I have so much to be thankful for. It was nice to take some time with family this past week and celebrate that; I hope that you were each able to do the same. I’m going to share with you one of the sleeper hits from our Thanksgiving dinner, but first I’d like to take a moment to hop up on my soapbox …
I received an email last week from the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, wishing me a happy Thanksgiving and sharing a video that they had made. They wrote, “[A]s we head into the very food-centric week of Thanksgiving, down here in Immokalee we’re hoping to inspire people to appreciate not only their families, but the families who pick and provide the food for our tables.” With the season of richly hued, nourishing fall produce and holiday cookery upon us, I can’t think of a better time to do it.
You may remember the CIW from Tomato Tuesday, or maybe you have been following the work they have been doing in Florida. They are the force behind the Fair Food Program, in which farmworkers are working to transform the Florida tomato industry so that farmworkers’ rights to fair pay and to dignified working conditions are respected and realized. The CIW has had a lot of successes in bringing this program to grocery stores like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s, but there are still a few major supermarkets who don’t want to play ball.
This Thanksgiving, the CIW created a video and e-action directed specifically to Publix, one of the major Florida supermarkets that is still refusing to participate in the Fair Food Program. By contrasting the Thanksgiving days of a farmworker and a consumer, they hope the video will show “that we are inextricably linked by our food system and all have a stake in transforming it for the better.” The CIW is circulating a petition to Publix grocery stores, hoping that in addition to the work they do providing meals to impoverished farmworkers around Thanksgiving, they will also take real and permanent action to address the root causes of farmworker poverty.
I’ve signed the petition, and I hope you’ll take a moment to consider doing so as well.
Our Thanksgiving meal was an absolute riot of wonderfulness. And wonder-full-ness. Ha, ok sorry. We had a small, free-ranging, organic-eating, heritage-bearing turkey, her belly stuffed with rosemary and lemons while she roasted, her body glazed with a crackling, lustrous blend of soy sauce and butter.
We had a big green salad with peppery arugula and lots of crunch (yeah Kate!) and we had a fairytale pumpkin, stuffed with quinoa and mushrooms and warm spices, baked until it softened and slumped, oozing juices and sweet squashy goodness (that one’s Dad).
We had a sourdough dressing rich with butter and bursting with onions, the insides melty and the top all crispy-delicious (go Kyle go). Yukon Gold potatoes smashed with cream (Kyle again) and flaky, pillowy buttermilk biscuits (me, but credit really to one James Beard).
A zesty, raw cranberry relish with pomegranate seeds and red onion was for the grownups, while the kids ate plate-fulls of sweetened cranberries cooked down and then mixed with dark, juicy, richly preserved Morello cherries.
There was a luscious pumpkin custard softly set in a buttery crust (you could call it pie, but you might miss the point – Kate claims this one was a work in progress, but I know better!). There were little tartlets with chocolate and pecans, and there was an apple pie, with crisp-tart Pink Ladies peeking out from the lattice. Decaf, rich and smooth, and loosely (hand) whipped cream (thanks Gabe).
There were no Brussels sprouts, which for some of us was a little sad. But there was squash, delicata squash to be precise, and it made rather a good impression, lack of sprouts notwithstanding.
Sliced in thin, pretty rings, seeds scooped out, and fried to blistered golden goodness in a heavy skillet, these squash rings are excellent with each topping I have tried. A drizzle of herb-kicked oil, or a drizzle of maple syrup, or a drizzle of your favorite salad dressing if you’re in some sort of rush – all excellent. For Thanksgiving, we piled the rings in a baking dish, topped them with a few dabs of cardamom butter, then scattered whole dried cranberries and candied pecans over top. We put the pan in the oven while the turkey rested, to melt the butter and warm everything just through.
It was a winner, and I promise you it will be on my table again. In fact, it will be there tonight. I think it will be a great complement to our turkey soup (or, as Jacob calls it, our turkey-bones soup). I’m giving you the recipe for the candied pecans down below, but I hope hope hope that you’ll try them just like this, scattered and warmed over crisp-edged, creamy squash rings … there’s no need to wait for next Thanksgiving. Delicatas will be here all winter long, and when your leftovers run out, you’ll be looking for something simple, and delicious, and pretty to boot. Yum.
Among the writers I love, Marilynne Robinson is perhaps the best at reminding me to be thankful for the spectacular beauty and underlying goodness of this world we live in. I’ll leave you with some of her words, and with the wish that as another Thanksgiving passes, you find your heart full of gratitude. Mine surely is.
So often I have seen the dawn come and the light flood over the land and everything turn radiant at once, that word “good” so profoundly affirmed in my soul that I am amazed I should be allowed to witness such a thing. There may have been a more wonderful first moment, “when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy,” but for all I know to the contrary, they still do sing and shout, and they certainly might well.
~ Marilynne Robinson, from Gilead
These are terrific on salads, pancakes, ice cream, yogurt, or of course on top of squash. Like our recipes from last time, they also make a great gift. (You’re welcome, Daniel). I make two pounds at once because they are so versatile, and it is as easy to make that much as a smaller amount. If you won’t be using them within a week, store them in the freezer, in a freezer ziplock bag. I like pecans here, and the nooks and crannies help the topping adhere – but walnuts would be an obvious substitution, and almonds would certainly work. Also, if you want to go vegan – I have used olive oil in place of egg whites as the sticking agent, and it worked – it gave a slightly different flavor, as you might expect, but was surprisingly similar in adherence-ness and crunch.
These are far less sweet than most candied nut recipes I’m familiar with and I wouldn’t cut the sugar down much more or you’ll lose the ‘candied’ part of the equation. You could however make a really nice spice mixture (spicy-sweet with red pepper and cinnamon? Cuddly and warm with cardamom and ginger?) and use that along with the sugar and salt. If you’re adding a strong spice mixture, you could probably get rid of a tablespoon or two of the sugar with no real detrimental impact.
2 pounds shelled, halved pecans (raw)
3 egg whites (or ~ 2 tablespoons olive oil for vegan option)
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 cup sugar
2-3 teaspoons salt
Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and preheat the oven to 250 F. In the bowl of your stand mixer, using the whisk attachment, whip the three egg whites with the maple syrup and a tablespoon of water until they are frothy. Remove bowl from mixer, and add the pecans. Stir gently until they are all coated (give it a minute). Then, a couple tablespoons at a time, add the sugar and salt (and spices if using). Mix gently and thoroughly after each addition.
Arrange the pecans on the two baking sheets, keeping them as close to a single layer as possible. Bake for 1 hour, stirring every 20 minutes. Remove sheets from oven, and then lay the pecans on their parchment paper over your cooling racks. They will not be completely crisp and might feel a touch soft until they have cooled, at which point they should be completely crunchy.
Once cooled, store in an airtight jar at room temperature for a week, or freeze to keep them longer. If you happen to have brothers, these make a fine treat for them ;)
On Thanksgiving Day, Americans everywhere gather with family and friends to recount the joys and blessings of the past year. This day is a time to take stock of the fortune we have known and the kindnesses we have shared, grateful for the God-given bounty that enriches our lives. ~ from President Barack Obama’s 2012 Thanksgiving Proclamation
Some of my joys and blessings:
Happy Thanksgiving everyone.