What to Serve
Before The Bird
BY DANA JACOBI
FOR THE AMERICAN INSTITUTE FOR CANCER RESEARCH
Two things always give me a hard time when planning
a Thanksgiving menu: what to serve while everyone gathers before
sitting down for dinner, and which dishes make it possible to
spread out the work, so the cooks can catch their breath and
join the rest of the group for a while before serving the Thanksgiving
This year, I plan to serve
two dishes for people to munch on while everyone arrives and
starts chatting to catch up. Part of my strategy is to sneak
more vegetables into the day. One dish will be an old-fashioned
relish tray, presented in one of my grandmothers pressed
glass treasures. Shaped like a large leaf, it contains many compartments
that I will fill with rose-cut radishes, celery and carrot sticks,
cottage cheese and sweet corn relish the same selections
offered when dinner was at grandmothers.
The second hors doeuvres
will be miniature corn muffins, small enough to eat in one neat
bite. They will be topped with ricotta cheese and half a cherry
The relish tray is a healthy
alternative to dip and chips, since guests use the vegetables
to scoop up the cheese and relish. It will also be a work-spreader,
because a volunteer can prep the veggies the day before and bring
them in containers of cold water, and the cottage cheese and
corn relish come straight out of commercial containers.
The muffins need to be made
on the spot and served fresh. But the cheese, blended with chives
and shallots, tastes better when refrigerated overnight. Because
the muffins are small, a cup of the seasoned cheese will top
enough to feed a mob. So will one pint of cherry tomatoes, which
take five minutes to halve and lightly coat with oil so they
glow. I save the rounded tops cut off the muffins, let them dry
out, then crush them into golden crumbs that make a great corn
meal-crusted fish later in the weekend.
and Corn Muffins -
Makes 24 servings.
- 1/2 cup finely-ground yellow
cornmeal, preferably stone-ground
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 Tbsp. sugar
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/2 cup reduced-fat (2%) milk
- 1 large egg
- 1 Tbsp. melted butter
- 12 small cherry tomatoes,
- 1 tsp. extra virgin olive
- Salt and freshly ground black
- 1/3 cup reduced-fat ricotta
- 1 Tbsp. low-fat plain yogurt,
- 1 Tbsp. finely-chopped chives
(or 1/2 tbsp. dried)
- 2 tsp. very finely chopped
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
Coat two mini-muffin tins with cooking spray and set aside.
In a medium bowl, combine the
cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. In a small bowl,
beat the milk and egg together, then mix into the dry ingredients.
Add the butter and mix just until the batter is combined, leaving
any small lumps. Spoon the batter into the muffin cups, filling
Bake until golden on top and
lightly browned around the edge, about 12 minutes. Cool on a
wire rack for 3 minutes. Turn the muffins out onto the rack to
Meanwhile, combine the tomatoes
in a small bowl with the oil and 1/4 teaspoon salt until well
coated. Sprinkle with pepper and set aside. In another bowl,
combine the ricotta, yogurt, chives and shallots. Season the
filling to taste with salt and pepper.
Slice off the rounded top of
each muffin. Spread with 1 tsp. of the cheese mixture and top
with a cherry tomato half, cut side down.
Serve immediately. Save the
muffin tops to use in a stuffing.
Per serving: 39 calories, 1 g. total fat (less than
1 g. saturated fat), 6 g. carbohydrate, 1 g. protein, less than
1 g. dietary fiber, 75 mg. sodium.