And so begins the month of my favorite holiday. I hate that most stores — with the exception of cooking gadget ones — have simply fast-forwarded to commercializing the meaning out of Christmas. So, each November, we toss out the jack-o-lantern and celebrate the season of Gratitude.
Now, looking at things historically, I'm going to have to say the pilgrims that followed after were tremendously ungrateful. I would not blame Native Americans for perhaps regretting helping the first batch survive long enough to send back to Europe for more recruits. There is nothing like an ungrateful guest to mess up your spirit of generosity and love of your fellow man.
This is why Native Americans are always heroes in my version of the Thanksgiving story and why I celebrate more their spirit of generosity in the holiday than the "Thanksgiving" of white folks having arrived to take over. But I digress.
This year, my gratitude is for the other members of my extended family offering up their homes and time to host Thanksgiving. Wow, we've had the joy of making this feast for six years now and I love the cooking and preparations so much. It was hard to give in on this. But, I am grateful.
Post-surgery, I am on limited physical activity for a few weeks. I am also running about half speed. I generally tackle way more than any sane person would attempt (with varying success), and I am way beyond guilty of over-committing myself.
So, this year, I am trying something new. Gratitude. Rest. The joy of letting others do for me. But, unlike the generations of following pilgrims, I plan on being an excellent guest.
I also plan on taking some sides and a pie, at least. This one is great because you can, say, make it ahead of having surgery and stash it in the freezer. Then, while you are still tired, you just remember to take it out of the freezer right before your afternoon nap, just a couple days before the holiday. One side dish done. No battling desperate grocery shoppers over that last bag of fresh cranberries, either. Because, it's Thanksgiving, people, not Black Wednesday in the produce aisle.
Ginger Cranberry-Pear Compote
6 pears, peeled, cored and diced
12 oz. bag of fresh cranberries, rinsed
1 cup dry red wine
1 vanilla bean, halved and seeded (use the empty bean to mix with sugar for vanilla sugar)
1 lemon zest plus juice
1/8 tsp. cloves
1/4 tsp. ground white cardamom
3 Tbs. candied ginger, chopped
1 cup honey
1/2 tsp. salt
Once the pears are diced, sprinkle the lemon juice over them and set aside. The lemon juice keeps them from going brown while you tend to the cranberries.
Add the honey, cranberries and red wine to a pot and heat to a gentle simmer. The cranberries will begin to pop and become thick and syrupy. This is fun to watch. About ten to fifteen minutes of popping, most of the berries should have burst, then add the vanilla bean, spices and salt. Simmer until thick.
Now, if you like a very thick cranberry sauce, and this is too liquid for you, just take 1/2 tsp. of organic corn starch and dissolve in a teaspoon of water. Whisk in, simmer, and this should thicken the works perfectly.
Add the pears and simmer just 2-3 minutes. You don't want the pears to go to mush especially if you freeze this ahead. Taste and adjust the sweetness (add a bit of honey if needed), and the salt. A bit of salt helps the flavor pop, like cranberries. Garnish with the lemon zest if serving now. Or, blend in and then let the mixture cool. Freeze. Thaw a couple days before Thanksgiving, warming to room (or just a bit warmer) temperature for serving.