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Thanksgiving Cali-Style

Oakland chef Dorothy Calimeris prepares an easy and delicious holiday meal.


When chef Dorothy Calimeris plans her Thanksgiving menu, a few things are critical. The dishes must be seasonal, featuring the best produce from NorCal’s farms. Also, cooking and preparation cannot take forever: She doesn’t want to spend all day in a hot kitchen. For this year’s feast, she crafted a delightful and delicious menu for Diablo, featuring some of our favorite flavors, along with a stress-free, day-by-day prep plan.


Turkey / Mash / Salad / Punch / Brussels Sprouts / Tart / The Meal Plan


Photography by Jennifer Martiné

Roasted Turkey Breast With Herbed Butter, Served Over Hot Walnut Panzanella

This recipe was inspired by the phenomenal classic Zuni’s roast chicken. It’s a twist on having roast turkey with stuffing.

For the turkey
5 tablespoons butter (2 melted, 3 at room temperature)
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
Salt and pepper
One boneless half turkey breast (2–3 pounds)
1 cup dry white wine

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine 3 tablespoons of room temperature butter, chopped rosemary, thyme, and a pinch of salt in a small bowl, and mix well. Gently lift the skin off the meat of the bird, and stuff the herbed butter evenly into the pocket. Smooth the skin, and place the breast, skin side up, in a shallow roasting pan. Spread the remaining tablespoon of melted butter over the breast, and season with salt and pepper. Pour wine into roasting pan, place in the oven, and roast until the skin is golden brown and the meat registers 160 on a meat thermometer (typically around an hour). Remove from the oven, and let rest 10 minutes before slicing.

For the panzanella
¼ cup dried cranberries
¼ cup warm water
2 tablespoons
champagne vinegar
⅓ cup extra virgin
olive oil
½ cup walnuts, toasted and chopped coarsely
1 shallot, peeled and minced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
2 sage leaves, finely chopped
1 loaf (about one pound) country Italian or French bread cut into large pieces
1 cup chicken stock

Combine cranberries and warm water in a small bowl, and let sit for at least 30 minutes for the cranberries to soften. In a large bowl, combine the soaked cranberries, vinegar, olive oil, walnuts, shallot, garlic, sage, and bread. Stir to mix well. If the mixture seems too dry, moisten with chicken stock. Place bread salad in an oiled 9x13 pan, and add to the oven with the turkey 15–20 minutes before serving to heat the bread.
To serve, place warm panzanella on a serving platter. Remove the turkey from the roasting pan, reserving all the roasting juices. Slice the turkey, and place over the bread salad. Spoon the roasting juices over the turkey and panzanella, and serve immediately.

Tip: Most of the panzanella can be prepped ahead. The cranberries can be soaked, the walnuts toasted, and the shallot and garlic minced and stored in airtight containers in the fridge. The bread can be cut and placed in an airtight container overnight.


Fennel, Sweet Potato, and Apple Mash

Serves 6
4 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 8 pieces each
2 fennel bulbs, trimmed of tops and ends, cut into quarters, and washed
½ cup heavy cream
4 tablespoons butter, melted
½ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
Salt and pepper

Combine sweet potatoes, apple, and fennel in a large Dutch oven, and add enough water to just cover the vegetables. Place lid on pot, and bring to a boil. Once boiling, remove the lid, and let cook until the sweet potatoes are tender (about 10–15 minutes). Drain liquid through a strainer, and return the mixture to the pot. Place the pot on low heat, and mash the mixture with a potato masher until coarsely mashed. With a wooden spoon, stir in the cream and butter, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Mound into serving bowl, and serve hot.


Spinach and Beet Salad With Pickled Onions

Serves 6
3 large beets, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
⅓ cup plus 1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 small red onion, peeled and sliced
1 clove garlic, slivered
1 teaspoon peppercorns
1 teaspoon sugar
¾ cup apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
12 ounces cleaned spinach

Place beets on two layers of tinfoil large enough to cover them completely. Drizzle with a tablespoon of olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Loosely close the foil around beets, place in a preheated 375-degree oven, and roast until beets are tender (about 30 minutes). Set aside.
Bring a medium pot of water to boil over a high heat. Blanch the onion by dropping slices into the boiling water, and immediately drain them. In a glass container or jar, place the blanched red onion, garlic, peppercorns, sugar, and apple cider vinegar. Seal the container, and shake to combine ingredients and dissolve sugar. Place mixture in the fridge overnight, or longer, before using.

When ready to serve, toss the roasted beets with ⅓ cup olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper, and place on a serving platter or bowl lined with spinach. Garnish with pickled onions, and serve.

Tip: The beets can be roasted several days in advance but taste best if they are room temperature on the salad. The pickled red onion can be made a week in advance. You can use the pickling juices instead of the lemon juice when you dress the salad, if you like a sharper dressing.


