As Thanksgiving approaches, Dana Jacobi usually begins receiving requests for first-course menu ideas.
Jacobi—author of the 12 Best Foods Cookbook, a contributor to the New American Plate Cookbook: Recipes for a Healthy Weight and a Healthy Life and a recipe developer for the American Institute for Cancer Research—usually recommends opening the meal with a soup or salad.
“The most popular holiday soups feature favorite seasonal vegetables, particularly sweet potatoes, winter squash or pumpkin,” she says. “You can also opt for a simple pureed chestnut soup, made by simmering chopped shallots and precooked chestnuts with some chicken broth and thyme, then blending with milk until the soup is velvet-smooth. For garnish, add a tangle of thinly sliced leeks, browned in a touch of butter until they are almost crisp.”
For a lighter soup, Jacobi recommends a mélange of aromatic vegetables like carrots, onions and celery, coupled with chopped apple and cranberries, and then simmered in turkey broth until soft. When the ingredients are pureed, the soup becomes a ruby-red, slightly tart consommé.
“When making a starter salad, baby spinach leaves are a perfect fit for the season’s wintery mood,” she says. “To make them more festive, scatter on dried cranberries and toasted pecans, then toss with a mustard-maple vinaigrette. For a more sophisticated combination, arrange fresh pomegranate seeds and thin slices of Fuyu persimmon—an exotic, tangy, tomato-shaped fruit—on top of the spinach, and then drizzle on a balsamic dressing made with walnut oil.”
This year, Jacobi is starting her Thanksgiving dinner with a classic dish called Celery Victor. Tune in tomorrow for the recipe, which features ingredients that should be readily available at your local natural and organic food store.