Thanksgiving is officially over. After being served five turkeys in three days (2 roasted, 1 grilled, 2 deep fried) I’d say it’s time for a change, wouldn’t you agree? I’m dreaming of pasta, fish, rustic homemade bread and even waist-friendlier options using quinoa but first I must get through my own turkey leftovers–this stew is on the stove as I type.
Rounding out the weekend-long Thanksgiving celebration, my husband and I attended the final turkey dinner–an annual affair hosted by good friends. The men are given bird-frying duty while everyone else contributes a dish or two to the party. Yours truly was asked to bring a salad this year and may I say how relieved I was not to be in charge of the mashed potatoes? I had a near mishap last year that brought me to tears minutes before leaving for the party only to be rescued by my husband who saved the dish…and the day. What went wrong with that batch of mashed potatoes I don’t recall now but I was happy not to be given the chance to repeat the experience.
Coming up with ideas for this year’s salad was much more enjoyable. Even with a few weeks to plan ahead, I knew right away that cranberries would take center stage, given how they’ve inspired me so much this season. I’ve made cranberry bars with them and also these muffins–it was time for them to shine in a salad. It wasn’t much of stretch coming up with this idea–I made a few fruity vinaigrettes this summer and I suspected that cranberries would fare well prepared similarly.
The filling I used for the cranberry bars made for the ideal base for this vinaigrette. It had just the right balance of tart and sweet that the dressing would need. The only difference? I passed the cooked cranberries through a sieve to remove the skin and seeds. All that was left was to add vinegar, olive oil and salt for a holiday-appropriate mix.
I wouldn’t recommend using leftover cranberry sauce that’s been spiced for this recipe because you want only the fruity qualities of the cranberries here. In fact, this dressing doesn’t scream cranberries at all, just fresh and fruity, so I offer this as a good, year-round recipe and another way to use up those bags of cranberries you bought but didn’t get around to using*. Don’t we all have them?
*Feel free to use any low-sugar berry jam in place of the cranberries.
- For 1 cup of cooked, strained cranberries:
- 1 12-oz bag cranberries, fresh or frozen
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- ⅜ cup water
- 2 tablespoons orange juice or lemon juice (feel free to add another tablespoon or two to make it more tart...or reduce the sugar)
- For the vinaigrette (see directions below for proportions):
- Olive oil
- Rice vinegar (a little sweeter but you can also sub red wine or cider vinegar)
- salt, to taste
- For the salad:
- mixed greens
- Feta cheese, cubed
- Red onion, thinly sliced
- Candied pecans (I use Trader Joe's but you can use any nuts)
- Apple slices
- To prepare the cranberries:
- Bring the sugar and water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add the cranberries and cook over medium to medium-high heat until they pop, about 4-5 minutes. Add the juice and cook for another 3 minutes. Remove from heat and pass the cooked cranberries to a sieve to separate the skin and seeds. This will yield 1 cup. Set aside.
- To prepare the vinaigrette:
- There is no strict rule here. Adjust the proportion of oil, vinegar and cranberries to your liking. I started with 2 tablespoons of cranberries to 4 tablespoons of vinegar and ¼ cup of oil. Taste as you go. As you can see from my pictures, mine was light on the vinegar and olive oil so I added more of both after taking these pictures. Whisk together to emulsify.
- To assemble the salad:
- Toss the vinaigrette with the mixed greens, onions, cheese, apples and nuts--plate and serve.