Thanksgivukkuh Recap!

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Almost the whole gang!

First off, I need to apologize for how long it took me to get this written. I’ve been in the throes of opening a show ever since Thanksgiving (which entails quite a bit of craziness), but I’ve wanted to give an update as to how everything went, especially given the complexity and breadth of the menu I’d planned. Most fortunately for me, we got an oven and stove in my apartment a week before the holiday, so I no longer had to worry about where to cook everything. Really the most important piece of advice I can give when it comes to serving large holiday meals is to plan and cook in advance. While I’d written a shopping list and plan of action far in advance, when it came to the week before Thanksgiving, my planner was no where to be found…so I ended up frantically rewriting both my shopping list and action plan on a napkin in a cafe (how J.K. Rowling of me…also, I did end up finding my planner, after the fact).

Original action plan and list compared to make shift action plan and list.

Original action plan and list compared to make shift action plan and list.

I started my week off by taking a long, late afternoon trip to the shuk (the outdoor market, where produce prices are best). After experiencing the absolute craziness that is the shuk on a Friday, it was delightful to be able to go on a Monday afternoon and meander up and down the stalls, looking for the lowest prices. While this dinner was not exactly cheap, I was still amazed at the sheer amount of produce I could get for a relatively small amount of money. Two boxes of mushrooms for example cost about 10 NIS. I think potatoes (or maybe onions) were 4.50 NIS per kilo. After loading myself with as many kilos of produce as I could carry, I (foolishly) walked home (which was about 2 km, not a bad walk, just not when you’re carrying your weight in veggies), and resolved to get the rest of the produce the next day.

Balagan in the kitchen as meal prep begins

Balagan in the kitchen as meal prep begins

So many mushrooms and onions!

So many mushrooms and onions!

I started out, as I usually do by making the cornbread. I also caramelized onions for as many dishes as I remembered needed them (aka I forgot and had to caramelize more the next day), baked the sweet potatoes, and roasted the huge hunk of squash I got for the pumpkin baked ziti. Because my beautiful, new Vitamix had to remain in the US, I didn’t have a blender or food processor of my own, which did make preparations a little tricky. A friend of mine had an immersion blender with food processor attachment, which she kindly let me borrow, so I spent the better part of a day making anything and everything that needed blender, from soup, to the pumpkin, to the french onion dip, the cashew ricotta, the sweet potatoes, hazelnuts, and caesar dressing. Unfortunately, this blender wasn’t exactly what you’d call powerful, so I had to take breaks quite frequently in order to not kill the motor (and then be completely out of luck). This definitely put me a little behind schedule because despite all my planning, I woke up bright and early Thursday morning, only to cook literally until the last moment, with maybe an hour break.

Massive bowl of butternut squash soup

Massive bowl of butternut squash soup

Wednesday night prep complete: all components for the ziti, plus soup and sauces

Wednesday night prep complete: all components for the ziti, plus soup and sauces

Due to time issues, I decided to bake off the stuffing, rather than attempting to fry it while I had hungry guests over, which I think turned out for the best. I also decided to make broccoli instead of brussel sprouts, because I could only find those in the freezer section, and nobody wants frozen brussel sprouts on Thanksgiving. I also couldn’t find fresh or frozen cranberries anywhere, so I used dried cranberries in the apple sauce (as detailed in the soufganiyot post). The last thing I had to coordinate was the reheating of all the food. I live too far from where the dinner was being hosted to have food stay warm, but two of my friends live closer and graciously warmed food in their ovens. I cooked the tempura at my friend’s place in order for it to be hot and crispy when I served it.

Beautiful kale and argula Caesar salad with cashew based dressing and pecans

Beautiful kale and argula Caesar salad with cashew based dressing and pecans

A lone fried string bean with onion dip in the background

A lone fried string bean with onion dip in the background

Cranberry apple sauce isn't very photogenic.

Cranberry apple sauce isn’t very photogenic.