Cranberry Vodka Punch

Serves 6
3 cups cranberry juice
1 cup cranberry-infused vodka
1 cup orange juice
1 orange, sliced

In a tall pitcher, combine all ingredients, and keep in the fridge until ready to serve. Pour into glasses filled with ice.

Tip: You can use plain vodka if that’s what you have in the house.






Roasted Brussels Sprouts With Toasted Hazelnuts

Serves 6
1½ pounds brussels sprouts, washed, stems trimmed, and cut in half
3 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper
½ cup hazelnuts, toasted and chopped

Toss brussels sprouts with melted coconut oil and balsamic vinegar in a medium bowl, and season with salt and pepper. Arrange sprouts on an oiled jelly roll pan (a cookie sheet with sides), and place in the oven. Roast until the vegetables are deep brown and caramelized—typically, about 20–30 minutes—using a spatula to flip the vegetables over after about 15 minutes. When vegetables are done, transfer to a serving bowl, and cover with foil until ready to serve. Just before serving, garnish with hazelnuts.

Tip: This recipe can be made earlier in the day and served at room temperature, or made a day ahead and warmed in the oven before serving. The hazelnuts can be toasted the day before. Substitutions for coconut oil include butter or olive oil. Also, apple balsamic vinegar works well for this recipe.


Ginger Pumpkin Tart

Serves 6
2 cups ginger cookie crumbs (about 8 ounces of cookies)
1 tablespoon chopped crystallized ginger
¼ cup butter, melted and cooled
1 can (15 ounces)
pumpkin puree
½ cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ teaspoon ground ginger
2 egg yolks
Pinch salt
1 cup heavy cream
¼ cup powdered sugar
½ teaspoon ground

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly oil a 9-inch removable-bottom tart pan. In a small bowl, combine cookie crumbs, crystalized ginger, and melted butter. Press the cookie mixture into the bottom and sides of the tart pan.

In a medium bowl, whisk together pumpkin, brown sugar, vanilla, ginger, egg yolks, and salt. Gently spoon the pumpkin mixture over the cookie crust. Place the tart on a cookie sheet, and bake for 35–40 minutes until the filling is set and just jiggles a touch in the middle. Cool to room temperature, and chill the tart several hours before serving.

When ready to serve, combine the cream, powdered sugar, and cinnamon in a bowl, and whip to soft peaks. Dollop the cinnamon cream on each slice as you serve.

Tip: Since this doesn’t bake at the same temperature as the rest of the menu, I suggest making it either the day before or in the morning before you roast the turkey. It should be refrigerated for at least 2 hours before serving so that it holds its shape when cut. The cinnamon cream can be made earlier in the day and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator until ready to serve.


The Meal Plan

Minimize stress by prepping ingredients for the Thanksgiving meal throughout the week before. Here is our cheatsheet:

4 Days Before Thanksgiving
— Shop for ingredients.
— Make and freeze herb butter.
— Toast walnuts, and store tightly covered at room temperature.
— Toast hazelnuts, and store tightly covered at room temperature.
— Make sweet potato
mash, and store in freezer.
— Make pickled red onions, and keep in fridge.
— Pulverize ginger snaps to make cookie crumbs, and store in a tightly covered container at room temperature.

1 Day Before
— Prep panzanella by soaking cranberries, chopping garlic and shallots, and cutting bread.
— Prep brussels sprouts.
— Put sweet potato mash in fridge to thaw.
— Prep beets.
— Make pumpkin tart, and store in fridge.
— Make sure you have enough ice.

That Morning
— Let herb butter sit at room temperature.
— Make cranberry vodka punch and store in fridge.
— Whip cinnamon cream for tart.
— Set table.

2 Hours Before Dinner
— Preheat oven and stuff turkey with herb butter.
— Take prepped brussels sprouts and beets out of fridge and bring to room temperature.

1½ Hours Before
— Place turkey in preheated oven.

1 Hour Before
— Place brussels sprouts and beets in oven to roast.
— Place sweet potato mash in oven (covered) to warm, and stir occasionally to heat through center.

30 Minutes Before
— Assemble panzanella, and place in oven to warm.
— Complete brussels sprout recipe, and cover to stay warm.

While the Turkey is Resting
— Assemble spinach salad, and place on table.

Before Sitting Down to Eat
— Remove tart from fridge, so that it’s not too cold when served.


Bio: Dorothy Calimeris has been passionate about food and entertaining since she was a teen. Starting in Oakland, where she still lives, she has cooked and baked her way across both coasts, including stints with Martha Stewart and Cuisinart magazines. Her musings on food can be read at her blog, whatsdorothyeatingnow.com. She also teaches a cooking class called Eating Real, at Mills College. www.dorothyeats.com/greek


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