It is infinitely easier to be a guest at someone else’s table. I had the luxury of making just a couple of side dishes for a very traditional Thanksgiving dinner.
This is our second year to join two other neighborhood families that have been teaming up for years to make Thanksgiving dinner. They have their traditional roles. One family makes all the appetizers and desserts. The other family makes the rest. I still feel much like an outsider coming armed with my two little contributions.
One interesting difference about today’s dinner was the appearance of the first grandchild, who is only 2 weeks old. This was the best baby I have ever seen, willingly being held by virtually everyone in attendance. It wasn’t that he slept for 3 hours, it was just that he didn’t feel the need to cry. We all watched as our 20-something daughters held the baby, imagining what the first grandchild would be like. At one point I looked at my daughter and said, “Can you imagine having a baby of your own?” She suddenly got a rather terrified look on her face as she simply said, “No.” So today’s dinner included guests from 2 weeks to 85+ years old – 4 generations.
Our traditional menu included:
– Spinach-red pepper-sour cream spread with crackers
– Brie baked in a crust with preserves on top
– Bread stuffing with sausage in it
– Mashed potatoes
– Cranberry relish
– Cooked onions
– Gratin of squash, leeks, and rice *
– Corn and tomato salad with mustard-cumin vinaigrette *
– Parkerhouse rolls and butter
– Pecan pie with ice cream
– Crustless cranberry pie
There was no shortage of food. It’s only 7:00 and I feel drugged on the tryptophan that comes with eating turkey. I don’t even particularly like turkey, but I do like the feeling of being in a big family group with a lot of people I like.
Here are the recipes for my two dishes. They are both quite simple to make.Gratin of Squash, Leeks, and Rice
2-1/2 pounds of yellow squash and green zucchini, grated
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
½ cup Arborio rice
1/4 cup olive oil
3 medium leeks, well cleaned white and light green parts only, finely chopped
2 medium garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh Italian parsley
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups half-and-half
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1. Place the grated squash in a colander set over a bowl and add 1 teaspoon salt, tossing to distribute evenly. Allow the juices to drain for 15 to 30 minutes.
2. Squeeze the squash in handfuls or wring it out in a clean dish towel over the bowl to collect the juices. Reserve the juices and dry the squash carefully on paper towels.
3. In a medium saucepan bring 1-1/2 cups of water to a boil and add the rice. Simmer for 10 minutes. Drain and reserve.
4. In a 10-inch ovenproof skillet, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat. Saute the leeks until slightly soft, about 5 minutes.
5. Add the remaining olive oil and saute the shredded squash over medium-high heat until almost tender and all liquid is evaporated, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and parsley. Saute for 1 minute.
6. Sprinkle with the flour and stir over medium heat for 2 minutes. Add the partially cooked rice, ½ cup half-and-half, and 1/4 cup vegetable liquid, and stir to combine. Continue cooking, stirring constantly until slightly thickened, about 3 minutes.
7. Continue adding the cream, ½ cup at a time, cooking until thickening begins to occur. After the last of the half-and-half has been added, stir in all but 2 tablespoons of the Parmesan. Add the remaining salt and the pepper.
8. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Transfer to a greased casserole if desired. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top of the dish. Bake until browned and bubbling, about 25 minutes.Cumin and Tomato Salad with Mustard-Cumin Vinaigrette
4 cups frozen corn (in a bag), defrosted
1-1/4 cups chopped red onions
12 cherry tomatoes, quartered
1-1/2 teaspoons cumin
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper
1. In a large bowl, combine the corn, onions, tomatoes, and parsley. Stir.
2. Combine the remaining ingredients in a screw-top jar and shake vigorously.
3. Pour the vinaigrette over the corn mixture and stir to combine.