As I expected, literally everyone was running late (we’re on Israeli time after all), but it gave us a chance to complete some last minute preparations. Our guests were a nice mix of Israelis, Europeans, and Americans. I was so happy to be surround by such wonderful, caring people. From my friends who insisted on helping and got the food set up more quickly than had it been just Cathleen and I, to the friends who made me drink, and the friends who made me sit down and eat. Quite a few jokes were tossed around about me actually being a Moroccan mother (whereas in the US we would just say Jewish mother), or else asking me if I thought I made enough food (there was a tray and a half of ziti leftover and I was still worried). In fact, the only thing we actually finished that night were the latkes, though the soufganiyot came close.

2nd night of Hanukkah.

2nd night of Hanukkah.

Pumpkin baked ziti, soup, stuffing and gravy pictured

Pumpkin baked ziti, soup, stuffing and gravy pictured

Friend peruse their options

Friend peruse their options

I do think the soufganiyot trifle was the surprise hit of the evening. Initially I’d planned to fill some with apple sauce and some with a macadamia nut creme, but due to my makeshift filling equipment (ziploc bag with the corner cut off), the creme wasn’t cooperating as a filling. In a stroke of genius (aka great way to salvage dessert mistakes), I decided to turn it into a trifle (pulled the same stunt last year when I had an excess of chai cake). I cut each soufganiyah in half, arranged them on the bottom of the bowl, and proceeded to layer the soufganiyah halfs with the macadamia creme. Right before serving, I dusted the whole thing with powdered sugar. It was so good, some of my friends even went back for thirds! All in all, it was a wonderfully successful meal, with great company, a mix of traditions new and old, and last but not least, I made it all vegan!

Last but not least: soufganiyot macadamia trifle!

Last but not least: soufganiyot macadamia trifle!

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Sweet Potato Soufganiyot with Apple Cranberry Filling

While I really wanted this post to be a Thanksgivukkuh recap of the party last Thursday, I felt like given my time constraints this week—between recovering from Thanksgiving, plus ulpan, and my internship (where we’re getting ready to put up a musical in less than a month)—I wouldn’t be able to do it justice and still get this recipe up before the end of Hanukkah. And, since the end of Hanukkah is imminent, there’s no better time to post a recipe than now (or last week).

Cathleen choosing a soufganiyah at our Thanksgivukkuh party

Cathleen choosing a soufganiyah at our Thanksgivukkuh party

Not that I ever disliked doughnuts, because let’s be honest, there were very few desserts I disliked growing up (except cheesecake. I was always picky about the whole cheese thing), but I feel like I really got into doughnuts when I had amazing, unique doughnuts readily available to me. Aka, when I started working in the city and could get doughnut plant doughnuts on the reg, or when the Cinnamon Snail started parking in my neighborhood on a weekly basis. Surprisingly, vegan doughnuts entered the New York City food scene late in the game. I’d already had the best ice cream ever (from the shop formerly known as Lula’s) and some pretty good vegan cheese, as well as a myriad of other vegan desserts. And yet, the doughnut was fairly elusive. Despite attending the Dun-Well Doughnuts launch party, they weren’t easy to come by, even after they opened their shop (because their shop is pretty much in Bushwick). But once the Cinnamon Snail was in my ‘hood, I found that there was many a Thursday morning, I only got dressed and left the house as early as I did because an artisanal vegan doughnut sounded like a good idea for breakfast. And boy oh boy how I missed doughnuts. Even at work it was a special treat when Kristin made doughnuts.

Peppermint patty and smore's doughnuts from the Cinnamon Snail.  NYC, June 2012

Peppermint patty and smore’s doughnuts from the Cinnamon Snail. NYC, June 2012

Here in Israel, especially at this time of year, soufganiyot proliferate, but there is nary a vegan one to be found. While doughnut making isn’t exactly my favorite thing to do, as a once a year Hanukkah treat, it’s really not so bad. I was in finals during Hanukkah last year, so I didn’t get a chance to experiment, and oddly enough, though I know I made some the year before, I can’t at all remember what kind they were, or even which recipe I used. Regardless, (as I say every year) this year’s batch was the best to date. Of course, as I’ve written about for the last month or so, I had to up the ante and not only make doughnuts, but make something special to celebrate the convergence of two major holidays. And thus, the sweet potato soufganiyot (aka doughnut) was born. I actually wanted to have two Thanksgiving inspired fillings: cranberry sauce and macadamia nut creme (paying homage to my family’s tradition of macadamia nut pie). Unfortunately, I couldn’t find fresh or frozen cranberries here, so I settled for making one big batch of cranberry apple sauce for both soufganiyot and latkes, made with a mix of fresh apples, dried cranberries, and a hint of cinnamon. The macadamia nut pudding, I did manage to execute to an extent. It turned out to be an utterly delicious creme with a little brown sugar and some crunchy macadamia nuts; however, for fear of ending up with macadamia nut concrete, I under thickened, and my pudding was a little too runny for filling (especially with my make-shift equipment). In the end, I did what any good housewife would do, and turned it into soufganiyot trifle. It was a hit, and in good form, I finished it for breakfast this morning.

