I celebrated Thanksgiving back in October. My American friends like to refer to this weekend as Canadian Thanksgiving, but I like refer to it as the real Thanksgiving. I've tried to switch to celebrating at the end of November, with the rest of the country, but with the time of year and proximity to Christmas, I can never muster up the energy for a large ordeal. Leftover pizza and PBR is usually how I roll. To me, Thanksgiving marks a seasons change, when the bright colorful leaves start falling off the trees, pumpkins and apples are still growing strong, and it's still warm enough to enjoy the late evening sun with a scarf, some hot apple cider, maybe a candy apple, maybe a pumpkin latte.
By the end of November, when everyone here celebrates Thanksgiving, the leaves have already fallen to the ground and are now forming into one giant mass clogged up in the gutters. By this point, I've already whipped out and fallen on my ass at least 3 times from those slimy un-raked piles of leaves on the side walk. The sun has gone missing, probably until next year, and it's now pitch black at 5 pm. For me, the only way to cope with this time of year is bourbon and loathing. I tend to walk a slippery line at the end of November (emotionally), not ready to deal with the end of summer, rain, grayness - waiting for any moment to completely lose it. It is for this reason that I can only be mentally prepared for one holiday a month, and in December, that holiday has to be Christmas, and well Thanksgiving is technically at the end of November, but it just seems too close. For my sanity, Thanksgiving needs to be well out of my system before I begin to prepare for the next similarly large festive meal of the year.
It makes things a bit challenging to prepare a Thanksgiving meal a month and a half ahead of schedule. The only thing more challenging is trying to prepare a Thanksgiving meal after losing all power a few hours into cooking, and realizing that you are a bit too sloshed to problem solve - Thanksgiving October 2008 (my house, real life). Brussel sprouts, fresh cranberries, canned pumpkin, and Tofurkey's are a little challenging to find on the shelves at the beginning of Oct, but if you're looking to buy enough gourds to build a giant fort, you're likely to make that dream come true.
This year we waited until last minute to buy our Thanksgiving groceries, which is actually how we do things every year (and in life ), so let me rephrase that. We waited until the night before to buy our groceries. We drove for hours, and after our third attempt at yet another grocery store, I began to panic. The annoyed looking grocery guy, the one who gave me the old' stink eye and a 25º head tilt, looked at me with a quizzical stare after I asked him where the Tofurkey's were kept. "I don't really know what that is. Do you mean turkey? No? Maybe with all of the other tofu-y things? Did you look there?", he quizzed me, while I held in my emotions. Later on that evening, I poured myself a stiff drink and began cold-calling every store in Seattle. I eventually found two Tofurkeys' at the PCC in Fremont. I bought both, just in case.
So now I face this dilemma of not wanting to post Thanksgiving type dishes, while the rest of the world is posting about Thanksgiving type dishes, and getting excited about squash and turkey and the likes, and all I can think about is bourbon and cake. One thing that I have always wanted to try though, is a shaved brussel sprout salad, and while I am lacking Thanksgiving creativity, this one seems fitting. Trader Joes sells brussel sprout wands (sprouts still on the stalks). It's questionable whether they are popular in other parts of the world? but here, people go crazy for them. I usually buy one or two a year, and every time, it never ceases to amaze me how many sprouts I manage to peel off of each stalk.
This salad (which is actually more of a slaw than a salad) is chalked full of wonderfully delicious flavors. Brussel sprouts pair wonderfully with dried cranberries and maple. I added some chopped hazelnuts, because they are delicious, and seem to taste good in everything. I added a few other delicious bits, a sweet and tangy dressing, and it all came together quite nicely. I let the salad sit and marinate for a couple of hours, and it was even more delicious. Now, I just have to find something to do with the other 2 pounds of sprouts in the fridge.
SHAVED BRUSSEL SPROUT SLAW WITH PINK GRAPEFRUIT AND A MAPLE CIDER VINAIGRETTE
serves 4 as a main, and 6 as a side dish
notes: unlike most salads, this one tastes better the day after it is made.
1 lb brussel sprouts, sliced thin
1/2 cup hazelnuts, halved
1 shallot, sliced
1 red grapefruit, segmented
1/2 cup dried cranberries
3 tbsp oil olive or canola
3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
3 tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp Dijon mustard
salt and pepper to taste
1 oz sharp cheddar
Wash and cut away any tough stems, bits or bruised leaves from the brussel sprouts. Slice thin with a mandolin (tops of the brussel sprouts facing down) and then place into a large bowl. Chop the hazelnuts in half, slice the shallot thinly, and then segment the grapefruit and chop into bite size pieces. Add to the bowl along with the dried cranberries.
In a jar with a tight fitting lid, add the oil, vinegar, maple syrup, and mustard. Shake. Drizzle over the salad, toss and then season with salt and pepper. Thinly shave the cheddar with a vegetable peeler and add. Serve.