Food for Thought – Thanksgiving

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Thanksgiving Time with an Ethnic Twist

by Linda Viertel – 

Every family and chef possesses favorite Thanksgiving recipes and traditions handed down from generation to generation. Special bowls, platters and serving pieces appear, dinners may start at 2 in the afternoon followed by a family walk, or begin at 7 p.m. preceded by drinks and special hors d’oeuvres in front of a roaring fire.

Given that America is a melting pot where nothing really melts, various ethnic customs have seeped into many Thanksgiving dinners. Scott Broccoli, owner of The Rare Bit, and proud of his Italian heritage, says that no Thanksgiving dinner is complete without a first course of pasta. His chef, Chef Evan Kalogiannis, would never make Thanksgiving dinner without serving his grandmother’s famous spanakopita.

While, our family would be bereft without the customary creamed spinach and herbed bread stuffing.

In celebration of America’s rich immigrant additions to our national culinary offerings, here are three recipes from Chef Kalogiannis.

Readers are welcome to submit their own Thanksgiving recipes – use the comments section at the end of this story. They will be posted in the Food For Thought column.

But, if you prefer to dine out on Thanksgiving, here is a partial list of local restaurants serving Thanksgiving dinner. Please call ahead for advanced reservations and pricing:

  • Bistro Z – DoubleTree by Hilton, Tarrytown: 914-524-6410
  • Cooper’s Mill – Westchester Marriott: 914-333-1216
  • Ruth’s Chris Steak House – Westchester Marriott: 914-631-3311
  • Equus Restaurant at the Castle Hotel & Spa: 914-631-3646
  • Toasted Barrel – Sheraton Tarrytown Hotel: 914-332-7900
  • Goosefeather – Tarrytown House Estate: 914-829-5454
  • Garden Grill – Hilton Garden Inn

Southern Baked Candied Yams

5 medium sized yams
1 cup butter melted
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. clove
1/4 tsp. ginger
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 Tblsp. vanilla extract

Peel and chop the yams into bite-sized pieces. Place in a baking dish. Melt butter and mix in sugars, spices and vanilla. Cover potatoes with the butter mixture, and gently stir to mix thoroughly. Bake covered with foil for 30 minutes at 350 degrees. After 30 minutes, uncover, baste with the syrup and recover. Cook for 15-20 more minutes, then let stand for 10 minutes before serving. Enjoy!


(Chef Evan Kalogiannis’ Greek grandmother’s recipe)

3 10 oz. frozen chopped spinach packages
1 medium onion, diced
16 ounces small curd cottage cheese
8-10 oz. crumbled goat or sheep’s milk
feta cheese
12 sheets phyllo dough
3 scrambled eggs
1 stick melted butter
Salt and pepper to taste

Mix defrosted spinach with onions and strain in colander squeezing as much liquid out as possible. Place spinach and diced onion in a bowl, and stir in eggs, cottage cheese, feta cheese, salt, pepper and a pinch of fresh or dried mint.

Place a phyllo sheet in a 12 X 14 pan, brush with butter and repeat six times with six sheets. Then evenly spread the spinach mixture over the phyllo and continue the process with six more phyllo dough layers on top. With a very sharp knife cut through the phyllo into your desired shape – squares or diamonds (once  cooked it’s impossible to cut properly).

Bake at 350 degrees in the center of the oven for 45 minutes or until golden brown.

Chestnut stuffing

2 pounds ground beef
1 medium onion, diced
1 cup uncooked rice
1-1/2 cups roasted
6 ounces pine nuts
(toasted until golden)

Cook rice as instructed and let stand. Then sauté ground beef with onions and strain off any excess fat.

Salt and pepper to taste. Combine cooked beef with cooked rice, pine nuts and chestnuts.

Stuff inside turkey and roast until fully cooked, basting turkey with juices during the process.

**Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cut a 1/2 inch crisscross on the flat side of each nut. Be sure to cut through the shell to prevent the nut from exploding. Place the nuts in a shallow baking pan and bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Allow to cool and peel off the shell.

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