Cranberries and squash, together at last
AP Photo | Matthew Mead
The trouble with cranberries at the Thanksgiving table is that they so often end up alone.
These wonderfully tart and sweet berries generally are relegated to a sauce. If they are luckily, they might merit inclusion in a tart. But that's about it.
But there are plenty of other ways to work them into the meal. Not that you want a cranberry overload, but this year perhaps skip the sauce and find another way of giving the cranberries a presence at the table.
The stuffing — or dressing, depending on where you grew up — is a no-brainer. Fresh, frozen or dried cranberries are delicious mixed into savory stuffings. Consider cutting back the liquid in the stuffing just a bit, as fresh and frozen cranberries will contribute their juice during cooking.
A handful of cranberries (don't go crazy) can be added to the bottom of the turkey roasting pan, where their juices will blend with those of the bird and vegetables. The resulting gravy will be wonderful. I've even heard of people rubbing cranberry sauce under the skin of the turkey before roasting.
I like to use dried cranberries in a side of roasted vegetables. In this incredibly simple recipe, I roast carrots and butternut squash, then toss them with slivered almonds and dried cranberries. The result is nutty, crunchy, roasted, sweet and savory. A wonderful mouthful.
Of course, as with all of my recipes, flexibility rules. Feel free to substitute whichever winter squash or root vegetables you prefer for the butternut and carrots I call for. Likewise, my seasoning choices are tasty, but use whatever flavors you favor.
Also, this recipe is forgiving on cooking time and temperature. Roast the vegetables at whatever temperature you have the oven set for your turkey. If it varies much from the 375 F called for below, just keep an eye on it. The vegetables should be nicely browned, lightly crisp and tender at the center.
ROASTED SQUASH WITH ALMONDS AND CRANBERRIES
Start to finish: 1 hour (20 minutes active)
2 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch chunks
2 pounds carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
1/4 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon cumin
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
1/3 cup almond slivers
1/2 cup dried cranberries (sweetened is fine)
Zest of 1 lemon
Heat the oven to 350 F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil.
On the baking sheet, combine the squash and carrots. Drizzle the oil over the vegetables, then use your hands to mix until evenly coated. Sprinkle the thyme, garlic powder and cumin over the squash and carrots, then mix well. Season with salt and pepper.
Roast for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender inside and lightly browned and crisp outside. Add the almonds and cranberries, toss well, then transfer to a serving bowl. Top with lemon zest, then taste and adjust seasoning.
Nutrition information per serving (values are rounded to the nearest whole number): 210 calories; 90 calories from fat (38 percent of total calories); 9 g fat (1 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 0 mg cholesterol; 32 g carbohydrate; 3 g protein; 7 g fiber; 320 mg sodium.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Food Editor J.M. Hirsch is author of the cookbook "High Flavor, Low Labor: Reinventing Weeknight Cooking." Follow him to great eats on Twitter at http://twitter.com/JM_Hirsch or email him at jhirsch(at)ap.org.