start of the holiday season, a time of year that can be stressful for those of us being mindful of what we eat. But fortunately it doesn’t take much to clean up the Thanksgiving meal (and to alleviate the food coma that normally follows). As with any clean eating plan, it’s about making healthier choices.
Here are my recipes for pumpkin pie that uses a date-pecan crust and fresh pumpkin with a hint of citrus, stuffing made with multi-grain seeded bread and Brussels sprouts that will leave you yearning for a trip to Italy.
Wishing you all a deeply delicious Thanksgiving.
1Tuscan Garden Grove Brussels Sprouts
I put together this recipe for a Thanksgiving cooking class and it turned out to be a favorite of students all year round … as long as they could find Brussels sprouts, that is. The addition of shallots (or onions), tomatoes and rosemary to any roasted vegetable adds juiciness and a taste of Tuscany without overpowering the flavor of the main vegetable itself. Don’t skimp on olive oil or salt and be sure to cook it extra long, not just until tender, but until succulent and even a bit brown.
- 1 1⁄2 pounds Brussels sprouts (about 30 sprouts)
- 3 vine ripened tomatoes, cut into 1⁄2 inch pieces
- 2-3 large shallots cut into 1⁄2 inch pieces
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 6 one-inch pieces of fresh rosemary
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled and cut in half lengthwise
- 1⁄4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- Generous amount of fresh ground pepper
Preheat oven to 400°F. Cut off brown end tips of Brussels sprouts and pull off any yucky looking yellowish leaves. Put Brussels sprouts, tomatoes, shallots, garlic and rosemary in a casserole dish. Drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with thyme and salt. Grind fresh pepper. Use your fingers to mix and lick fingers to test seasoning. Adjust if needed. Make sure the rosemary and garlic pieces are evenly dispersed throughout casserole. Bake for 45-60 minutes. (Note, if you are doubling recipe or for whatever reason have the Brussels sprouts on top of one another, be sure to cook it long enough until everything browns and gets a little caramelized.
2Multi-grain Stuffing, Portobello Mushrooms, and Fennel
When it comes to Thanksgiving, for me at least, stuffing is the highlight. That’s what Thanksgiving is about — stuffing your face — so it makes perfect sense. But what I hate about stuffing is knowing how it is made. I can’t help but think about the gooey white flour entering my system and wondering whether the cook added cream of mushroom soup to the mixture. I already feel the sluggishness of the morning-after food coma and my enjoyment of the meal is somewhat lost.
In an attempt to clean up this must-have Thanksgiving side, I actually came up with the best stuffing I have ever tasted. Now that said, there is a bit of butter in here, but it’s Thanksgiving! The use of top quality, multi-grain bread is essential as it will pick up the flavors of the roasted portobellos and fennel. Furthermore, the use of homemade broth does take it over the edge.
Serves 6-10 (you can easily double or triple the recipe)
- 1 pound loaf (more or less) of best quality crusty multi-grain bread
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 leeks, whites and light green parts, sliced
- 1 cup chopped celery
- 2 links uncooked chicken sausage (mild italian or chicken apple), squeezed out of its casing (optional)
- 1 stick salted butter or 7 tablespoons duck fat or shmaltz
- 1 1⁄2 tablespoons chopped sage
- 1 tablespoon thyme sprigs + 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
- 3 fennel bulbs
- 3 portobello mushrooms
- 2 + 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
- 1 + 1 teaspoons of kosher salt
- 2 1⁄2 cups homemade chicken broth or vegetable broth, salted (a good teaspoon’s worth)
- 1⁄8 cup parsley
- 3 eggs
- Freshly ground pepper
Directions, part 1: Roast the mushrooms and fennel
Preheat oven to 400 F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Wash mushrooms. Pull off mushroom stem and carefully remove brown “gills” underneath with a paring knife. Slice mushrooms into 1⁄2 inch slices. Lay on one of the baking sheets and drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Add some fresh ground pepper. Holding the thyme sprigs at one end, use the fingers of your other hand to gently slide down the stem, pulling off the leaves and sprinkle on mushrooms. Cut the feathery fronds off the fennel so you are left with just the bulb. Use your fingers to mix mushrooms, lick your fingers, adjust seasoning as necessary, and lay them back down flat. Cut the fennel bulb in half vertically. Using a paring knife, carefully remove the triangularly shaped tough core. Cut the fennel into vertical slices about 1⁄4-inch thick and then again into 1⁄4 inch cubes. Place fennel on the other baking sheet and douse with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of salt and add freshly ground pepper. Use your fingers to mix it all together, lick your fingers to test seasoning, adjust as necessary and lay fennel back down flat. Put both sheets in oven and roast for about 17-20 minutes.