Young doughnuts, getting ready for their hot oil bath

Young doughnuts, getting ready for their hot oil bath

Now onto the recipe! I combined two recipes I found, one for vegan doughnuts, and one for non-vegan sweet potato doughnuts, originally found here and here. The result was a divinely soft and fluffy doughnut, with the faintest hint of nutmeg, and a little bit of natural sweetness from the sweet potato. It was the perfect compliment to both the creamy pudding and the sweet and tangy apple sauce.

Sweet Potato Soufganiyot:

  • 1 package yeast
  • 1 c lukewarm non dairy milk
  • 1/2 c non dairy milk plus 1 tbsp cornstarch
  • 6 tbsp margarine
  • 1/2 c +2 tbsp brown sugar
  • sweet potato puree (from about 1 medium sweet potato)
  • 4 c flour+ extra for flouring the board
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 tsp nutmeg
  • a least 1 quart of oil for frying

Combine half the warm non dairy milk with the yeast in a small bowl or measuring cup and let sit. In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the starch with the 1/2 c milk and cook until thick like pudding, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Add the margarine and stir to melt. Then incorporate the sugar, and the remaining almond milk. Combine with the yeast mixture, stirring gently.

Add half the flour, salt, and nutmeg and mix in with a wooden spoon (or dough hook if you have one of those fancy contraptions). Add the rest of the flour, one cup at a time, until the dough is no longer wet and sticky. You may have to add a little extra because of the sweet potato. Knead the dough until it’s just smooth. You don’t want to over knead, or else you will have bready doughnuts.

Place in a greased bowl and cover. Let rise about an hour, until doubled in size. I actually made the dough the night before and let it rise fully, then punched it down and let it rise halfway again and put it in the fridge overnight. In the morning, let the dough come to room temperature. Don’t punch it down, but flour your work space and lightly pat the dough with flour. Roll out until it is 1/2 in to 3/4 in thick. Using a cookie cutter or glass that measures about 3 in in diameter, cut out the doughnuts, then set aside to rise. When you finish cutting out the doughnuts, begin heating the oil in a dutch oven over medium heat until the oil reaches 365 degrees. You can test this by pinching off a little piece of dough and dropping it in the oil (if you don’t have a candy thermometer). If the oil bubbles around the dough, and the dough floats to the top, the oil is ready.

Fry the doughnuts 3-4 at a time (you don’t want to crowd the pan) several minutes on each side, til both are a beautiful golden brown. Drain on a tray lined with paper towels or brown paper bag and let cool.

Hot tub shot

Hot tub shot with latkes frying in the background

Cranberry Apple Sauce

  • 2 (or more) tart apples (depending on how much you wanna make), peeled and chopped
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 1/2 dried cranberries
  • 1 c hot water
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

Place all ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir until everything is evenly mixed. Bring to a bowl, then lower to a simmer. Cook until the apples are completely soft, and pretty much turn to mush just by stirring. The cranberries will have plumped up, and then hopefully broken down a little more. Using a spoon, mash the apple mixture around the pot. Remove from heat when thick and saucy. This apple sauce is on the tart side, but feel free to add some sweetener if you’d like. Let cool.

Pile of freshly fried soufganiyot

Pile of freshly fried soufganiyot

To assemble:

  • small paring knife
  • piping bag
  • powdered sugar

Take doughnuts and use the knife to cut a small opening in the side, making sure you push the knife all the way through, but not breaking out of the other side. Fill the piping bag with the apple sauce, and squeeze into the hole you made in the doughnut, until the doughnut feels significantly heavier. Repeat with the rest of the doughnuts. To serve: dust with powdered sugar.

