For me, Thanksgiving, though it is a secular holiday, has Jewish overtones — and not just because I look forward to turning my leftovers of turkey-and-all-the-trimmings into Friday night dinner for Shabbat.
While the American history that the holiday commemorates is problematic, Thanksgiving is a day for gratitude that we have reached this moment in time. It very much reminds me of the Shehecheyanu prayer (Praised are You, spirit of the universe, who keeps us alive, sustains us and brings us to this moment). Also, a ritual feast with symbolic or traditional foods resonates with me, since so much of Judaism revolves around similar home-based, food-centric celebrations.
Through my involvement in Hadassah, with its advocacy programs for health equity here in the US and its opportunities for learning Jewish traditions and values, I have come to see clearly how my identities as an American and a Jew strengthen not only me but my nation too.
I give my traditional American leftovers a Jewish twist for Shabbat. In this recipe from my cookbook 52 Shabbats: Friday Night Dinners Inspired by a Global Jewish Kitchen, I put a very Middle Eastern spin on a cross between shepherd’s or cottage pie and a casserole.
Having a Shabbat dinner of turkey with tahini sauce in a sweet potato crust, made from Thanksgiving leftovers, is worth preparing extra sweet potatoes for the holiday. If you are making this dish without Thanksgiving Day leftovers, see my recipe note below for prepping the sweet potato and substitute any cooked chicken for the turkey. I like the dish with leftover cranberry sauce on the side.
Turkey with Tahini Sauce in a Sweet Potato Crust
Vegetable oil for the baking pan
1-1/2 cups peeled, baked (or boiled) and mashed sweet potato
3 Tbsp. olive oil, divided, plus more for the baking pan
2 cups chopped onion
2 tbs. minced garlic
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. plus 1/8 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
4 cups shredded cooked turkey, at room temperature
1/4 cup pomegranate molasses, divided
Tahini sauce (see below)
3 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Grease an 8-by-8-inch baking pan. Spread the sweet potato evenly over the bottom of the baking pan and set aside.
In a large skillet, heat 2 Tbsp. of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and sauté, stirring occasionally, until softened, 7 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté, stirring occasionally, until golden, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the salt, oregano, 1/2 tsp. of paprika, the cumin, cinnamon and cloves and sauté for 1 minute. Add the turkey, 1 Tbsp. of olive oil and 3 tbsp. of pomegranate molasses and stir until the ingredients are well distributed.
Layer the turkey mixture evenly over the sweet potato. Spoon the tahini sauce over the top to cover and sprinkle with the remaining 1/8 tsp. of paprika.
Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the tahini is slightly browned and the ingredients are heated through.
Serve hot, warm or at room temperature. Just before serving, drizzle with the remaining 1 Tbsp. of pomegranate molasses and sprinkle with the parsley.
Note: If you need to cook the sweet potato, heat the oven to 375°F. Scrub one large (12 oz.) potato well, prick it all over with a fork and place it on a baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes and start checking for doneness at 10-minute intervals, until a fork goes through it without any resistance. Let sit until cool enough to handle, remove the peel and mash. Can be made up to three days in advance and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Return to room temperature before using.
Tahini Sauce for Turkey with Tahini Sauce in a Sweet Potato Crust
1 tsp. minced garlic
1-1/2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice, plus more if desired
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp. very cold water, plus more if desired
3/4 cup tahini
1/4 tsp. salt, optional
In a medium bowl, stir together the garlic, lemon juice and water. Stir in the tahini paste with a fork. The mixture may thicken and seize, but keep stirring, until smooth and thick. Add cold water 1 tsp. at a time until the consistency of a thick pasta sauce. Taste and add salt and/or lemon juice, if desired. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to three days.