By MICHELE KAYAL
Every Thanksgiving presents the same challenge — how to juggle the turkey and the stuffing and the pie and all those sides in just one oven.
Turns out this one’s easier to solve than finding a tablemate for your obnoxious Uncle Hal. The answer? Elegant, no-cook dishes sprinkled throughout the meal.
Traditionalists may think “no-cook” means you’re cheating. But a first course of white gazpacho or a side dish of thinly ribboned butternut squash not only adds a splash of novelty and color, it also frees you up to spend more time pouring Champagne for your guests.
So we polled a few Thanksgiving experts for their best no-cook ideas.
— Crostini: Let’s agree that toasting bread isn’t cooking. Lightly toasted ovals of baguette topped with a variety of adventurous spreads make a lovely entry point to the holiday meal. Cookbook author Mark Bittman suggests topping your toasts with homemade beef tartar (be generous with the Worcestershire and capers) or cannellini beans pureed with olive oil, lemon and fresh rosemary. Goat cheese and candied nuts also make an easy topping.
— Brussels sprouts: Just when you thought there was nothing new to do with these tiny cabbage heads. Bishop suggests dressing raw shredded sprouts with lemon juice, Dijon mustard and minced garlic. Garnish them with toasted pine nuts and pecorino cheese. “It’s an interesting twist on Brussels sprouts,” he says. “People don’t often think of them as a salad green.”
— Broccoli: Though we always think of it grilled or steamed, broccoli is another veg that doesn’t need cooking. Instead, says Real Simple’s Copeland, thinly slice it and toss it with slivered mushrooms and red onion. A dressing of olive oil, cider vinegar, soy sauce, garlic and a mess of fresh herbs — dill or basil or tarragon or all of the above — ties together the flavors. “People don’t always remember that a lot of cruciferous vegetables taste great raw,” she says. “It’s a richly fragrant dish, but it comes together with no cooking at all.” For the best flavor, she says, let it marinate overnight.
— Squash: Seriously? Yes. Chef Chris Pandel, of Chicago restaurants The Bristol and Balena, plays off the squash’s true status as a fruit by serving it raw. Strip the squash into ribbons using a vegetable peeler, he says, then salt them and let them sit overnight in the refrigerator. Drain the water, then pile the ribbons onto a bed of endive. Sprinkle with toasted pumpkin and sunflower seeds (hulled), pomegranate seeds and lots of fresh mint and basil. A dressing of yogurt, ground cumin and coriander, cayenne, honey and lemon juice wakes up the whole thing. “It’s not just refreshing and light, but it’s also super seasonal,” Pandel says.
— Salads: Just because they’re are the obvious way to go doesn’t mean they have to be boring. Real Simple’s Copeland suggests a salad of greens, beans and grapes — such as arugula, cannellini beans and halved red grapes. Store-bought spiced nuts round out the flavors. “It’s a real crowd pleaser,” she says.
And shaved fennel tossed with red onions, golden raisins and capers can be served tossed with whole parsley as a green, says Bishop. “It’s got lots of textures and flavors and it’s very crisp,” he says.
— Cranberry sauce: You don’t need to resort to a can to have no-cook cranberry sauce. On the back of just about every bag of fresh cranberries, you’ll find the formula for cranberry relish: berries, sugar, a whole orange and a food processor. Bishop suggests upscaling the old standby with chopped apple and ground ginger.
Copeland offers a take on the Waldorf salad, adding toasted walnuts, chopped Granny Smith apples, orange zest and maple syrup to your finely chopped berries. “It’s also delicious if you want to serve it with a dollop of whipped cream,” she says. “Call it ‘pre-dessert.’”