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Thanksgiving with a Blueberry Twist

Blueberries

Thanksgiving with a blueberry twist? I’m all in! As a lover of blueberries even before they became known as an antioxidant-packed super food that can aid your body in fighting off everything from heart disease to memory loss to the common cold, I remember grudgingly traipsing through the bramble picking wild blueberries with my brothers and sisters during the sweltering heat and humidity of a southern summer. But the reward was oh so sweet – summer sweetness directly from bush to mouth and a hard-earned bucketful of plump blue orbs of nature’s candy!

I’m also one who doesn’t feel as if Thanksgiving fare should happen only once a year. With all the thought, planning, and recipe searching that goes on at this time of year, I can’t be the only person who likes to buy at least one additional turkey to freeze and roast for another comfort food feast during the darkest days of winter. So imagine my excitement when an invitation popped up in my inbox for a pre-Thanksgiving feast hosted by Erika Kerekes of In Erika’s Kitchen – especially with the intriguing name of A Very Blueberry Thanksgiving!

Blueberry Thanksgiving

Patti Londre, Svetlana Watkins, and Louise Mellor assisting lead chef Erika Kerekes

Thanks so much to the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council for sponsoring this event and opening our eyes to more lovely ways to include these #LittleBlueDynamos at the family table. It also takes a dynamo team to pull off dinner for 20+ guests and Erika and Svetlana Watkins deserve high praise for making it happen.

Thanksgiving tabletop

Here’s a peak at the delectable dishes on the Blueberry Thanksgiving menu:

Mashed Potato Pops with Blueberry Not Ketchup

Pre-feast nibbles included Blueberry mulled cider, Mashed Potato Pops with Blueberry Not Ketchup (five-star favorite!) and Pumpkin Soup Shooters with dried Blueberry Dust.

For our Thanksgiving meal Erika’s beautiful granite counter was dazzling with an array of blueberry accented savory dishes:

Blueberry Thanksgiving recipes

Roast turkey breast with blueberry green apple salsa

Pulled turkey sliders with blueberry chutney

Chili-rubbed sweet potatoes with dried blueberries

Brussels sprouts with blueberry balsamic glaze

Blueberry “stuffin’ muffins”

and for dessert: a scrumptious

Pumpkin bread trifle with blueberry sauce

Butternut Squash Salad with Blueberry Balsamic Vinaigrette

Butternut squash salad with pepitas, butter lettuce and blueberry vinaigrette

Besides those crispy, luscious  Mashed Potato Pops, my other five-star favorite was the Butternut Squash Salad with Blueberry Vinaigrette which I’m happy to be able to share with you here. And, I can’t forget the surprising play of pumpkin and blueberries in that scrumptious trifle – which, if you’re nice, I’ll share with you soon :)

Pumpkin Bread Trifle with Blueberry Sauce, pumpkin bread

Pulled Turkey Sliders with blueberry chutney

These Pulled Turkey Sliders with Blueberry Chutney are perfect for Thanksgiving football fans!

Butternut Squash Salad with Blueberry Balsamic Vinaigrette

8-10 as a first course

Butternut Squash Salad with Blueberry Balsamic Vinaigrette

Recipe by Erika Kerekes for the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council

Ingredients

  • ● 1 cup dried blueberries
  • ● 1 cup balsamic vinegar
  • ● 1 cup plus 1 Tablespoon olive oil, divided
  • ● ¾ teaspoon salt, divided
  • ● ½ large butternut squash
  • ● 1 large red onion
  • ● 1 large head green leaf lettuce, washed and torn into pieces
  • ● 1 cup fresh blueberries
  • ● ½ cup roasted pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
  • ● freshly ground pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. First, make the blueberry balsamic vinaigrette. (This step can be done several days ahead. Put the dried blueberries and balsamic vinegar into a small saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil, turn down the heat, and simmer about 30 minutes, until the vinegar is reduced by about a third and the blueberries are plump and rehydrated. Let the mixture cool a bit, then put it in a blender with 1 cup of olive oil and ½ teaspoon salt. Blend until very smooth. If working ahead, store in the refrigerator until you begin the rest of the steps below.
  2. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  3. Peel the butternut squash with a vegetable peeler and cut the flesh into 1-inch chunks. Peel the onion and cut it into wedges. Put the vegetables on a baking sheet and drizzle with the remaining 1 Tablespoon olive oil and ¼ teaspoon salt.
  4. Roast in the oven until brown around the edges and very tender, 30-45 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool to just warm.
  5. Make a bed of lettuce in a serving bowl or on a large serving platter. Mound the squash and onions in the middle. Sprinkle the blueberries and pumpkin seeds on top. Drizzle the entire salad generously with the blueberry balsamic vinaigrette in a zig-zag pattern. Serve immediately.
http://shescookin.com/2013/11/12/thanksgiving-with-a-blueberry-twist/

The U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council tells us that we can look forward to blueberries throughout the winter months because Chile, one of the top 10 producers of fruit in the world, has expanded their blueberry production to 35,000 acres. This big push is a direct result of the U.S. demand for blueberries; because we’re just discovering what Native Americans have known for thousands of years: that blueberries are a super food and that they have special healing powers – now called antioxidants.

