Thanksgiving is usually all about the turkey (and it's offered in our menu as an option), but I think vegetarians and vegans have been politely surviving on cranberry sauce, creamed onions and mashed potatoes far too long.
Let's break out this year and look at the great plant foods the Americas gave Europe. Those same foods bring us a chance to shift our perspectives and start some new traditions, like feasting a little closer to the earth. This menu is all about pleasure, but it's packed with back stories, too.
Amazing changes came out of the corn, potatoes, peppers, beans, tomatoes, and other foods discovered on this side of the Atlantic and brought to Europe. Europeans never ate the same way again. And those foods factored into paradigm shifts in national economies and politics. Those shifts led to the huge immigrations of our ancestors to the Americas. So you could say our giving thanks together on the fourth Thursday of November is because corn and potatoes, tomatoes, beans and peppers made their way to Europe five centuries ago.
Enough background, let's talk eating. The reds, yellows, and black of peppers, tomatoes, corn, and beans from Central and South America come together in our pivotal dish, a Americana Timbale of Peppers, Hominy and Black Beans. Timbales are usually enveloped in. Ours uses collard greens which turn crisp and surprisingly savory in the baking.
All the beloved sides are here, but dressed up in new ways. And all of the dishes, except the salad, are done ahead so last minute frazzle isn't happening this year.
Think of the timbale as an emblem of pure Americana -- these foods are all about us. When this collection along with the Americas' potatoes, chocolate and vanilla landed in Europe, the earth moved. Never would Europe eat the same way again.
Being married to a tomato-obsessed Italophile, my carrot-loving husband moans, "Carrots must not be an Italian vegetable." In the interest of marital relations, I dug deep into my childhood memories of those interminable family dinners. Out of them came fried sage leaves and carrots cooked in wine, certainly not a dish I appreciated then.
Fresh and bright tasting these beans contrast with the deeper, richer tastes of the mushrooms and timbale. Green beans supposedly originated in the Americas, which give them a nice fillip.
This is the fresh relief every Thanksgiving menu needs. Greens, both tart and mild, with a few craisins and the simplest and most classic of dressings — solely good tasting oil and vinegar with some salt and pepper. Let all the other dishes on the table cry "Taste all my flavors!" This salad stands serene and elegant in its simplicity.
These potatoes will be the brightest taste on the plate. The flavors are clean and pure—new potatoes creamed in the pot, bright parsley, mellowed garlic with a big shot of puckery lemon. They pair beautifully with anything grilled or roasted.
You needn't publicize the miso in this recipe, unless you know it will be greeted with enthusiasm. For the uninformed, the miso here tastes like bits of browned chicken. In fact, eaten blindfolded, the mushrooms taste like chicken, too.
A lush, yet light dessert that's much better if made a day ahead.
Lynne Rossetto Kasper has won numerous awards as host of The Splendid Table, including two James Beard Foundation Awards (1998, 2008) for Best National Radio Show on Food, five Clarion Awards (2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2014) from Women in Communication, and a Gracie Allen Award in 2000 for Best Syndicated Talk Show.