How to Break a Thanksgiving Tradition

20131116_BlogBrusselsAppleSalad-115I got a text from my mom the other day that read: demerara sugar? I responded back with a question mark, not sure what she was referencing. It turns out she was experimenting with a new pie recipe that called for the natural sugar and wasn’t sure why she couldn’t just use white sugar as that’s what she’s always done in the past. A few days later we talked on the phone and she mentioned she’d let me take charge of the salad for Thanksgiving this year as long as there was no kale. No kale! And I wanted to do the mashed potatoes? Would they still be made with butter and milk? In short, we’re always willing to mix things up in the Gordon household. Whether it’s inspiration from a food magazine, friend or coworker, either my mom or one of my sisters will often have an idea for something new to try at the holiday table. But what I’ve slowly learned is that it can’t really be that different: there must be pumpkin pie, the can of cranberry sauce is necessary even though not many people actually eat it, the onion casserole is non-negotiable, the salad can’t be too out there, and the potatoes must be made with ample butter and milk. And while I was really scheming up an epic kale salad to make this year, there’s a big part of me that gets it, too: if we change things too much we won’t recognize the part of the day that comes to mean so much: the pure recognition. We take comfort in traditions because we recognize them — because they’re always there, year after year. And so today I present to you (mom, are you reading?): this year’s Gordon family Thanksgiving salad.

As you may recall from a previous post, we have a lot of apples in our basement. And while I’ve been making a dent in them, it  takes a long time, apparently, to move through seventy pounds of apples in a household of two. A while back I’d seen a recipe for a Double Apple and Brussels Sprouts Slaw in Food and Wine and had bookmarked it. A few days ago when I came back to it, I noticed I’d jotted some notes at the top: make brighter, make crunchy, currants! So with some restructuring and a few attempts at different ratios of ingredients in the salad and the dressing — along with a good wallop of chopped parsley — we have a true winner of a winter salad on our hands. It feels fresh and light thanks to the apples and brussels sprouts, and the gingery yogurt dressing lends a mellow brightness — all topped with sweet currants and toasty walnuts. I can tell you with 100% certainty, I won’t miss the kale this year and am looking forward to this fresh, light anecdote to some of the heavier foods that always grace the Thanksgiving table.

Sam and I are headed down to California to spend the holiday with my family — and hopefully even a little sunshine. It’s been unusually cold in Seattle this week (actually: freezing!) and while the sun has been out and the light has been beautiful, I wouldn’t mind a Thanksgiving morning walk in a tee-shirt. Or at the very least, without my winter coat. I hope you have a most restful and delicious day spent with people that make you happy.

 

Creamy Apple and Brussels Sprout Salad with Walnuts and Currants

Creamy Apple and Brussels Sprout Salad with Walnuts and Currants

  • Yield: 8 servings
  • Prep time: 20 mins
  • Total time: 20 mins

Ingredients

For the Dressing:

1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons raw unfiltered apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to season

For the Salad:

2 Granny Smith apples -- peeled, cored and julienned
1/2 pound brussels sprouts, finely shredded
2 tablespoons sliced green onion (from 1 green onion)
1/4 cup currants
3/4 cup toasted walnuts
1 cup chopped Italian parsley

Instructions

In a small bowl, whisk the yogurt with the olive oil, vinegar and ginger and season with salt and pepper.

In a large salad bowl, toss together the apples, brussels sprouts, green onion, currants, walnuts and parsley. Spoon the dressing on top and toss well. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed. Serve room temperature or cold. Cover and refrigerate leftovers for up to 1-2 days.

Comments

  1. Shanna Mallon

    The first paragraph made me laugh because it sounds so much like the way my mom and I email/communicate long-distance. There are many "?" responses, let's just say. And this salad! Man, I'd be happy to find this on our table this year.

