How to Break a Thanksgiving Tradition

20131116_BlogBrusselsAppleSalad-115I got a text from my mom the other day that read: demerara sugar? I responded back with a question mark, not sure what she was referencing. It turns out she was experimenting with a new pie recipe that called for the natural sugar and wasn’t sure why she couldn’t just use white sugar as that’s what she’s always done in the past. A few days later we talked on the phone and she mentioned she’d let me take charge of the salad for Thanksgiving this year as long as there was no kale. No kale! And I wanted to do the mashed potatoes? Would they still be made with butter and milk? In short, we’re always willing to mix things up in the Gordon household. Whether it’s inspiration from a food magazine, friend or coworker, either my mom or one of my sisters will often have an idea for something new to try at the holiday table. But what I’ve slowly learned is that it can’t really be that different: there must be pumpkin pie, the can of cranberry sauce is necessary even though not many people actually eat it, the onion casserole is non-negotiable, the salad can’t be too out there, and the potatoes must be made with ample butter and milk. And while I was really scheming up an epic kale salad to make this year, there’s a big part of me that gets it, too: if we change things too much we won’t recognize the part of the day that comes to mean so much: the pure recognition. We take comfort in traditions because we recognize them — because they’re always there, year after year. And so today I present to you (mom, are you reading?): this year’s Gordon family Thanksgiving salad.

As you may recall from a previous post, we have a lot of apples in our basement. And while I’ve been making a dent in them, it  takes a long time, apparently, to move through seventy pounds of apples in a household of two. A while back I’d seen a recipe for a Double Apple and Brussels Sprouts Slaw in Food and Wine and had bookmarked it. A few days ago when I came back to it, I noticed I’d jotted some notes at the top: make brighter, make crunchy, currants! So with some restructuring and a few attempts at different ratios of ingredients in the salad and the dressing — along with a good wallop of chopped parsley — we have a true winner of a winter salad on our hands. It feels fresh and light thanks to the apples and brussels sprouts, and the gingery yogurt dressing lends a mellow brightness — all topped with sweet currants and toasty walnuts. I can tell you with 100% certainty, I won’t miss the kale this year and am looking forward to this fresh, light anecdote to some of the heavier foods that always grace the Thanksgiving table.

Sam and I are headed down to California to spend the holiday with my family — and hopefully even a little sunshine. It’s been unusually cold in Seattle this week (actually: freezing!) and while the sun has been out and the light has been beautiful, I wouldn’t mind a Thanksgiving morning walk in a tee-shirt. Or at the very least, without my winter coat. I hope you have a most restful and delicious day spent with people that make you happy.
20131116_BlogBrusselsAppleSalad-112

Creamy Apple and Brussels Sprout Salad with Walnuts and Currants
For this salad, you’re going to want to julienne the apples — get them into thin little matchsticks, and slice the brussels sprouts very, very thin. We used a mandolin for the apples and hand chopped the brussels sprouts. To make the salad your own, feel free to mix up the nuts here: toasted hazelnuts would be wonderful as would pecans. Feel free to make the salad up to one day in advance to help with hectic holiday kitchen scheduling.

Serves: 8

For the Dressing:
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons raw unfiltered apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to season

For the Salad:
2 Granny Smith apples — peeled, cored and julienned
1/2 pound brussels sprouts, finely shredded
2 tablespoons sliced green onion (from 1 green onion)
1/4 cup currants
3/4 cup toasted walnuts
1 cup chopped Italian parsley

In a small bowl, whisk the yogurt with the olive oil, vinegar and ginger and season with salt and pepper.

In a large salad bowl, toss together the apples, brussels sprouts, green onion, currants, walnuts and parsley. Spoon the dressing on top and toss well. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed. Serve room temperature or cold. Cover and refrigerate leftovers for up to 1-2 days.

Comments

  1. Shanna Mallon

    The first paragraph made me laugh because it sounds so much like the way my mom and I email/communicate long-distance. There are many "?" responses, let's just say. And this salad! Man, I'd be happy to find this on our table this year.

  2. Lindsey

    Yes, yes, yes! My family, too, is open to experimentation, but everything must fit into the traditional classifications (sweet potatoes, green beans, pecan pie, etc), and there are some things (mashed potatoes) that must be "normal." I love what you have created as a compromise! While I won't be cooking for Thanksgiving, I'll be making this for a non-holiday meal very soon. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!

    1. megang

      Thanks so much, Lindsey! Happy Thanksgiving to you, too. I hope you enjoy the salad (makes a great light lunch). ~Megan

  3. Ahu

    Love the texting exchange...all too familiar. This salad looks amazing.

  4. Mianna

    I was also told to bring a salad and I wanted to make the sweet potatoes and this great artichoke dish! So you saved me! Love this! I am set. Thank you - and we will be here in the coooold, but sunny beautiful Seattle. Have fun in California.

    1. megang

      Mianna: It has been GORGEOUS, hasn't it? Very, very cool but the light and the sun have been really beautiful. So no complaints. Enjoy the salad and the holiday! ~Megan

  5. Ellen

    I am invited to a private home for Thanksgiving and wish to bring something to for the table beside wine. I am going to bring your intriguing salad. Currants are a great addition as well as the pecans. What is your dressing suggestion for this salad that can accommodate a dairy free and gluten free guest?
    Thank you for your flavorful Thanksgiving menu addition.

    1. megang

      Hi Ellen-
      Great! I hope you enjoy the salad. You know, if you're not doing the yogurt dressing, I think a simple lemon vinaigrette could work nicely -- wouldn't overpower any of the flavors too terribly. Enjoy the holiday! ~Megan

  6. momgordon

    Such a clever way to give me your grocery list sweetie! This salad looks absolutely perfect! The best part though is you in the kitchen making it!!! See you soon!

  7. Annie @ ciaochowbambina

    We always go back and forth on the idea of a salad with Thanksgiving dinner, but this looks really great. I like the crunch factor! Thank you!

  8. molly

    ANYthing that calls for 2 tablespoons fresh ginger has my name written all over it. Can't wait to try this.

    A very, very happy Thanksgiving to you and Sam, Megan. Just talked to my mom (on Queen Anne) tonight, and she confirmed it's been downright chilly! But beautiful. Enjoy both the crisp clear and the bit of bright warmth.

    xo,
    Molly

  9. Kasey

    Aw, I love that. We are always mixing things up, too. We had persimmon, blue cheese and arugula salad with pecans :) I hope you had a lovely Thanksgiving, you!

  10. Maris (In Good Taste)

    My family never experiments! This year I'm getting together with a girlfriend for Christmas since both of us are sticking around the city and we're having so much fun looking up new recipes and trying different things. I've been kind of bummed that I don't have travel plans but sometimes change can be good!

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