Two traditions surround the American feast at the heart of Thanksgiving: an excessive amount of food and its subsequent leftovers. Some are easily consumed—who would turn down a slice of pie for breakfast? But others threaten to hang around in the fridge until even the dog turns up her nose.
Fortunately, many uses for holiday leftovers reach beyond microwaved reruns and turkey sandwiches. Leftover roasted vegetables are ideal for Roasted Squash Soup and cut your prep time to about 30 minutes. Extra pumpkin puree can be turned into quick bread. But some of my favorite post-holiday meals come from the most challenging leftovers: spinach and cranberries.
Warm Spinach–Cranberry Salad
8 ounces fresh spinach
1 small red onion
4 ounces blue cheese or feta
2 tablespoons fresh cranberries
1 clove garlic
1 teaspoon chopped shallot
1-1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1-1/2 teaspoons Hot Swedish-Style Mustard
1/8 teaspoon Home-Smoked Chili Paste or hot smoked paprika
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Arrange the nuts in a single layer on a baking sheet. Toast at 375°F for 5 minutes, until they begin to brown. Transfer to a large bowl. Wash and stem the spinach, tearing large leaves into bite-size portions, and add it to the bowl; reserve any extra spinach for curry (see below). Peel and thinly slice the onion and orange; add these to the bowl. Crumble in the cheese, and toss gently to combine; set aside.
In a food processor, combine the cranberries, garlic, and shallot; puree until minced. Add the vinegar, mustard, chili paste, salt, and pepper. Blend until smooth, adding a splash of water as needed. Stir in the olive oil by hand until combined. Transfer the mixture to a medium saucepan and warm over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until heated through. Pour into a small jar or bottle and serve immediately alongside the salad. Serves 4.
Tips & Tricks
- This salad can be scaled down for a couple or up for your next holiday menu. I always serve the dressing on the side, even for a group, because predressed salads make awful leftovers.
- Although this dressing is based on my Vinegary Salad Dressing Base, it comes out quite thick with the fresh cranberries and alliums. I like to serve it from a small jar and let guests spoon it over their salad. Any leftover dressing will keep for several weeks in the refrigerator.
- This dressing is also somewhat spicy. For a sweeter variation, drop the chili paste and replace the garlic with grated ginger, half of the vinegar with freshly squeezed orange juice, and the mustard with honey. If you already turned all of your fresh cranberries into sauce, mix it in instead, leaving out or cutting back on any dressing ingredients already cooked into your sauce.
- The salad ingredients can also be easily altered to whatever’s on hand. Swap in other nuts or, if nut allergies are a problem, roasted pumpkin seeds or sautéed mushrooms. Homemade Lemon Cheese mellows the flavor, and thinly sliced grapefruit gives a unique citrus twist.
Twice as Tasty
This year, I discovered a bonus crop of spinach in my cold frame just before the holiday. I’d given up on the green; summer was so hot it immediately bolted and set seed. So I ignored the cold frame all summer, simply closing it when we saw an early snowfall. It looked like my garden would be buried until April, but a warm spell revealed large, green spinach leaves ready for harvest.
I immediately dug into my stored potatoes and onions and pulled out this recipe. The inspiration for came from the Horn of the Moon Cookbook by Ginny Callan, the first of two books filled with delicious meals from her Vermont vegetarian cafe of the same name. The cafe closed for good in the late 1990s, but Callan’s books are still well-thumbed favorites on my shelf. This recipe is not only delicious but also introduced me to making curries with whole spices, the first step on a journey that’s led to the popular Twice as Tasty Indian Spice workshops.
5 ounces yellow onion
8 ounces cremini mushrooms
8 ounces fresh spinach
3 tablespoons sunflower oil
1 tablespoon mustard seed
2 teaspoons cumin seed
1 teaspoon whole coriander, lightly crushed
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon Home-Smoked Chili Paste or cayenne pepper to taste
1 cup water
1/2 cup Fresh Yogurt, plus more for serving
1/2 cup Lemon Cheese for serving (optional)
Scrub the potatoes, and then cut half of them into half-moon slices and the rest into cubes. Peel and chop the onion, slice the mushrooms, and cut the spinach into strips; set aside.
Heat the oil in a wok or very large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the whole and ground spices, along with the chili paste; lower the heat to medium-low when the seeds begin to pop and dance. Add the potatoes and onions, stirring until they are coated in spices. Pour in the water, stir again, and then cover the pan. Let the vegetables simmer for 20 minutes, until they soften; stir occasionally, and add more water if the potatoes begin to stick to the pan.
When the potatoes are tender, add the mushrooms and stir. Add the spinach; stir until wilted. Stir in 1/2 cup of yogurt, adding more as needed until the curry is slightly saucy. Serve alongside additional yogurt and/or lemon cheese. Serves 4–6.
Tips & Tricks
- With whole spices bloomed right in the pan, this curry is incredibly easy. Be sure to prep your potatoes and onions before you start heating the spices to prevent them from burning or popping all over your stove. Mushrooms and spinach could be sliced while the potatoes cook.
- I typically make this dish in a wok and rarely feel the potatoes sticking, but a flatter pan may require more moisture while the potatoes cook or as you’re adding the final ingredients. If so, don’t hesitate to add more water in the first stage of cooking or to stir in the yogurt as soon as the potatoes soften.
- If you still have spinach and other veg to use up after making this curry and Warm Spinach–Cranberry Salad, check out some other recipes on the blog, such as frittatas, risottos, and soups.
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