  2. Lindsey

    Yes, yes, yes! My family, too, is open to experimentation, but everything must fit into the traditional classifications (sweet potatoes, green beans, pecan pie, etc), and there are some things (mashed potatoes) that must be "normal." I love what you have created as a compromise! While I won't be cooking for Thanksgiving, I'll be making this for a non-holiday meal very soon. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!

    1. megang

      Thanks so much, Lindsey! Happy Thanksgiving to you, too. I hope you enjoy the salad (makes a great light lunch). ~Megan

  3. Ahu

    Love the texting exchange...all too familiar. This salad looks amazing.

  4. Mianna

    I was also told to bring a salad and I wanted to make the sweet potatoes and this great artichoke dish! So you saved me! Love this! I am set. Thank you - and we will be here in the coooold, but sunny beautiful Seattle. Have fun in California.

    1. megang

      Mianna: It has been GORGEOUS, hasn't it? Very, very cool but the light and the sun have been really beautiful. So no complaints. Enjoy the salad and the holiday! ~Megan

  5. Ellen

    I am invited to a private home for Thanksgiving and wish to bring something to for the table beside wine. I am going to bring your intriguing salad. Currants are a great addition as well as the pecans. What is your dressing suggestion for this salad that can accommodate a dairy free and gluten free guest?
    Thank you for your flavorful Thanksgiving menu addition.

    1. megang

      Hi Ellen-
      Great! I hope you enjoy the salad. You know, if you're not doing the yogurt dressing, I think a simple lemon vinaigrette could work nicely -- wouldn't overpower any of the flavors too terribly. Enjoy the holiday! ~Megan

  6. momgordon

    Such a clever way to give me your grocery list sweetie! This salad looks absolutely perfect! The best part though is you in the kitchen making it!!! See you soon!

  7. Annie @ ciaochowbambina

    We always go back and forth on the idea of a salad with Thanksgiving dinner, but this looks really great. I like the crunch factor! Thank you!

  8. molly

    ANYthing that calls for 2 tablespoons fresh ginger has my name written all over it. Can't wait to try this.

    A very, very happy Thanksgiving to you and Sam, Megan. Just talked to my mom (on Queen Anne) tonight, and she confirmed it's been downright chilly! But beautiful. Enjoy both the crisp clear and the bit of bright warmth.

    xo,
    Molly

  9. Kasey

    Aw, I love that. We are always mixing things up, too. We had persimmon, blue cheese and arugula salad with pecans :) I hope you had a lovely Thanksgiving, you!

  10. Maris (In Good Taste)

    My family never experiments! This year I'm getting together with a girlfriend for Christmas since both of us are sticking around the city and we're having so much fun looking up new recipes and trying different things. I've been kind of bummed that I don't have travel plans but sometimes change can be good!

  11. alyssaskitchen.blogspot.com

    […] (which I found very dry, but only because of the squash.  Not sure what went wrong there.) and a brussel sprout and green apple salad with a yogurt-ginger dressing.  I’ve made this one before and loved it, as I do this time.  Also, these date squares, […]

Join the Discussion

Early Fall Baking

Apple Picking + Dorie’s Custardy Apple Squares

Apple Picking + Dorie’s Custardy Apple Squares

Last weekend we went apple picking up near Yakima, a good three hours east of Seattle. We drove over to Harmony Orchards with our friends Brandi and John and met up with many other groups and families to amble about the rows and rows of apples in the unusually warm sun. We missed the annual picking last year as we were on our honeymoon, but the previous year was the one in which we made the colossal mistake of picking over 70 pounds of apples. I've never made so much applesauce in my life. This year we practiced restraint in bringing home a cool 38 pounds and after getting them all situated in the basement, I started to leaf through a few cookbooks looking for a great apple recipe -- something, preferably, that used quite a few apples, wasn't too sweet and could double as breakfast or dessert (really, the best kind of recipe). And that's exactly what we have in these Custardy Apple Squares. 

