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In my family, having a salad on the Thanksgiving table is a controversial issue. My mother, an avowed vegetable enthusiast, lobbies for it every year. My dad is firmly attached to tradition and so had long been entirely opposed to the presence of raw greenery.
He thinks that the menu should remain unchanged and the side dishes should be limited to stuffing, mashed potatoes, pureed winter squash, buttered green beans and a quivering log of canned cranberry jelly. The issue is made harder by the fact that he is the designated holiday cook in our household and so much of the prep falls to him.
In recent years, my mom and I have had some success in convincing my dad of the merits of a hearty autumnal salad as an addition (not a replacement) to the holiday table. He has reluctantly conceded, provided we select a salad that maintains a sense of seasonal integrity.
And so, during the last few years, I’ve dreamed up an array of salads and relish-like concoctions that satisfy a hunger for raw, crunchy things. For this year’s salad, I have my sights set on Tyler Florence’s recipe for Winter Slaw.
It features kale, Brussels sprouts and radicchio, which are all in season and readily available this time of year. Unlike softer lettuces, they stand up to the other Thanksgiving dishes without wilt or unpleasant discoloration. Topped with a lemony dressing and a handful of dried cranberries, it will be a holiday (and Weekender!) winner, I am certain.
Before you start cooking, read these tips:
— If you are good with a knife, this salad should be a snap to prep. If you’re uncomfortable with that much chopping, feel free to employ a food processor for sprout and radicchio shredding.
— Because these are all hearty greens, you could do the bulk of the prep the day before your holiday meal. Shred and bag the greens, shake the dressing together in a Mason jar and grate the Parmesan cheese. That way, all you have to do prior to the main event is assemble.
— If a salad like this one isn’t in the cards for your holiday table, consider making one to serve with your leftovers. It’s a lot easier to get people to eat day-old turkey if you offer them something fresh to munch alongside it.
Marisa McClellan is a food writer and canning teacher who lives in Center City Philadelphia. Find more of her food (all cooked up in her 80-square-foot kitchen) at her blog, Food in Jars. Her first cookbook, Food in Jars: Preserving in Small Batches Year-Round, is now available.