Monday, November 23, 2009

Tradition, Sweetwater style.

From Jerry Veneziano of Sweetwater Farm:

Thanksgiving is here again, quite possibly the most food-oriented holiday in the US. Across the country, people will be sitting down with family and friends for the traditional Thanksgiving feast of turkey, stuffing and all the fixings. Out here at Sweetwater, we spend the day with ourselves, and gather with family later in the week. This has its advantages, but also provides a bit of a challenge. See, we love the traditional feast as much as anyone, but after having it 2 or 3 times over a long weekend, it starts to get to you a little. So, a few years back we started giving our holiday meal a little twist, adapting the meal to various regional and ethnic food styles -- taking a Thanksgiving trip in our kitchen, so to speak. So far, we've done Louisiana (Cajun and Creole), Indian (turkey curry - YUM!), Italian, and Chinese. This year, we're going to Morocco.
We'll start the meal off with a couple appetizers. Off the grill will come kebabs, made with sausage, apricots, and a couple vegetables to be named later. Merguez sausage would be most appropriate, and I've found at least one source here in Richmond, but it’s made with lamb, which we don't eat (at least not knowingly). We'll substitute andouille, just a personal choice there. Our other appetizer is a hummus served with flatbread.
Next to the table* will come couscous, seasoned with garlic, mint, parsley, basil and lemon juice. With this, we'll be serving zaalouk, a salad of roasted eggplant and tomatoes with a dressing incorporating garlic, pepper, parsley, harissa (a chile paste) and several other ingredients.
(Yes, we're eating at the table. I realize it'd be more appropriate for us to gather on pillows and cushions on the floor; I have a toddler. That's not going to work.)
Then comes the main course. We do like working turkey into these meals, but it appears that many other countries don't use the bird (or at least I haven't found many recipes or references). Adapting a chicken recipe seems to do the trick, though. This year, we'll do turkey Tangiers-style -- basically, season a turkey breast and thighs with parsley, onions, ginger, black pepper, turmeric, cinnamon and nutmeg, then grill.
(As a side note, the grill is a great place to cook a turkey even if you want to do the traditional Thanksgiving meal -- just put it in a roasting pan, and lower the lid. The downside: your house doesn't smell like cooking turkey. The upside: you've saved all that oven space, so you can make your house smell like baking pies!)
With the turkey we'll be serving a potato tagine (slow cooked with tomatoes, onions, ginger, paprika, cumin, garlic and saffron) with lemons and olives.
Beverages? Mint tea, which is traditional in Morocco. We'll also be serving cranberry wine from Horton vineyard. The wine has nothing to do with Morocco, but hey, its Thanksgiving, got to work cranberries in somehow!
OH...almost forgot dessert! Melons, and honey cakes. The melons are sadly out of season, but you can still find some that are pretty good if you hunt.
I won't claim that this is a 100% authentic Moroccan meal -- I doubt we've ever gotten any of our Thanksgiving meals completely "right." Do think, though, that we should be close...and more importantly perhaps, that it'll taste really good!
Of course, what really matters about Thanksgiving is reflecting on the blessings of our lives. We tend to lose sight of them, at least I do, but in spite of the challenges (or perhaps because of them), I have much to be thankful for, especially for having Beloved and the Wee Pirate as part of my life.
That's what Sweetwater is up to this year, what are y'all doing for the holiday?

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