Pumpkin Baked Ziti, Your New Noodle Kugel

My family has never been one to make kugels, noodle, potato or otherwise.  In  fact there’s really only been one noodle kugel I ever liked, which a friend of my parents used to bring to our break fast parties after Yom Kippur.  It was sweet and creamy, absent of devil’s spawn (raisins) and topped with ethereally crunchy shredded coconut.  This was the dish that first turned me on to coconut, though people who know me now will be hard pressed to imagine a time I didn’t like the rich, nutty tropical fruit.  Baked ziti–essentially an Italian version of noodle kugel without all the eggs–was another dish I wasn’t particularly fond of, due to the presence of grainy ricotta cheese.  Going vegan freed me from those terrifying shackles, by presenting me with alternatives to both, namely a sweet and savory, but creamy baked pasta dish.

Pumpkin baked ziti with pecans in the bread crumbs. Cape Cod, November 2009

This recipe comes straight from the ranks of Veganomicon.  I’m including it on my Thanksgivukkuh table this year because it’s an appropriate combination of Thanksgiving flavors, with loose ties to the more traditionally Jewish (ok Ashkenazi) kugel.  It’s also a total crowd pleaser, and can be easily multiplied for a larger number of guests.  Pasta is coated in a creamy mixture of pureed pumpkin and sweet cashew tofu ricotta, delicately spiced with nutmeg and white pepper.  What really makes the dish though, are the caramelized onions that are added to the mix.  Pumpkin and caramelized onions is almost as classic as pumpkin and sage after all, but not to be outdone, sage is featured in the homemade bread crumbs.  The topping also includes crushed walnuts for a nutty finish on top.  I usually use pecans or hazelnuts, since I’m not the biggest fan of walnuts.

Ziti next to pumpkin based challah for post-Thanksgiving Shabbat. Cape Cod, November 2009

Pumpkin Baked Ziti from Veganomicon

  • 3/4 lb uncooked ziti or penne pasta
  • 2 onions, sliced very thinly
  • 1 recipe Cashew Ricotta
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • white pepper and cayenne, to taste
  • 2 c pureed pumpkin or 1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree (don’t use pumpkin pie mix)
  • 1/4 c vegetable broth

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Lightly grease a 9×13 in lasagna pan with olive oil (you can also use two smaller pans).

Cook the pasta according to the directions on the box.  Drain, rinse with cold water, and drain again.  Set aside.  While the pasta is cooking, start the onions.  Preheat a large, heavy-bottomed pans (cast-iron is great for this) over medium heat.  Add the oil, then the onions, and saute until the onions are very brown and caramelized.  I like to add some salt, to help release the liquid, and then cover.  Slow caramelized onions do take about 45 minutes to be properly done, but you can speed up the process some by increasing the heat.  Just take care not to burn the onions. Set aside.

Place the Cashew Ricotta (recipe to follow) in a bowl and fold in the pumpkin puree, nutmeg, pepper, cayenne, and vegetable broth and stir to combine.  Add the onions and pasta, mixing until thoroughly coated with the sauce. Pour into prepared pan, and press lightly with a spatula to distribute it evenly. Top with the sage breadcrumbs (recipe also to follow) and bake 25 to 30 minutes, until the top is golden brown.  Let cool about 10 minutes before serving.  This can also be made in advance and reheated.

Cashew Ricotta

  • 1/2 c raw cashew pieces (about 4 ounces)
  • 1/4 c fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves fresh or roasted garlic
  • 1 lb firm tofu, drained and crumbled
  • 1 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt

In a food processor, blend together the cashews, lemon juice, olive oil and garlic until a thick creamy paste forms.  Add the crumbled tofu to the food processor, working in two or more batches if necessary, until the mixture is thick and well blended.  Blend in basil and salt.

Sage Breadcrumbs

  • 2 1/2 c plain bread crumbs (homemade are great here)
  • 1/3 c pecans or hazelnuts, chopped until resembling coarse crumbs
  • 1/4 c vegan margarine
  • 2 tsp dried rubbed sage
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • salt and black pepper to taste

Melt the margarine in a large heavy bottomed skillet over medium heat. Stir in the breadcrumbs, nuts, herbs, paprika, and season with salt and pepper.  Stir constantly 3-4 minutes until evenly coated.  Remove from heat and sprinkle evenly over the ziti.