“The blueberry may be small, but it’s no youngster. Botanists estimate blueberries burst onto the scene more than 13,000 years ago!

Blueberries are indigenous to North America and have deep roots in our country’s history. When Europeans arrived on the continent, the Native Americans were already enjoying blueberries year-round. They dried blueberries in the sun and added them whole to soups, stews and meat, or crushed them into a powder rubbed into meat as a preservative. According to legend, Native Americans gave blueberries to the pilgrims to help them make it through their first winter.

The Native Americans were just as energized by blueberries as people are today, and developed folklore around the dynamic little blue fruit. Tribal elders recounted how the Great Spirit sent “star berries” to ease the children’s hunger during a famine. They called blueberries “star berries” because the blossom end of each berry – the calyx – forms a perfect five-pointed star.” {Source: U.S. Blueberry Council}

Wines of Rioja

The wine pairings for our Very Blueberry Thanksgiving were spot-on and opened our palate to the wonderful wines of Spain, specifically those of Rioja (ree-OH-ha). The wine region of Rioja is located along the Ero River in north central Spain and bears the official designation of  DOC a.Rioja. Thanks go to Nina of @RiojaWine for the perfect pairings; the balanced acidity of the Rosado complemented the Butternut Squash salad beautifully, the Tempranillo with its red fruit and spicy black pepper notes and the soft tannins of the Crianza played well with the Turkey Sliders and Brussels Sprouts while the hints of oak and spiciness of the Garnacha with the Roast Turkey was divine. I’m looking forward to expanding my vino vision beyond California and French wines to include the Spanish varietals of Rioja.

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11 Responses to “Thanksgiving with a Blueberry Twist”

  1. In Erika's Kitchen
    November 12 at 2:47 pm #

    What a beautiful report! I’m so glad you were able to come to this. I had a blast putting together the menu…and I think a few of these dishes are going to be regulars on our Thanksgiving table from now on!

    • Priscilla
      November 12 at 3:07 pm #

      Erika – I was delighted to savor a pre-Thanksgiving dinner full of blueberry goodness. Thanks for all your hard work and sharing your creative recipes with us!

  2. shockinglydelicious
    November 12 at 4:59 pm #

    I was so sorry to miss this, and now that I see all the goodness, even more so! That salad looks fantastic!

    • Priscilla
      November 13 at 9:07 am #

      We missed you, Dorothy!

  3. Kim Kelly - Liv Life (@LivLifeToo)
    November 13 at 8:48 am #

    My husband has been a blueberry fan since birth, but I didn’t really have them in my life until I met him. At first I didn’t love them, but now we can’t get enough. I LOVE the idea of incorporating them into our Thanksgiving meal! Which, I also agree shouldn’t be just once a year!

    • Priscilla
      November 13 at 9:10 am #

      Welcome to blueberry heaven, Kim :) There’s always a fresh green salad at our Thanksgiving table and this year it’s going to feature blueberries and squash!

  4. Natalie
    November 14 at 10:02 am #

    Man! I definitely am sorry I missed out on this extravagant blueberry event! The only thing I needed to complete my own Thanksgiving menu this year was a salad. This will definitely make it to the table!!! Thank you so much for sharing the details of this dinner (and salad)! Cheers!

    • Priscilla
      November 14 at 11:04 am #

      Awww, wish you had come, Natalie! We need to make a plan to get together. Enjoy the salad and Happy Thanksgiving to you :)

  5. RavieNomNoms
    November 14 at 12:02 pm #

    Aamazing!

  6. Laura (Tutti Dolci)
    November 17 at 1:38 pm #

    What a fun event and such creative dishes. I love blueberries but have never thought of incorporating them at Thanksgiving – great idea!

  7. Natalie
    November 29 at 5:13 pm #

    We had this salad for Thanksgiving…. Pairs well with Brouwerij West Saison Ale Brewed with Blackberries! Soooo good, and a welcome change from all the heavy, carby foods!

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