We’re big fans of the Mediterranean diet over here at CS, so when Sheela Prakash released her new cookbook packed with feel-good, seasonal recipes, we couldn’t wait to dig in.
Filled with wholesome, colorful dishes that savor the flavor and laid-back comfort of Mediterranean cooking, Mediterranean Every Day has quickly become one of our favorite cookbooks of the year.
With Thanksgiving quickly approaching, we asked Sheela if she’d share her expert tips for a delicious gathering, and plus two recipes we’re planning to make ourselves for the big day.
We’ll be kicking off the holiday with glasses of her honeyed prosecco, and scroll on for the recipe for the fall salad of our dreams – plus all her tips!
My cookbook, Mediterranean Every Day, is all about embracing just how naturally easygoing the cuisine is. But what I so love about Mediterranean food is that this simplicity is two-fold: It applies to both the food itself and the attitude around it. Feel-good means wholesome, yes, but it also means relaxed. With Thanksgiving right around the corner — and the fraught vibes that all too often come with it — it’s well worth putting this into practice. Here’s how:
Lean into store-bought conveniences.
Maybe, as a cookbook author, I am supposed to say you should try to make everything from scratch, but I feel quite the opposite. Pick up the dinner rolls or pies from a local bakery, call up your favorite cheese shop and have them build a nice board for you as an appetizer, or if you’ve got a neighborhood bar currently offering bottled cocktails to-go, order a couple of different ones. Right now, in particular, there are a lot of great options out there that take some of the work off your plate. Not only will it lessen your load, you’ll be supporting the local businesses that need some extra help right now.
Make a salad part of your spread.
A salad might not seem necessary when your table is filled with an abundance of other sides, but I do really think it’s always worth including. Thanksgiving dinner tends to skew carb-heavy and beige, and a salad brightens and lightens the whole affair. Choose one with a tangy dressing, rather than a creamy one, and crunchy components, such as toasted nuts (like in my Roasted Delicata Squash and Kale Salad) or crisp lettuce to provide welcomed contrast to the rest of the meal. Plus, if you have anyone who is gluten-free or vegetarian at your table, a salad gives them something else to enjoy.
Choose as many make-ahead-friendly dishes as possible.
While the turkey and gravy might not be able to be made ahead of time, most other components can, to some extent. You can assemble these baked mashed potatoes a day or two in advance, as well as stuffing and cranberry sauce. My Roasted Delicata Squash and Kale Salad can even be tossed together hours before dinner because the hearty kale leaves won’t wilt when dressed. Also, rather than serve sautéed vegetables, which tend to be last-minute affairs, choose vegetable casseroles or roasted vegetables, which can be reheated before dinner.
Try to remember that less is more.
I know Thanksgiving is all about abundance, but I am a minimalist, so I really believe you don’t need a dozen side dishes and half a dozen pies to celebrate. Work within your limits and don’t feel bad about it. If all you can manage is the turkey, mashed potatoes, and roasted Brussels sprouts, I assure you it will still be perfect and festive. We’re all feeling enough stress right now, so this year, especially, Thanksgiving really shouldn’t have to add to it.
Step out of the kitchen.
It’s so easy to squirrel away in the kitchen all day on Thanksgiving. As someone who tends to do that regularly for my work and who indeed feels happiest in the kitchen, I’ve also come to realize the importance of stepping away. Just like it’s we all (at least try to) take computer breaks when working, it really does help to take breaks during the long and busy day of cooking Thanksgiving dinner. Take a walk, or if you’re planning on pre-dinner drinks (my Honeyed Prosecco is extra simple), go and make yourself one first, then slip outside to sip on it in peace for even just 10 minutes before an oven timer goes off.
For the salad:
1 large (about 1 pound, or 454 g, total) delicata squash, halved lengthwise, seeded, and cut into1/2-inch (1 cm) slices
1 medium red onion, halved lengthwise and cut into 1-inch(2.5 cm) wedges
2 tablespoons (30 ml) olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
2 medium or 1 large bunch (about 12 ounces, or 340 g,total) lacinato kale, stems removed and leaves torn into bite-size pieces
4 ounces (113 g) ricotta salata cheese, crumbled
(about 1 cup)1/2cup (70 g) hazelnuts, toasted and roughly chopped
For the Vinaigrette:
3 tablespoons (45 ml) extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons (30 ml) sherry vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 small garlic clove, grated or minced
Freshly ground black pepper
- Place a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 425F (220C).
- To make the vinaigrette: In a small bowl, whisk the olive oil, vinegar, Dijon, garlic, a generous pinch of salt, and a few grinds of black pepper until combined and emulsified.
- To make the salad: Place the squash and red onion on a rimmed sheet pan. Drizzle with the olive oil, season with salt and black pepper, and toss to coat.Spread the vegetables into an even layer. Roast, carefully flipping halfway through, until tender and lightly caramelized, 20 to 25 minutes.
- Place the kale in a large bowl. Using your hands, massage the leaves for about1 minute or so until they feel less stiff. Whisk the vinaigrette once or twice more to ensure it’s emulsified, then drizzle about half of it over the kale and toss to coat.
- Once the vegetables are roasted, add them to the bowl with the kale. Drizzle in the remaining vinaigrette and toss gently to combine, being careful not to break up the tender squash. Add the ricotta salata and hazelnuts. Toss gently once more. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper, as needed. Serve warm or at room temperature.
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