Vegan Cornbread Sausage Stuffing

Despite the proliferation of holidays we have to celebrate throughout the year–Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Hanukkah, Purim etc.–my family really only makes stuffing twice a year: Thanksgiving and Pesach.  On Pesach, our stuffing of choice is invariably farfel, which is made out of small pieces of matzah, but on Thanksgiving, it somehow became tradition to have cornbread sausage stuffing, even though we’re a bunch of NY Jews through and through.  That’s not to say there’s anything wrong with all those other bread based stuffings because (real) bread is pretty much always delicious, but cornbread stuffing has always been my favorite.  Maybe it’s the interplay of the sweet cornbread–I like to speckle with a fragrant mix of herbs (usually herbes de Provence) as an homage to the herb flecked bag of croutons one can find in grocery stores–with the contrast of the succulent and savory (vegan) sausage.

Now in my family (well on my mom’s side anyway) we always did several incarnations of stuffing.  The first incarnation was the stuffing actually used “to stuff” (gross), which was fully done up with mushrooms and onions.  Then, there was out of bird run off with sausage (back then it was meat sausage) as well as mushrooms and onions.  There was a version without sausage for my vegetarian cousin (and eventually me, which became my vegan version that I make today!), and the last was what we called “nerd” stuffing, which had sausage, but no mushrooms and onions, for my aunt who didn’t like the vegetation.  Why nerd stuffing? Because when my cousin was a kid she asked why our aunt didn’t eat the regular stuffing, to which her mother responded, “because she’s a nerd.”  And thus, nerd stuffing was born.

Nowadays, I always put mushrooms and onions into my stuffing, because they just add to the depth of flavor, with the mushrooms enhancing the umami flavors in the sausage, and the onions lending a nuanced carmel undertone to complement the cornbread.  Then to top it all off, I save some of the mushrooms, onions, and sausage and make a really tasty gravy.  I will confess, despite my inclusion of mushrooms, I only do it for the flavor it adds…and then I pick them out and leave them on my plate (or now give them to my brother).

The cornbread is really super easy (my dad even started it for me last year) and can be made several days in advance before turning it into stuffing.

Cornbread (adapted from Veganomicon)

  • 2 c non dairy milk
  • 2 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 2 c cornmeal
  • 1 c all purpose flour
  • 1/4 c sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp dried herbes de Provence
  • 1/3 c oil
  • 1/2 c (or one 6 oz container, not scraped) plain, non dairy yogurt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly grease a 9×13 in baking pan.

Combine the non dairy milk and vinegar in a measuring cup and set aside to curdle as you prepare everything else.

In a large mixing bowl, sift together the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and herbs.  Create a well in the center and add the milk mixture, oil, and yogurt.  Use a wooden spoon to mix together until just combined; some lumps are ok. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 30 to 32 minutes, until a toothpick or slim knife inserted into the center comes out clean.  Remove from oven and let cool.

Stuffing

  • 1 recipe cornbread
  • 1 package (of 4 links) vegan sausage, my favorite in the US is Field Roast apple-sage variety
  • 2 c sliced onions (sweet or white is fine)
  • 2 c mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • salt to taste
  • 2 c prepared vegetable broth

Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the sausage and sauté about 5 minutes on each side, until just starting to brown.  Add the onions and salt, and sauté another 5-7 minutes, until they have begun to look translucent. Add the mushrooms and salt and saute until everything has cooked down and begun to look slightly brown.  This will take about 10-15 minutes. Reserve about a 1/2 c of the mushroom, onion, and sausage mixture for gravy.

In a large casserole pan (or even the same 9×13 baking dish) crumble the cornbread, and stir in the mushroom mixture, until fairly evenly distributed.  Begin to slowly add the broth, stirring to evenly coat the cornbread.  Only add as much broth as is necessary to sufficiently saturate the bread, you aren’t making soup.  Bake in a 350 degree oven, about 30 minutes, or until the top begins to brown, and the stuffing is no longer super wet.  Serve with mushroom gravy.

