Dishes for Thanksgiving 2021
Photo: Tina Wasserman
Spiced Bourbon Pumpkin Cheesecake

By Tina Wasserman

Here’s a festive salad that will easily go with all your Thanksgiving dishes. I recently purchased Red Apple balsamic vinegar from Seven Barrels when I was in the Berkshires. It was thick and sweet and I wanted to mix it into seltzer. Any thick, sweet balsamic will do but if you have a fruit-flavored balsamic, the flavors will be fantastic!

Fall Shaved Brussel Sprout Salad

  • 1/3 cup fruity olive oil
  • Finely grated zest from ½ lemon
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar (fruit varieties like fig or apple are best)
  • 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 clove garlic, grated or finely minced
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 12-ounce package of shaved Brussels sprouts 
  • ½ large, unpeeled Honeycrisp apple, thinly sliced lengthwise
  • ½ cup dried cranberries or cherries
  • 1/3 cup dry-roasted slivered almonds
  • ¼ cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • ¼ cup fresh pomegranate arils
  • Maldon salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1. Combine the first seven ingredients in a jar. Cover and shake vigorously to form an emulsion. Refrigerate until needed.

2. Combine the Brussels sprouts with the apple, cranberries and half of the almonds and Parmesan cheese in a 3-quart bowl.

3. Add a few tablespoons of the dressing to the salad and toss to lightly coat. Place in a nice serving bowl.

4. Just before serving, drizzle some more of the dressing on the salad (you will probably use only half of the recipe) and then top with the remaining almonds, pomegranate arils and salt and pepper.

5. Toss tableside and serve.

Serves 6-8

Tina’s Tidbits:

  • If you can’t find shaved Brussels sprouts, buy 1 pound, cut off the stem of each and then slice with the thicker slicing disk on your processor. You can also slice on a mandoline or by hand but those methods are very time-consuming.
  • Although tossing the salad with a little dressing beforehand will soften the sprouts a little, I sometimes microwave them for 2 minutes to slightly soften and bring out the bright green color and then toss with the other ingredients in step 3.
  • Try using sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds for a nut-free salad.

Maple-Spice Stuffed Baked Sweet Potatoes

I generally don’t make sweet potato casserole with marshmallows on top but this recipe will meet with your family’s approval. Each portion contains wonderful fall flavors, and it provides everyone with enough marshmallows. No more wasting good food just to get as many marshmallows as possible!

  • 3 medium sweet potatoes
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter or coconut oil
  • 2-4 tablespoons pure maple syrup (amount of sweetness is your choice)
  • 2 tablespoons fruit-flavored balsamic vinegar (a plain, sweet balsamic will suffice)
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/8 to ¼ teaspoon ancho chili powder (to taste)
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 10-12 large marshmallows or 1½ cups mini marshmallows

1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Rinse the outside of the sweet potatoes and then rub with the olive oil. Place on a baking sheet and roast for 45 minutes to 1 hour until the potatoes seem soft when lightly squeezed. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes.

2. Cut the potatoes in half lengthwise and scoop out the potato into a bowl, leaving ¼ inch attached to the skin.

3. Mash the potatoes until fairly smooth and then add all the seasonings.

4. Spoon or pipe the mashed potatoes into 4 of the halves (you probably won’t need the remaining 2 halves unless you don’t overstuff the potatoes).

5. Top the stuffed potato halves with the marshmallows and bake for another 10 minutes or until heated through.

6. If marshmallows aren’t dark enough, pass them under a broiler for 1 minute or until golden brown.

Serves 4-5

Tina’s Tidbits:

  • This recipe can easily be doubled or tripled. Just use one or two more potatoes than the number of halves needed so that each potato can be amply filled.
  • You could pipe the potato into the skins but use a plain No. 6 tip to do so. This will fill the potato halves cleanly but any design will be lost under the marshmallows if you use a decorative tip.
  • It is important to leave some of the potato around the perimeter or the skins will rip and/or collapse when filled.
  • At a campfire I like to toast my marshmallows until they turn black. You don’t want that on your potato so watch the marshmallows carefully when you are broiling.

Spiced Bourbon Pumpkin Cheesecake

Most families probably wait a little to eat their dessert after a big Thanksgiving meal. In Texas they probably wait until halftime or after the game is over. This is a dessert to help celebrate a win or console after a loss. Actually no reason needs to be given for enjoying this cake.

This cake appears to be difficult with so many steps but it is actually quite easy. I just listed each step to make it easier to follow so go ahead and try it.

For the Crust:

  • 28 gingersnap cookies (yields about 1⅓ cups crumbs)
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • ¾ stick of unsalted butter, softened

For the Cheesecake:

  • 3 8-ounce packages of cream cheese at room temperature (not light or whipped varieties) 
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin (NOT canned pumpkin pie)
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ¼ teaspoon allspice
  • 2 tablespoons bourbon
  • 2 tablespoons real maple syrup

1. Combine the cookies and the sugar in a processor work bowl and process until fairly fine. 

2. Cut the butter into pieces, add to the work bowl and pulse on and off until butter is totally incorporated and the mixture begins to hold together.

3. Butter the sides of a 9-inch square pan and press the crust into the pan until it covers the entire pan and is even in thickness throughout. Place in the refrigerator while you make the cake filling.

4. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

5. If bowl from food processor has been used, rinse and dry and proceed. No need to wash with soap, etc.

6. Place cream cheese in work bowl and pulse processor on and off until mixture looks creamy. Scrape down sides of bowl and pulse on and off 5 times.

7. Add the sugar and process until smooth. Scrape down sides of bowl.

8. Add the eggs and turn on machine to combine well. Scrape down sides to make sure there aren’t any clumps of cream cheese.

9. Add the pumpkin, the spices and the bourbon and pulse on and off until the mixture is completely smooth. 

10. Pour the filling into the prepared 9-inch square pan with gingerbread crust. Tap on counter once to bring air bubbles to the surface.

11. Bake in preheated 425-degree oven for 10 minutes.

12. Lower the heat to 250 degrees (do not remove cake from oven while heat drops) and bake for an additional 40-50 minutes.

13. Cake should be firm but not overcooked. 

14. Let cake cool until pan is easy to touch. Lightly brush 2 tablespoons of maple syrup over the top of the cake. Refrigerate for a few hours, or preferably overnight, loosely covered with plastic wrap but not touching cake.

15. Cake will be good for a few days in the fridge or can be frozen and then tightly covered for later use.

Tina’s Tidbits:

  • I used Trader Joe’s gingersnaps but any cookie can be used, even the classic graham cracker.
  • If butter is softened and you mix the ingredients well, there is no need to melt the butter and dirty another dish or pan.
  • A 9-inch square pan has the same volume as a 9-inch springform pan. I used this pan so that I could cut out clean squares that wouldn’t be huge portions instead of wedges from a round cake.
  • This cake has a lighter texture than a classic New York cheesecake because of the pumpkin puree.
  • If there are any leftovers, freeze the cake, then cover with plastic wrap and then foil to make it airtight.

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