We need to talk about this whole Canadian Thanksgiving thing. It totally snuck up on me this year. I have barely packed away the kids’ summer clothes, and I’m still enjoying the last of the summer tomatoes and the occasional cob of corn and BOOM, you expect me to cook a turkey? Really?
Yes really, Sarah. See those red leaves? Those boots on your feet? It’s October. Get with the program.
When it dawned on me this past weekend that Thanksgiving—and Thanksgiving dinner more precisely—was a mere 7 days away, I contemplated doing away with the traditional turkey dinner and bringing in a new Thanksgiving culinary custom for my little family: spaghetti and turkey meatballs, or maybe a barbecued beef tenderloin with a side of mashed potatoes. I can do that, right?
But this year I’m expecting a special guest at my Thanksgiving table—a cousin who is in his first year of university at a school not far from here. And one month into a degree in astrophysics (yup, my people are smart) what you need more than anything else is a big beautiful made-with-love turkey dinner spread. Spaghetti and turkey meatballs, as delicious as they might be, just won’t cut it.
So my turkey order is in and I’m combing through my recipe collection for some simple but impressive sides.
If you are doing the same (or if you are already planning your American Thanksgiving feast — good on ya!), then you might want to bookmark/Pin/print this salad recipe. A big salad is not a traditional Thanksgiving side dish, maybe, but I always find it to be a welcome one next to the heavier mashed, smashed and squashed ones.
This particular salad is packed with the best of fall: hardy greens, sweet squash, juicy pomegranate arils, pumpkin seeds and a maple-spiked vinaigrette. The recipe is pretty flexible, so you can use whatever looks fresh and inviting at your grocery store or farmer’s market. I love the colour and texture of red kale, but green or black kale will work too. Cubed acorn squash or thinly sliced delicata squash could substitute for the butternut. And if you have trouble finding a pomegranate you could throw in some sliced gala apple or dried cranberries. I sometimes add cubed avocado too, if I can get my hands on a decent one—I find they are hit and miss at this time of year.
If you have small people at your Thanksgiving table, and unless they are into raw kale (my kids don’t have the jaw strength or a taste for it just yet), you might want to reserve some of the squash, pomegranate arils and vinaigrette to serve them a “deconstructed” version.
Finally: Happy Thanksgiving to all my Canadian readers. I hope you have lots to be thankful for, as I do, and that whether you are eating turkey or spaghetti, you are blessed with the company of family and friends to share it with.
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- ½ medium butternut squash, peeled and cut into ½ inch cubes
- 1 bunch of red kale
- Sea salt
- The arils (small red seeds) from one small pomegranate (see note)
- ½ cup hulled pumpkin seeds
- ⅓ cup crumbled feta cheese
- 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
- ½ tablespoon dijon mustard
- 1 small clove garlic
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
- Sea salt and cracked black pepper, to taste
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Toss the butternut squash with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, arrange in a single layer on a large parchment-lined baking sheet, and roast until the squash is fork-tender and golden brown (30-40 minutes). Let cool.
- While the squash is roasting, destem the kale (cut it away from the woody stems), and then cut it into thin ribbons. Put the ribbons into a large salad bowl or rimmed serving platter, sprinkle with sea salt, and use your hands to massage the kale by squeezing it firmly. You want to repeat this rub-down several times, in order to break down the tough leaf fibres to make the kale more palatable and silky.
- Combine all the dressing ingredients in a small mason jar and shake until very combined.
- Toss the kale with the dressing, and sprinkle the roasted squash, pomegranate arils, pumpkin seeds and feta overtop.