Gravy

  • 1/2 c sauteed mushrooms, onions and sausage, reserved from stuffing
  • 1 tbsp olive oil or vegan margarine
  • 1 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 c white wine
  • 1 c vegetable broth

Heat the olive oil in a small pan over medium heat (or you can use the same pan you originally cooked them in) and add the mushroom mixture.  Saute for about a minute, then add the flour, stirring until evenly distributed on the veggies, and well mixed with the oil.  Deglaze the pan with the wine, stirring to ensure that the flour is adequately dissolved.  Add the broth and simmer until thickened and slightly reduced.  If you like a thicker gravy, feel free to add more flour and reduce more.

This recipe can easily be multiplied if you are feeding more people, but usually I am the only one consuming the gravy, and this is a fairly adequate amount for one person (with plenty of leftovers!)

I’m sorry I somehow have zero pictures of this to share!  I’m actually a little shocked considering how many years I’ve been making this recipe, but I guess stuffing isn’t exactly the most photogenic of foods.  I promise to take plenty when I make stuffing this year (though I am going to attempt to fry it, rather than bake it…wish me luck!) and will update this page after the fact.

Kale Caesar Salad with Spiced Pecan Croutons

The inspiration behind this recipe was partially the vegan fascination with kale, but also an ongoing attempt to perfect a nut-based vegan caesar dressing.  Additionally, I first made this particular recipe for a Thanksgiving meal several years ago, and while I knew the salad needed a little something other than kale and dressing, I didn’t want to go for traditional croutons because I knew the meal was already going to be so carb heavy.  So enter pecan croutons.  I wanted the flavor to be reminiscent of traditional garlic croutons, without all of the bread.  These pecans are super savory, with a little buttery flavor, plus garlic and a hint of woody rosemary, melded with the caramel nuttiness of a toasted pecan.  While completely delicious on their own, they actually taste incredibly similar to bread based croutons when mixed into the salad!  Even more luckily, most of the people at this meal either had never tried kale before, or hadn’t like it until then, and I got many requests for the recipe.  So even though I’m a few years late, here it is!

Munching on some kale in the field.  Austin TX, March 2012

Munching on some kale in the field like a true vegan. Austin TX,  March 2012

Caesar Dressing:

  • 1 c raw, unsalted cashews, soaked overnight or boiled for 15 minutes
  • 1-3 cloves of garlic (you can add more or less to taste)
  • 1/2 c water
  • juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • 2-3 tbsp capers
  • 2 tbsp caper brine
  • 1 tbsp dijon mustard
  • 1-2 tbsp maple syrup or agave (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • pepper to taste

Add all ingredients to a food processor, and process until smooth, scraping down the sides when necessary.  Adjust seasonings to taste, and add more water if you find the dressing is too thick.

Spiced Pecans

  • 1 c shelled pecan halves
  • 2 tbsp non-hydrogenated vegan margarine (or olive oil)
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp dried rosemary, crushed
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • salt to taste

Melt the margarine, and add the spices.  Toss the pecans in the margarine mixture, and then toast about 5-10 minutes in a 350 degree oven, stirring occasionally (I actually prefer a toaster oven for this).  The pecans are done when they smell faintly toasty, and have just begun to brown.  Be careful not to burn them.  Nobody likes burnt nuts.  Cool.

To Assemble:

  • 1 recipe Caesar dressing
  • 1 recipe toasted pecans
  • 1 large bunch of kale

Strip the kale from the thick, stem and either chop or rip into bite sized pieces.  Add the dressing, and using your hands, massage the dressing into the kale until the leaves are coated evenly, and have begun to wilt ever so slightly.  Toss in the pecans and serve.

Better Than Buzzfeed’s Thanksgivukkuh Ideas

About a month ago, there was a link being passed around the interwebz, that happened to not be about a certain pop star, but rather about what could quite possibly be the best holiday ever: Thanksgivikkuh. After reading their suggested menu, I found I was rather let down. While many of the items were Thanksgiving classics re-imagined, I felt that in some aspects, it missed a lot of what I love about Hanukkah. As usual, it took me about 10 minutes to imagine what I would make, and I wanted to share that menu with you here.

