Technically speaking Thanksgiving is a relatively new statutory holiday, having been proclaimed so by Parliament in 1957. But it has caught on, in a big way. One of the enduring images of Thanksgiving is that of the cornucopia, the “horn of plenty”, overflowing with ears of corn, shiny red apples, yellow, green and even blue squash, dusky grapes…a celebration of all good things from the fields. One of the most enduring of these is that unmistakable image of autumn, the pumpkin.
Pumpkin pie is probably the most traditional of Thanksgiving desserts, but having just co-written an entire cookbook devoted to the noble squash, I can tell you that pumpkins and squash can shine on your Thanksgiving table in numerous ways, from rustic to refined, savoury, succulent and sweet.
If you have not yet decided on a dessert for your Thanksgiving dinner why not try something new? Canned pumpkin is an incredible ingredient, astonishingly versatile and highly nutritious. Most of us have used canned pumpkin for our pies, but never think outside of the can. Having sliced, diced, pureed, whizzed, fizzed, baked and broiled pumpkins and squash for the last year or so, I can attest to the ease and fabulousness of a couple delicious recipes that you might want to try this weekend that use squash and good old pumpkin in innovative and delicious ways.
Pull Apart Acorn Salad with Feta, Olives and Quinoa
This quick salad is super easy and quick, delicious, nutritious and actually it’s a lot of fun to make. 1 head radicchio ½ acorn squash, roasted* 1 cup cooked quinoa 2 tablespoons crumbled feta cheese a handful green, black or mixed olives extra virgin olive oil red wine vinegar black pepper Arrange the radicchio evenly over a serving platter. Using your hands, pull the warm squash into pieces and place it over the radicchio. Sprinkle liberally with the quinoa, feta and olives. Drizzle with oil and a few dashes of red wine vinegar. Season with fresh cracked pepper-no need to add salt, the feta and olives add enough.
- to roast acorn squash; Halve and seed squash, place cut side down on parchment lined baking sheet, roast for 40 minutes or until flesh is fork-tender. Cool until easy to handle, then have at it!
Mini Pumpkin Tarts with Brandied Cream
(makes two dozen) This is a great variation on traditional pumpkin pie and is great for those that want just a little bite at the end of a big meal. A serving platter with a couple dozen of these little beauties makes a lovely presentation, and the addition of brandied whipped cream on top appeals to both he traditionalists and those that want a taste of something new. You can use just the amount of pumpkin pie filling you need (freeze the rest) and using store bought frozen tart shells makes this a stunning dessert you can whip up in no time at all. 24 frozen tart shells 2 eggs 1 28 ounce can unsweetened pumpkin puree 1 cup lightly packed brown sugar 1 tsp cinnamon 1 tsp nutmeg ¼ tsp kosher salt ¾ cup evaporated milk Pre-heat oven to 425 F. Arrange shells on baking sheet. In a mixing bowl, beat eggs. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Spoon the mixture into tart shells, filling completely. Bake for 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 350F and continue baking for another 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of a tart come out clean. Remove from oven and set aside to cool. Serve with brandied cream.
(makes about 4 cups) 1 cup whipping cream (35%) 2 teaspoons sugar ½ teaspoon vanilla extract ½ ounce brandy In a mixing bowl, whip cream, sugar and vanilla until soft peaks form. Fold in brandy. Refrigerate until ready to serve.