America is a nation of immigrants. Often poor in possessions but rich in culinary traditions, newcomers have brought from their homelands fruits, vegetables and herbs that have inspired, enriched and enlivened our national diet for more than 400 years. This Thanksgiving, as you celebrate your blessings, pay tribute to America's heritage with a traditional feast with a twist — elegant dishes that capture the magic of our country's beginnings.
Start your holiday meal with Celery Root Soup, in honor of the immigrants from Europe, Africa and Asia who developed nourishing dishes using root vegetables and brought them to America.
As for the traditional turkey, try something new: Flavor it with luscious figs, apples and pears. High in fiber, minerals and nutrients, these fruits have been on European and Mediterranean menus for thousands of years. Spanish explorers first brought figs to Florida as early as 1575. Two hundred years later, the Franciscans introduced them to California at Mission San Diego. Although the Granny Smith apple called for in the recipe is a recent development, the first apples and pears were imported as seeds in settlers' pockets centuries before.
Instead of serving the usual boiled or mashed potatoes, roast tiny heirloom varieties. While these fingerlings — so named because they are finger-sized and finger-shaped — are not the same potatoes brought north from South America hundreds of years ago, neither are they familiar commercial potatoes. The colors, tastes and textures of these diminutive varieties are outstanding.
Add Polenta Pudding, with its truly American base of cornmeal, to your menu. Then flavor it with Old World herbs and cheeses.
While squash is native to the New World, pomegranate, the accent flavor in the Squash Tart, is an Old World fruit used in syrups, jellies and wines for eons. (Grenadine, used in beverages, is a light pomegranate syrup.) If your ancestors hail from Southern Europe, the Eastern Mediterranean or the hot, dry regions of Iran, India, Africa, Southeast Asia or Malaysia, an appreciation for the tangy sweetness of pomegranates is already part of your heritage.
Top off your meal with a toast! American and European wines, suggested by the celebrated chefs who developed each of the dishes, add to the international flavor of this festive American meal.
- Heirloom Potato Salad with Arugula and Citrus Vinaigrette
- Apple Cider Marinated Turkey with Fig, Pear and Balsamic Compote
- Squash Tart with Fresh Pomegranate Juice
- Rustic Polenta Pudding
Joan Cravens is an award-winning book and magazine editor and freelance writer.
Carol Beaver produces gourmet preserves through her business, Beaver Farm Foraging in Lakewood, Colo.