The first time I joined my husband Ted's family for a Canadian Thanksgiving meal, we were invited to celebrate with a group of friends at a camp in southern Ontario. The hosts assigned each family some potluck dishes to bring, and one of our assignments was carrots and celery sticks. When we arrived and added our contribution to the long buffet table, I noticed that our little plate of celery sticks was the only speck of green in a sea of brown: turkey, potatoes, gravy, parsnips, onions. If your Thanksgiving menu is looking a bit on the brown side, add this fennel, avocado and grapefruit salad to the mix. Raw fennel, thinly sliced and "marinated" in a mustardy vinaigrette, mellows to a very mildly anise flavor that pairs brilliantly with the tangy grapefruit and creamy avocado. Unexpected, and sure to be a hit.
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Sides make the meal, never more so than on Thanksgiving, when there's so much pressure to serve the same family favorite recipes year after year. Yes, the favorites are wonderful and bring back memories, but updating traditions can create new memories -- and it's more fun for those of us who are the cooks. From now until the day, I'm sharing recipes for some of the sides from my own holiday menu. First up, a new appetizer on my table this year: pumpkin "hummus", made not with tahini and chickpeas, but with peanut butter and canned pumpkin purée, warmed up with smoky paprika and harissa. Serve it on pita triangles or celery sticks, and be sure save some to smear on leftover turkey sandwiches.
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Perhaps it's the gnarly shapes I can't resist, but at this time of year, every time I go to a farm stand or market, I come home with sweet potatoes. Sometimes I have a plan; more often than not, I don't. I leave the potatoes on my counter for a few days or even longer, while I wait for inspiration. And more often than not, those sweet potatoes morph into soup. This particular roasted sweet potato and apple soup, a family favorite, draws on pantry ingredients, especially the warm peppers (smoked paprika and cayenne) and the Moroccan spice blend ras-el hanout that adds subtle tastes of more than thirty additional spices, including cinnamon, cardamom and ginger. This rich and creamy soup, which has no cream at all, freezes well, so keep the recipe in mind for Soup Swap.
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All year long I've been on a campaign to eat more kale. You can tell by my use of the word campaign that kale is a vegetable I'm learning to love, not one I loved from the start. Like most kids I know, I don't always want to eat my dark leafy greens, so from time to time I have to hide vegetables in my own meals. This mildly spicy red pepper, kale and walnut dip -- which you also could use as a spread on sandwiches or bruschetta -- began as a random ingredient pull from the refrigerator. I had some kale that needed to be used, a bit of leftover roasted red pepper in a jar, and a few walnuts. Harissa brought them all together in a Mediterranean-inspired dip, and nobody will ever figure out that kale is the green in it. Serve this at your next party, with celery sticks, carrots, or tortilla chips.
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