Bring Ontario home for Thanksgiving

There is no better time than Thanksgiving to make your food purchases local. Markets are overflowing with the recent harvest – apples, pears, plums, onions, carrots, beets, squashes, potatoes, pumpkins, leeks, broccoli, cauliflower, peppers – we are blessed with abundance. Certainly the kaleidoscope of colours from the various crops are testimony to the riches from the fields.

Thanksgiving is a perfect time to celebrate local food with friends and family. Although most families have their own favourite dishes which they anticipate happily each year, there is always room for inspiration. Sometimes this comes from tasting other people’s food, and thinking  ‘Mmm, that would be good with …”

In that spirit, these recipes are inspired by other accomplished cooks who enjoy cooking and eating well, using Ontario’s own fresh ingredients.

Roasted Autumn Fruit

Roasted vegetable mixtures have become very popular because it is easy to prepare and create a “hot vegetable salad” with an intense, satisfying taste. However, only recently have I tasted the fruit version inspired by my friend and good cook Kathryn Tanaka. Kathryn first experimented with roasted apples as a light Christmas dessert. Later, when she wanted a sweet without oodles of calories, she combined plums and pears tossed with just a sprinkling of sugar and slowly roasted them in a 350˚F oven until the fruit was tender with a syrupy finish. Delicious, especially nice with a yogurt sauce.

Here is my take on a Thanksgiving recipe suitable as a simple dessert or as a condiment to turkey or ham. Remember, roasted fruit can replace the traditional cranberry sauce as a condiment to the main course.

3 firm, ripe pears (such as Bartlett) peeled, cored and quartered

3 firm, ripe apples, cored and quartered

1 bag (3 cups/750 mL) cranberries

3/4 cup (175 mL) granulated sugar

Yogurt Sauce:

2 cups (500 mL) plain, natural yogurt

1/2 cup (125 mL) packed brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350˚F (180˚C). Spray 13- by 9-inch (23 L) baking dish with baking spray. In a mixing bowl add pears, apples, and cranberries. Sprinkle with sugar and gently combine to coat fruit with sugar and get juices flowing. Arrange fruit in single layer in prepare baking pan. Bake uncovered in pre-heated oven about 40 minutes or until fruit is tender but still maintains its shape with a syrup created from the juices and sugar.

Meanwhile, prepare yogurt sauce: In mixing bowl, whisk together yogurt and brown sugar until brown sugar is dissolved, about two minutes. Spoon sauce into a serving dish; cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Keeps well refrigerated for up to three days. Serve sauce with roasted fruit either hot or at room temperature as a dessert.

Turkey Goat Cheese Panini with Cranberry Relish

From Foodland Ontario comes this tasty lunch or supper dish made with the turkey leftovers. For me, leftovers are one of the rewards of the Thanksgiving meal. In fact, I look forward to the carcass as a base for turkey soup and count on a number of servings to tuck into the freezer. Any other bits and pieces can be transformed into a version of turkey shepherd’s pie (a great use of leftover mashed potatoes, gravy and turkey).

With a few slices of breast or dark meat, you can make a first class sandwich to be enjoyed with a green salad. In fact, make sure to plan a large enough turkey for all the additional meals you can make. If you see bags of fresh cranberries in the supermarket, buy several to freeze for later use.

Cranberry Relish

1 tbsp (15 mL) finely grated orange zest

5 clementines or 2 navel oranges, peeled, sectioned, seeds removed and coarsely chopped

1 cup (250 mL) granulated sugar

1 pkg (12 oz/340 g) fresh cranberries

1 tbsp (15 mL) fresh rosemary leaves (or 1 tsp/ 5 mL) dried

1/2 tsp (2 mL) salt

3/4 cup (175 mL) pecans, coarsely chopped (optional)

Panini Sandwich

12 slices whole grain panini style bread

3 cups (750 mL) thinly sliced cooked turkey

1 ½ cups (375 mL) baby spinach leaves

6 oz (175 g) goat cheese

1/4 cup (50 mL) extra-virgin olive oil

Cranberry relish: In food processor, pulse orange zest and half of oranges until finely chopped. Add sugar; pulse three or four times to combine. Add cranberries, rosemary and salt; pulse until cranberries are coarsely chopped. Transfer to bowl; toss with remaining oranges and pecans if using. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. (This could be made up to three days ahead – cover and refrigerate.)

Panini: Place six slices of bread on work surface. Top each slice evenly with cranberry relish (to taste), sliced turkey and spinach leaves. Spread goat cheese on remaining slices of bread. Close sandwiches, pressing slightly to adhere.

Heat large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Brush top of sandwiches lightly with oil. Place sandwiches in batches, oiled side down, in skillet. Place heavy pan on sandwiches to press down. Cook for three minutes or until golden brown. Remove heavy pan. Brush top of sandwich with oil. Using spatula, flip carefully. Place pan on top of sandwich and cook three minutes or until golden brown. Remove and cover with foil while you cook remaining sandwiches. Cut on diagonal and serve with additional relish, if desired. Makes six sandwiches.

Jan Main is an author, cooking instructor and caterer

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