EAST VILLAGE — Thanksgiving is the only holiday that comes with a pre-set menu. The host that excludes cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, gravy or turkey from their menu does so at their own peril.
But if you’ve got the urge to play palate Pilgrim and add a side dish that goes beyond the requisite classics, the city's greenmarkets should be your first stop.
DNAinfo New York teamed up with the folks from farm-to-table restaurant Back Forty in the East Village (with a second location in SoHo) to provide recipes for holiday side dishes that incorporate local greenmarket produce.
Chef Michael Laarhoven, who oversees the East Village location, appreciates the challenge of building a Thanksgiving menu with ingredients from the Union Square greenmarket, which he visits at least three times a week.
“It makes you a better cook," he said. "I’m coming here every day, looking around and saying what have we got today?”
For these Thanksgiving recipes, Laarhoven used currants, acorn squash, local mushrooms, goat milk and goat cheese from Saxelby Cheese, as well as other produce from Norwich Farms. If all the items listed don't happen to be at your local market, Laarhoven encourages improvisation.
"Buy something you didn’t think you were going to buy," he said. "Find something weird that you’ve never had before. You can always ask the person selling it to you. Usually they have some idea of how to prepare it. If not, just go by trial and error."
Laarhoven suggests four dishes to prepare this Thanksgiving: squash salad; grilled cauliflower; goat cheese farro with wild mushrooms; and a mezze platter.
The chef chose Mediterranean and Middle Eastern flavors to contrast with turkey and traditional fixings. Guests can enjoy the mezze platter, with notes of pomegranate and lemon, while you put the finishing touches on other dishes.
The acorn squash salad pairs the traditional Thanksgiving vegetable with fresh pears and a creamy goat milk vinaigrette while the grilled cauliflower is modernized with a currant caponata. Finally, the goat cheese farro provides a creamy entree for vegetarians, with Matsutake and Chanterelle mushrooms adding heft to the dish.
“I still want to feel like I’m having Thanksgiving dinner," Chef Laarhoven said. "I still want to have that kind of comfort food, but that can be expressed in a lot of different ways. You can give people what they want, if what they want isn’t necessarily just turkey.”
Our recipe cards with detailed instructions on how to prepare these locally sourced Thanksgiving dishes are available here. Happy cooking!
To learn more about the Thanksgiving meal at Back Forty, click here.