Since moving to Israel in my 20’s to join my people in our ancient land, I find that come November each year I respond with another instinct from deep inside. My American surges to the surface and I have insatiable cravings for that most American holiday.
Some years I would just do a nod to Thanksgiving, the ever so casual replacement of the Friday night Shabbat chicken with a turkey breast, the joy of finding a can of Libby’s Pumpkin to turn into a home-made pie shell and served for dessert to my befuddled children, not to mention their Sabra friends (who did not have weird foreign-tongued parents at home). I will even admit to one year of total lunacy making pumpkin pie from fresh dla’at (Israeli grown pumpkin style gourd). I was close to certifiable that year.
Then, when the appetites around the table could justify the bother, making a whole turkey, and as time passed and more American products hit the shelves in supermarket events called “Shavua Amerikai (America Week),” I could even add the can of cranberry sauce that made it officially Thanksgiving. Sometimes a kind relation would stick fresh cranberries in their suitcase that would stay frozen till the holiday preparations.
I find it odd that come November I feel that having left one diaspora I have entered another. I join ex-pats around the world who go to crazy efforts and expense to replicate on some level the ultimate holiday of their youth. From Paris to Tokyo to Jerusalem, we join together to sing “Over the River and Through the Woods (if our children let us).” Not quite the same without the Macy’s parade or football game droning away in the background, but such is life in the diaspora.
Now I feel I have graduated to a new level of Thanksgiving celebration, a willingness to adapt to the ingredients that are local and maybe even better in some ways. So, it is with pleasure that I am sharing my newly created recipe that combines the best of all my worlds, a fusion of my heart’s delights.
Butternut Squash Mélange
2 peeled butternut squash, seeds and fibers removed, and cubed. Ours are sometimes small, you may want to use one if they are really big.
3 or 4 shallots, peeled and quartered
1 leek, cleaned and sliced in half lengthwise, then in slices horizontally (white part)
olive oil (or other vegetable oil)
some maple syrup (or sila’an date honey if you prefer)
2 Tblsp. brown sugar (optional)
dried un-sugared cranberries (NOT Craisins), a handful, around 1/4 to 1/3 cup
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 tsp or more of quatre épices (a French spice mixture consisting of a powdered mix of cinnamon, black pepper, nutmeg and cloves)
1. Take a sauté pan, add olive oil to thinly coat the surface, then shallots on a medium heat till starting to get translucent, then leek till getting a bit brown, then the cubed squash.
2. Let squash brown a bit, stirring occasionally.
3. Add the brown sugar, spices, cook another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
4. Add the maple syrup, to give it a shine but not enough to get liquidy, and toss through the pan till glazed, stir and cook another 3 or 4 minutes,
5. Add the dried cranberries, adjust seasonings, and cook through till the squash is soft but not mushy. If it is going on a hot plate, may want to have it slightly underdone to account for reheating. Can serve hot or room temperature.
With much to be thankful for, sending all a Happy Thanksgiving and Happy Chanukah from Jerusalem. Enjoy!