Directions, part 2: Stale the bread
Preheat oven to 375 F. Cut bread into cubes ranging from 1⁄4-inch-squares to 1 -nch squares. Place on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Let cool.
Directions, part 3: Assemble the stuffing
In a large pan, over medium heat, melt 4 tablespoons (1⁄2 stick) butter. Sauté onion, leeks, celery, sage and tablespoon of thyme for about seven minutes. Put in large bowl. If you are using chicken sausage, add another tablespoon of butter to pan (or duck fat or shmaltz) and sauté for about four minutes or until just cooked. Add to the bowl. Add the vegetable/herb (with optional chicken sausage) medley, the bread, mushrooms, fennel, eggs, parsley, and broth to the bowl and mix well. Season generously with freshly ground pepper. Transfer to a casserole dish and dot with remaining 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) of butter (or duck fat or shmaltz). Cover with aluminum foil. Bake for 30 minutes at 375 F. Uncover and bake for another 30 to 40 minutes, until browned and crisp on top. Serve right out of the oven.
3Flour-less Pecan Crust Sunshine Pumpkin Pie
Your guests do not want to look at their watches waiting for the right moment to make a polite exit so they can go home and sleep away the culinary burden of the night. Lighten up the load and add some sunshine with this recipe, which uses fresh pumpkins, not canned ones. It takes a little more work, but honestly how many times a year are you making this?
Students in my Thanksgiving class freak out every year when I say we are going to cut the pumpkin, but then they always turn to me and say, “Wow, this is actually not hard at all.” So there. Plus, the crust takes only minutes.
*The filling is adapted from Lisa Raven’s book In Season.
For the crust:
- 3 cups pecans
- 7 tablespoons butter plus 1 for buttering tart pan, or 4 tablespoons extra virgin coconut oil plus 1 for greasing tart pan
- 10-12 dates pitted
For the Filling:
- 2 small sugar pumpkins
- Zest of 1 lemon
- Juice of 1⁄2 lemon
- Zest of 1 orange
- Juice of 1⁄2 orange
- 1⁄2 teaspoons ginger
- 1⁄2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 1⁄4 of a whole nutmeg, grated
- 1⁄4 – 1⁄3 cup honey
- 3 eggs
Directions for the crust:
Place pecans, dates and seven tablespoons of butter or four tablespoons of virgin coconut oil in a food processor and pulse into paste. Use the remaining butter or coconut oil to amply grease tart pan. Use your fingers to “smoosh” the paste into the tart pan to form the crust. You might have a little extra.
Direction for the filling:
Cut pumpkins into wedges. Lay wedges on side and slice off skin working your way around the pumpkin. Steam pumpkin in a steamer for about 15 or 20 minutes. Add pumpkin to food processor and reduce to a purée. You will need about three cups of puréed pumpkin. If you feel you have much more, measure it out and return pumpkin to food processor. Add lemon zest, lemon juice, orange zest, orange juice, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, honey and eggs. Pulse into well mixed. Pour mixture into pie crust. Bake at 350°F for 30 minutes. Then take pie crust out of oven and use tin foil to cover the crust that is showing to prevent it from burning. Just go ahead and place two large sheets of aluminum foil on top of each other like a plus sign and fold over until desired effect. Bake for another 20 minutes or until firm to the touch. Let cool to room temperature before serving.