Spicing Up Thanksgiving
Get your traditional meal off to a zesty start with this original recipe


41029390_mGuest blog by Chef Jen Wanous

Over the years we have come up with new Thanksgiving recipes that make for a delicious compromise.

It’s a particular combination of flavors and textures that conjure up the Turkey Day tradition in my mind. The buttery texture of the stuffing, the creamy gravy, , the tangy cranberries, and  the turkey; each plays apart to secure tradition to this holiday with taste.

After some experimentation, one Thanksgiving dish finally wowed us and satisfied our cravings for traditional flavor. The key was to kick up the level of sophistication in preparation while maintaining robust fall flavors.

The recipe below calls for cubing, caramelizing, frying, toasting and finally tossing. It’s not the simplest recipe, but the results are divine. Any dinner guest of yours  will appreciate the efforts you make and to top it off, this recipe is food allergy-friendly, so you can proudly serve this to your lactose- and gluten-free guests.

Serve this full-bodied salad first to impress the table, then move on to the more traditional, mashed potatoes and marshmallow yams elements.

Butternut Squash Crouton Salad10909576_m

Serves 6

Preparation time: about one hour. Most elements can be prepared the day before and stored in the fridge. You’ll want to have the warm roasted squash made on the day of (but you can cube the squash the day before). 


1 large or two small butternut squash

Kosher salt, to taste

7 tablespoons olive oil, divided

2 medium yellow onions, sliced thin

½ cup canola oil (used for frying)

12 sage leaves

½ cup hazelnuts

5 ounces baby arugula (one small box)

Zest and juice of one lemon


  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Peel the butternut squash and cut into ½ inch cubes. Put the squash on a rimmed baking sheet, drizzle with about two tablespoons of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt. Make sure the cubes have enough space and are not touching. If needed, use a second baking sheet. Bake for a total of 30 minutes, flipping the cubes halfway after 15 minutes.
  2. While the squash is in the oven, start the onions. Use the heaviest skillet you have, preferably cast iron, and heat over medium heat. Add about 4 tablespoons of olive oil,  sliced onions and some salt. Stir every few minutes or so for at least 20 minutes until the onions become a deep, rich brown color. You want to avoid any burning. Go longer if they haven’t reached a deep brown. Set aside.
  3. In a medium skillet, fry the sage by adding to the pan about ½ an inch of a light, high heat oil like canola. Heat over high heat until the oil is shimmering, just before it starts to smoke. Make sure the sage leaves are super dry. Add them in one by one, flipping with tongs and removing once they start to brown slightly, about 2 minutes. Remove onto a paper towel lined plate. Set aside.
  4. To toast the hazelnuts, preheat the oven to 250 degrees. On a rimmed baking sheet, add the hazelnuts and bake for about 15 minutes, checking every five minutes and jiggle the tray a little. You have to be careful because they will burn easily. When they are done, put all the hazelnuts on a clean kitchen towel, fold half of the towel over and rub vigorously to remove as much of the hazelnut skins as possible. Chop the hazelnuts, set aside.
  5. Right before you’re ready to serve the salad, in a large bowl put in the arugula and drizzle with about two tablespoons of olive oil and the juice of one lemon. Toss well with your hands.
  6. Now you’re ready to assemble the salads. On each plate, first place a small handful of arugula, then a large spoonful of squash cubes, a scattering of the onions, two sage leaves (crumbled on top is fine too), a generous pinch of hazelnuts and finally a dash of lemon zest on top.


Spice Up Your Thanksgiving Table With New Side Dishes – Experience.USAToday.com
Healthy Living – AARP.org