Read More
Dark and Spicy Pumpkin Loaf

Dark and Spicy Pumpkin Loaf

It turns out that returning from a sunny honeymoon to a rather rainy, dark stretch of Seattle fall hasn't been the easiest transition. Sam and I have been struggling a little to find our groove with work projects and even simple routines like cooking meals for one another and getting out of the easy daily ruts that can happen to us all. When we were traveling, we made some new vows to each other -- ways we can keep the fall and winter from feeling a bit gloomy, as tends to happen at a certain point living in the Pacific Northwest (for me, at least): from weekly wine tastings at our neighborhood wine shop to going on more lake walks. And I suppose that's one of the most energizing and invigorating parts about travel, isn't it? The opposite of the daily rut: the constant newness and discovery around every corner. One of my favorite small moments in Italy took place at a cafe in Naples when I accidentally ordered the wrong pastry and, instead, was brought this funny looking cousin of a croissant. We had a wonderfully sunny little table with strong cappuccino, and, disappointed by my lack of ordering prowess, I tried the ugly pastry only to discover my new favorite treat of all time (and the only one I can't pronounce): the sfogliatelle. I couldn't stop talking about this pastry, its thick flaky layers wrapped around a light, citrus-flecked sweet ricotta filling. It was like nothing I'd ever tried -- the perfect marriage of interesting textures and flavors. I became a woman obsessed. I began to see them displayed on every street corner; I researched their origin back at the hotel room, and started to look up recipes for how to recreate them at home. And the reason for the fascination was obviously that they were delicious. But even more: I'm so immersed in the food writing world that I rarely get a chance to discover a dish or a restaurant on my own without hearing tell of it first. And while a long way away from that Italian cafe, I had a similar feeling this week as I scanned the pages of Alice Medrich's new book, Flavor Flours, and baked up a loaf of her beautiful fall pumpkin loaf: Discovery, newness, delight!

Read More
Honeyed Spelt Cornbread with Fresh Cranberries

Honeyed Spelt Cornbread with Fresh Cranberries

I am writing this on Saturday afternoon on a day when we had big plans to conquer pre-baby chore lists, but Sam's not feeling great and my energy's a little low so it hasn't been quite what we'd envisioned. My goals for the morning were to repot a house plant and make some soup and I've done neither. I will say that the sweet potato and fennel are still sitting on the counter eagerly awaiting their Big Moment -- it just hasn't come about quite yet. Sam and I were both going to attempt to install the carseat, but it started to look really daunting so we abandoned ship; it's now sitting proudly in the basement, also eagerly awaiting its Big Moment. So it's been one of those weekends -- the kind you look back on and wonder what it is you actually accomplished. At the very least, I get the chance to tell you about this hearty cranberry cornbread. I know maybe it feels premature in the season for cranberry recipes, but hang with me here: slathered with a little soft butter and runny honey, there's nothing I'd rather eat right now on the cool, crisp Seattle mornings we've been having lately.  

Read More
Morning Glory Crumble Muffins

Morning Glory Crumble Muffins

I rarely make muffins at home and never order one when I'm out and about as I find they're often far too sweet and never truly that satisfying. I realize, too, in looking back at my cookbook that there's only one muffin recipe throughout. Case in point: I'm tentative on muffins. But not these. We've been pretty thrilled to have this healthier version of Morning Glory muffins on the counter this week; they have little bits of apple, raisins, walnuts, and grated carrot and are cloaked in a buttery oat crumble topping -- quite the opposite of your boring coffeeshop fare. I thought long and hard about doing a Valentine's post, some festive cookie or confection that would be share-worthy this weekend, but the more we talked about what our weekend would really look like, it involved something special for breakfast instead. I don't remember the last time a Valentine's Day fell on a Saturday, so we have big plans to have breakfast in bed and if your plans are even remotely similar, these muffins would be a fine inclusion.

Read More
Weekends and Figs

Weekends and Figs

I generally work on weekends. It's something I've come to terms with only because I know it won't last forever. I write. I bake. But those two things don't always pay the bills, so I work retail on the weekends and dream of the day when I'll have a Sunday like this one:

Read More