How To: Authentic Thanksgiving Menu
Thanksgiving calls for cozy family reunions, autumnal decor – and of course, an array of delicious foods. Whether traditional classics or modern-day favorites, the festive and often elaborate dishes are adored across the country. But it doesn’t stop there! More and more foodies from around the world are becoming Thanksgiving enthusiasts and relishing on the seasonal cuisine.
While many efforts go into perfecting a golden-brown turkey, the secret to an authentic meal lies in the servings surrounding the meat. So, what key ingredients should be included in every Thanksgiving menu?
Timeless Companion: Cranberries
Cranberries are one of the few fruit varieties native to North America. Today, they are grown mainly in the northern states of Wisconsin, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon and Washington. The vibrant berries are considered a thoroughly healthy superfood in the sense of a balanced diet. Cranberry juice is an excellent natural source of antioxidants vitamins C and E.
Since their origin in 1550, the small red fruits have been associated with the Thanksgiving feast. European settlers at the time learned about local plants and animals from the Native Americans. As a token of gratitude, the newcomers invited them to celebrate the harvest together with a feast – including turkey and cranberries.
The traditional cranberry sauce is very easy to prepare and a must-have in the menu. Its sweet-tart aroma complements tender meats and provides a fruity note. Both fresh and dried cranberries can be used as a basis for the sauce. However, if dried, cranberries must be pre-soaked in water or juice before cooked.The fruits are then boiled down with orange zest, salt, sugar and spices such as nutmeg or vanilla.
“Cranberries are harvested in the fall, generally from mid-September through mid-November.”Cranberry Marketing Committee
Colorful Variety: Sweet Potato
Besides pumpkin, green beans and Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes are a classic that should not be missing at the dinner table. The orange all-rounder originates from Central and South America, but is now mainly grown in the flat coastal region of North Carolina.
Due to the multitude of preparation methods as well as their prized caramel flavor, it is not uncommon to find various sweet potato dishes at a Thanksgiving feast. A modern recipe of sweet potato rounds with ricotta and pomegranate seeds make for a fun, bite-sized treat. Plus, it is easily adapted to a vegan friendly side dish!
But that’s not all! Sweet potatoes are equally delicious as they are rich in healthy carbohydrates and nutrients such as potassium, fiber and vitamin A. This vibrant vegetable has made its way into people’s hearts and stomachs all year round.
Finishing Touch: Tree Nuts
Whole, sliced, diced or chopped – almonds add value in just about any application. The centuries old superfood has grown its stronghold in California. The golden state is known as the biggest producer of almonds, growing approximately 80 percent of the world’s supply. When it comes to Thanksgiving meals, you can find this nutty ingredient in a variety of dishes.
“The satisfying crunch and buttery mouthfeel of almonds work with a wide range of flavors and textures.”Almond Board of California
Boosting with nutrients, almonds add a crunchy finish to the savory and simple Green Bean Almondine. For those craving a variety of nutty recipes, the antioxidant strong walnut is commonly chopped and mixed into turkey stuffing.
Similar to almonds, the fertile lands and sunny climate of California create the perfect environment for walnuts to grow. Especially in Central Valley, family owned farms have been harvesting walnuts for several generations.
Tree nuts are a great addition to salads and side dishes, but their true Thanksgiving moment takes place during dessert. Whether it’s almonds, walnuts or pecans, these dry hard fruit leave a lasting impression when found in sweet, baked goods.
“As ingredients, California walnuts can be used almost universally regardless of the main flavor being sweet, salty, fruity, fresh or savory.”California Walnut Commission
Before the Thanksgiving feast can come to an end, there is one more mouth watering dish that needs the attention: the Classic Pecan Pie. The naturally sweet supernut takes center stage when baked in the warm and buttery pie crust. Aside from claiming the title as America’s native nut, the pecan is a nutrition powerhouse containing multiple health-promoting nutrients and bioactive compounds.
“Pecans are the only major tree nut indigenous to America, with a storied history among Native Americans and early settlers.”American Pecan Council
Thanksgiving is a great American tradition that has found its way across the pond and onto European dinner tables. Spending time with family and friends while enjoying high quality food isn’t a foreign concept and can be enjoyed across cultures and countries.