5th Night of Hanukkah, December 2012

5th Night of Hanukkah, December 2012

While much of the inspiration for this menu is centered around the oil theme of Hanukkah (aka frying) I couldn’t quite bring myself to fry everything. I also don’t have a list of things I always make for Hanukkah because Hanukkah was the first holiday meal I got to plan (and execute as I say on my resume) myself. When I was 16, I decided I really wanted to make the family Hanukkah meal for my dad’s side of the family, so instead of paying attention in Chemistry for a month, I planned a menu, down to the timing of when I would make everything. While my very first Hanukkah dinner wasn’t entirely vegan, I gave the meal a theme of olive oil/Italian inspired dishes. The next year, I had a second chance to make Hanukkah (this time entirely vegan!) so I chose a Southwestern theme, and based everything, including the latkes (to which I added cilantro) around that theme. While I had told myself the next Hanukkah theme I was going for was an Asian inspired meal, with Thanksgivikkuh happening for the first and probably only time, I knew this years theme had to be Thanksgiving. (Of course it’s also the first time I am not in the US for Thanksgiving, but yay for having so many American friends over here who want to celebrate Thanksgiving, and so many non-American friends who are interested in seeing what this Thanksgiving thing is all about.)

Latke with apple sauce, December 2012

Latke with apple sauce, December 2012

The way I’ve decided to tackle this is by posting my menu this week, and then posting what recipes I can from it once or twice a week in the weeks leading up to the holiday. Unfortunately, several of these items are (as usual) things I’ve dreamed up in my head, so I won’t be able to give recipes until after Thanksgiving. But on the bright side, Hanukkah is 8 days long! So there will still be plenty of time to make everything.

I’ve organized the menu into Appetizers, Mains and Desserts, but let’s be real, categorization is arbitrary, I say eat what you want when you want it. In fact, when I serve each of these things is definitely subject to change (I’m looking at you Kale Caesar salad!)

Appetizers

  • Mushroom crusted green bean tempura served with a cool and creamy French onion dip. How about that for green bean casserole in one bite!
  • Sage flecked latkes with Cranberry Apple sauce (the sauce is the one thing I liked from the Buzzfeed menu).
  • Massaged Kale Caesar salad with spiced pecan “croutons”
  • Roasted squash soup with fried sage leaves (and maybe some fried capers because they rock)

Main Dishes

  • Mama’s “Shabbos” tofu cutlets (marinated with sherry and tarragon)
  • Cornbread sausage stuffing fritters with sherry mushroom gravy
  • Pumpkin baked ziti (rather than sweet potato noodle kugel) from Veganomicon
  • Oven roasted brussel sprout fries

Desserts

  • Sweet potato soufganiyot (that’s Hebrew for doughnut) filled with either cranberry or pecan pie*

*I actually don’t usually make pecan pie. My mom started a tradition of making macadamia nut pie, so as long as I can find macadamia nuts here in Israel, I will be making macadamia filled soufganiyot.

Macadamia nut pie, November 2012

Macadamia nut pie, November 2012

A note on the menu items: a few of these things are definitely items from Thanksgivings past, such as the cornbread sausage stuffing, which I make every year, just like my mom (though of course mine is vegan). I also made the Kale Caesar with pecan croutons several years ago for a Thanksgiving spent with my dad and their neighbors. Everyone loved it so much, I figured it needed repeating. The pumpkin baked ziti is one of my mom’s favorite recipes that I made for the day after Thanksgiving a few years ago, but I put I’m adding it to this menu because of the sweet potato noodle kugel suggested on Buzzfeed’s menu. It’s a pretty similar concept, and boy is it good. As for the mains,I don’t usually make any kind of “centerpiece roast” because despite all of my cooking and food loving, I always have more than enough food between the side dishes the host makes, and the 2-3 sides I make. However, I wanted a delicious protein packed main that is easy to make (and can be made in advance) that I will also be able to make here in Israel, so I added the tofu, inspired by the Shabbos chicken my mom used to make when I was growing up. As I’m sure everyone has also noticed, I’ve completely reimagined green bean casserole for this menu. To be quite honest, I’ve never had it because no on either side of my family likes it. But at my friends’ insistence, I wanted to add something that was a nod to the classic dish, while also updating it, and giving it more of a Hanukkah twist. Let me know if you make any of these and how they come out, or how you plan to celebrate Thanksgivikkuh!

Up next: Recipe for Kale Caesar salad with spiced pecan croutons.