PRODUCE PICKS: THANKSGIVING FEAST AND HOLIDAY RECIPES

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By Greg Dunne

                                          

November 21, 2015 (East County).  It is coming up on Thanksgiving and time to eat! It is also a time for gathering with family and friends. I am a healthily-conscience eater most of the time, but on Thanksgiving the rulebook goes out the window. I am already thinking of all the yummy food that’s going to be on the dining table and without a doubt will probably eat way too much of everything. Half of what most of us eat on Thanksgiving is healthy food. Turkey, yams, green beans, and cranberries for a few - but don’t count calories, let’s just eat. There are some awesome recipes at the bottom of the article by my wife, Dianne.

Starting with my favorite vegetable on the holiday dinner plate is the baked yams. However, is a yam a yam? Technically yams are a variety of sweet potatoes. Yams as we know them (with the dark skin and orange flesh inside) have been called yams here in the US for many decades to distinguish between the two varieties – the dark skin and the lighter skin varieties of sweet potatoes. True yams originated in Africa and Asia and are very seldom seen here. Nevertheless, for now I am calling them yams and sweet potatoes respectively, and although both are tasty and nutritious I prefer the yam with a bit richer flavor, and it is never dry like its cousin the sweet potato.

What other vegetables to choose with the turkey? The list is long to choose from, but here are a few. Mashed Potatoes, Butternut Squash, Acorn Squash, Green Beans, Baby Red Potatoes, Asparagus, Roasted Brussels Sprouts. A couple of tips when choosing asparagus at the market: Look for the tips to be tight and firm, not frayed or open, and check that the bottom of the stalks are not shriveled up, this could be a sign of being old. Brussels sprouts should be bright green with no yellowing, tight heads. Green beans should have no “rust” marks, a solid green with a good crisp snap to them – and not too big, a medium size as the larger Green Beans can be a bit tougher. It is hard to choose a bad Butternut or Acorn Squash as they are in the peak of season right now; look for slightly darker shell when choosing.

And let’s not forget dessert. Granny Smith apples can be a big part of desert at Thanksgiving. Apple cake is on the menu here at the Dunne house made with Granny Smith apples and recipe from the best cook in the east county – Dianne Dunne. I might be a bit biased with that statement, but everyone who has had her cooking would agree with me. Granny Smith apples and Yams on sale now at Barons Market in Alpine. Cannot wait for the leftovers! 

HOLIDAY RECIPES

A staple on the Thanksgiving Day buffet growing up was canned yams baked with marshmallows that my Aunt Barbara always brought – the yams would end up being fairly dry and flavorless but the golden toasted marshmallows were great.  I always had a great bit of difficulty finishing a serving after I peeled off and ate the marshmallows.  Several years ago, I created my own fresh baked yams with apples and they have become a favorite.  This recipe was a tremendous success from the start and has become a tradition.  I did include some purple yams one year mixed in with the traditional yams – they looked fine but the purple yams were rather dry. 

Baked Yams with Apples

Ingredients

3 large Yams, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces

3 Large Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and cut into eighths

1 small can of pineapple chunks (drained with juice reserved)

1/4 cup each Thompson raisins, Golden raisins and sliced almonds

1/4 cup brown sugar

Cinnamon, Cloves and Nutmeg

2 Tbsp. butter

Directions

Layer yams, apples and pineapple chunks in order given.  Pour pineapple juice over mixture and sprinkle with raisins, almonds and brown sugar in order given.   Sprinkle with spices and dot with butter.  Bake loosely covered in 325⁰ oven for approximately one hour.  Stir gently to bring juices to top. 

Note:  Fresh pineapple can be used in place of canned – replace the reserved pineapple juice with approximately 1/2 cup apple juice.

Cranberry Sauce with Dried Cherries and Cloves

2½ cups cherry cider

2 cups dried cherries

1 cup sugar

1 12-ounce package cranberries

¼ teaspoon (generous) ground cloves

Bring cider to simmer in a large saucepan.  Remove from heat, add cherries and let stand 8 minutes.  Mix in sugar, then cranberries and cloves.  Cook over medium-high heat and allow to simmer until cranberries burst, about 9 minutes.

Refrigerate until cold, about four hours (sauce will thicken as it cools).  Cover and keep refrigerated.  Can be prepared 4 days ahead. 

Date-Marshmallow Waldorf Salad

Use a crisp, sweet apple for this recipe.  An Ambrosia Apple or Sweet Tango Apple is a great choice.  However, so many great varieties work well – Honeycrisp, Jazz, and Gala apples to name a few.  

8 cups diced apples (Appox. 8 apples)

2 Tbsp. lemon juice

¼-cup sugar

2 cups sliced celery

2 cups cut-up pitted dates

1 cup whipping cream (whipped)

¾-cup mayonnaise

2 cups mini-marshmallows

Directions

Sprinkle the apples with the lemon juice and sugar and toss until evenly distributed.  Add the celery and dates and toss together.

Fold mayonnaise into whipped cream, add to apple mixture and fold to mix.

Add marshmallows and fold until well mixed.  Chill.   This salad can be prepared several hours ahead until ready to serve. 

Broccoli Salad with Dried Cranberries and Tangerines

Note: Vividly green vegetables such as green beans and broccoli will slowly turn a drab yellow-green color when in presence of acids for a moderate period.  To prepare ahead and keep this salad bright in color you should refrigerate the broccoli, marinated orange mixture, and bacon crumbles separately until shortly before serving. 

Ingredients

5 cups broccoli flowerets (2 medium crowns)

2 cups Satsuma Tangerine segments

½ cup dried cranberries

½ cup whole, roasted cashews

¼ cup chopped red onions or approximately four red boiling onions, thinly sliced

Grated peel and juice of one orange

3 Tbsp. white wine vinegar

4 to 6 slices bacon, fried and crumbled

Directions

1.      Steam broccoli 5 minutes in rice steamer (if using a saucepan on your stove cut the time down to 3 minutes).  Remove quickly, drain and soak in an ice-water bath until broccoli is no longer warm.  Place covered in refrigerator while you assemble the rest of the ingredients.

2.      In a medium bowl, combine the rest of the ingredients except for the bacon.  Set aside about 15-30 minutes while you prepare bacon crumbles.

3.      Pour the marinated orange mixtures and bacon crumbles over the chilled broccoli and toss very gently.  Season with salt and pepper, if desired.  

Apple Cake

Preheat oven to 300° F, grease a 9x9 pan and set aside.

Ingredients

3 medium Granny Smith Apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1/4 \-inch slices

1 tsp. lemon juice

3 Tbsp. sugar, plus 1-cup sugar, divided

1-teaspoon ground cinnamon

2/3 cup softened butter, plus 3 Tbsp

4 eggs

2 Tbsp. pure maple syrup

2 cups flour

2 tsp. baking powder

1/8 tsp. salt

1 Tbsp brown sugar

Directions

In a large bowl toss the apples with the lemon juice, mix in 3 tablespoons sugar and the cinnamon – set aside for later.

In a large mixing bowl cream butter and remaining 1-cup sugar until light and fluffy.  Egg eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Add maple syrup.  Combine flour, salt and baking powder; gradually add to creamed butter mixture and beat until smooth. 

Transfer to prepared pan and spread evenly.  I have used a 10-inch spring form pan here and used 1 Tbsp. butter to grease the pan.  Push apple slices into batter, placing them close together.  Sprinkle with brown sugar and dot with 2 Tbsp. butter.

Bake at 300° F for 1½ hours.  Cool at least 10 minutes before removing from pan to a serving platter.  This cake is best served warm but is also great after it has cooled.