Thanksgiving is a holiday when American-Jewish families can enjoy the best of both heritages — hearty American food and an occasion to give thanks for their blessings. Food has always been the center of the holiday celebration, and I like to plan an old-fashioned farmhouse menu for the holiday.
Everyone has a favorite turkey recipe, usually handed down from their parents — roasted, smoked or brined with lots of stuffing — but what about the side dishes? There are so many choices. My focus this year will be to create a variety of side dishes that will accompany the turkey and enhance the dinner.
A beautifully browned noodle kugel adds a homey, old-fashioned accent to any holiday menu. This dish does not need sugar, because the raisins and apples add natural sweetness. My technique is to use a large casserole and spread the mixture, because the thinner the kugel, the crisper the crust.
Tzimmes, another traditional dish, is a delicious mixture of sweet potatoes, prunes, carrots and assorted dried fruits. Often sweetened and sometimes cooked with meat, it makes a wonderful treat to go with the meal.
The recipe for Kosher Mashed Potatoes that I am sharing is perfect to go with the Thanksgiving turkey. Butter and milk are replaced with nondairy margarine and soy milk, making it a delicious accompaniment that everyone will enjoy.
For a simple yet elegant dish to go with dinner, nothing surpasses a delicate and flavorful purée. Whether roasted, boiled or steamed, vegetables can easily be blended in a food processor or blender with a little olive oil or chicken stock. My favorite is a Parsnip Garlic Purée made with roasted garlic that will add spice to your holiday menu. Its velvety texture is a nice alternative to mashed potatoes, and it pairs well with poultry or meat.
And at our home, Thanksgiving would not be the same without freshly baked biscuits. Served as a savory treat, they are best when heated and topped with honey or preserves.
Don’t forget to decorate your holiday table. Our daughter Kathy has created several small ceramic turkeys that are placed at the center of the Thanksgiving table to make the dinner more festive. Pour apple juice for the children and a young, fruity red wine for the grown-ups, then catch up on all the family news while enjoying the holiday.
Noodle Kugel With Raisins
12 ounces flat wide egg noodles (about 7 cups)
8 cups lightly salted boiling water
1/2 cup unsalted margarine or oil
2 apples, peeled, cored and diced
1/2 cup plumped raisins
4 eggs, beaten
Freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 375 F.
Cook the noodles in lighted salted boiling water until tender, 5 to 10 minutes. Place the noodles, margarine, apples and drained plumped raisins in a large bowl. Add the eggs and season to taste with salt and pepper. Mix well.
Spoon the mixture into a well-greased 8-by-10-inch baking dish. Sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar, and bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until the top is brown and crisp. Cut into squares. Serve hot or cold.
Makes 8 to 10 servings.
3 pounds sweet potatoes (about 4 large), peeled and cut in chunks
2 pounds medium carrots, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
1 (12-ounce) package pitted dried plums, halved
1 cup fresh orange juice
1 cup water
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 cup unsalted margarine, diced
Preheat the oven to 350 F.
Grease a 13-by-9-inch baking dish. Combine the sweet potatoes, carrots and plums in a large bowl and then arrange in the greased baking dish. Combine the orange juice, water, honey, brown sugar and cinnamon in a large bowl; pour over vegetables. Cover with aluminum foil.
Bake for 1 hour. Uncover; dot with margarine and bake 45 to 60 minutes longer, stirring gently every 15 minutes, until tender and sauce is thickened.
Makes 12 servings.
Red Cabbage With Apples
1 red cabbage (2 1/2 pounds)
2/3 cup wine vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons unsalted margarine
2 apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
1 small onion, chopped
1 whole onion, peeled and pierced with 2 cloves
1 bay leaf, crushed
5 cups boiling water
3 tablespoons dry red wine
3 tablespoons red currant jelly
Salt and pepper to taste
Wash the cabbage under cold water, and cut into quarters. Cut into 1/8-inch shreds. Drop into a large bowl and sprinkle with vinegar, sugar and salt. Toss with a wooden spoon.
In a large, 5-quart saucepan, melt the margarine; sauté the apple slices and chopped onion for 5 minutes or until the apples are lightly browned. Add the cabbage, whole onion and bay leaf. Stir thoroughly, and pour in the boiling water. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring occasionally, and reduce the heat to simmer. Cook, covered, for 1 1/2 hours or until the cabbage is tender, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon. Remove the whole onion and bay leaf. Stir in the wine and currant jelly, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve hot.
Makes 6 to 8 servings.
1/2 cup raspberry preserves
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup cranberry juice
Juice and peel of 1 lemon
6 large tart Pippin or Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
Combine preserves, sugar and cranberry juice in a large, heavy saucepan. Cook over moderate heat, stirring, until preserves and sugar are dissolved. Bring syrup to a boil and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes.
Place lemon juice and peel in a large bowl; add apple slices and toss gently. Add apples with lemon juice to preserve mixture; toss to coat evenly. Simmer until apples are soft, mixing occasionally. Cool. Transfer glazed apples with sauce to a large bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Makes 6 to 8 servings.
Kosher Mashed Potatoes
5 pounds potatoes
1/4 pound unsalted margarine
3/4 cup soy milk
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic
Peel and dice potatoes. Add potatoes to a large pot with enough water to cover; bring to a boil until tender. Drain, then add margarine, soy milk, salt, pepper and garlic. Mash by hand or with a potato masher to desired consistency.
Makes 10 servings.
VARIATION: A nice combination is unpeeled redskin potatoes and peeled Yukon Golds. Add redskin potatoes by washing them well and leaving the skins on, boiling and following directions above.
8 medium parsnips, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 whole head of garlic, roasted (recipe below)
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
1 cup chicken stock
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 300 F.
Toss the parsnips with olive oil and arrange them on a baking sheet. Roast the parsnips until they are caramelized and soft, about 45, minutes depending on thickness. Lightly coat bottom of a large sauté pan with olive oil, and sauté the onions over medium heat until they are very soft and translucent, about 20 minutes.
In a food processor, add the parsnips and onions and squeeze out the individual cloves of garlic from the roasted head. Add enough chicken stock to moisten, and blend until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Spoon mixture into a saucepan and, over low heat, stir gently with a wooden spoon until heated through.
Makes 6 to 8 servings.
Roasted Whole Garlic
1 or 2 heads garlic
2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
Preheat the oven to 400 F.
Peel away outer layers of the garlic bulk skin, leaving the skin of the cloves intact. Using a knife, cut off 1/4 inch of the top of the cloves, exposing the individual cloves of garlic. Place the garlic cloves on a sheet of aluminum foil, brush generously with olive oil, and pinch foil to seal.
Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until the cloves feel soft when pressed. Cool garlic enough so you can touch it, then use a small knife to cut the skin slightly around each clove and squeeze out the purée.
Baking Powder Biscuits
2 cups flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons vegetable shortening or unsalted margarine
2/3 to 3/4 cup water
Preheat the oven to 450 F.
Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt in a mixing bowl. Add the shortening and cut it into the flour until the mixture has the consistency of coarse meal. Add water gradually, mixing lightly with a fork, until a ball forms that separates from the sides of the bowl. Turn out onto a lightly floured board, and knead gently for 30 seconds. Roll out or pat out the dough to 1/2-inch thickness. Cut with a 1- or 1 1/2-inch round cookie cutter.
Transfer onto a greased baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes or until golden brown. Arrange the biscuits on a large platter and top with honey or preserves.
Makes about 2 dozen 1 1/2-inch or 3 dozen 1-inch biscuits.
Judy Zeidler is a food consultant and author of “Italy Cooks.” Her Web site is judyzeidler.com.
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