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Joni Woolf: A side dish, salads

Recently Thanksgiving has been the topic of several food columns, focusing on all those foods that memories are made of: Turkey, dressing and desserts. These are the foods that remind us of home, of someone who prepared our favorite foods, who fed us until we were sated, and who gave us long afternoons resting or napping until it was time for the turkey sandwich.
This week we are featuring some delectable vegetable sides that would enhance the offerings of any Thanksgiving meal — and make us feel good about what we eat. The first is a recipe for Brussels sprouts, which I do not like. Or did not like until my granddaughter, Lane Wooten, invented this recipe. If this food is not your favorite, try this recipe; it may change your mind.

Brussels Sprouts: Glorified, simplified
1 lb. fresh Brussels sprouts, quartered
6 pieces bacon, cooked, chopped into 1-inch pieces (vegetarians may omit this)
1/2 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon Greek seasoning
1 teaspoon garlic powder
Juice of 1/2 large lemon — or 1 tablespoon
salt, pepper to taste
1/2 cup fresh, grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Toss all ingredients together, except the Parmesan cheese. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes, stirring after 10 minutes. When done, sprinkle Parmesan cheese on top, turn off oven and return mixture to oven for five minutes. Serve hot. Easy. Delicious.

A salad recipe I’ve kept for 21 years sounds as fresh as yesterday. Incredibly easy, it is healthy and tasty, and can be prepared in 10 minutes.

Winter Salad
1/2 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons lemon juice
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon-style mustard
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
8 cups greens, such as spinach leaves, red leaf lettuce, purple salad savoy, torn radicchio, Belgian endive and watercress
1 medium red onion, sliced
2 crisp apples, such as Fuji, Honeycrisp or Braeburn, thinly sliced
Toasted pecan halves
Crumbled blue cheese
Dried cranberries or pomegranate seeds
In a screw-top jar, combine oil, lemon juice, vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper. Cover and shake well. Chill until serving time. Combine greens in large salad bowl and add dressing immediately before serving.

For the past six or seven years, I have prepared a wild rice salad that is popular with many of our guests. The recipe was given to me by my former business partner, Lynn Cass, who brought it one year when she and her husband, Mike, came from Macon for Thanksgiving. It has become as much a staple as dressing, and something we serve only once a year.

Wild Rice Salad
4 cups cooked wild rice (the real thing, no substitutes)
4 cups cooked white rice
1 cup toasted pecan halves, broken into large pieces (or walnuts)
1 cup dried cranberries or cherries, soaked in hot water 10 minutes and drained
1 cup minced scallions
1/2 cup diced celery or fennel
1 red bell pepper, cut into small dice
1/3 cup minced parsley
1/2 cup snipped fresh chives, dill or tarragon or a combination
For the dressing:
4 tablespoons rice vinegar or white wine vinegar
4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 large garlic clove, mashed and minced to a paste
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/3 to 1/2 cup canola oil or vegetable oil, or to taste
2-3 tablespoons Asian sesame oil, or to taste (I go easy on this; flavor is good, but strong)
In a large bowl, combine the rices, pecans, cranberries, scallions, celery or fennel, red bell pepper, parsley and chives. This salad may be made one day in advance. Cover and chill until ready to serve.
Make the dressing: In a bowl, whisk together the vinegar, lemon juice, garlic and salt and pepper to taste. Add the oils in a stream, whisking continuously, until the ingredients are well mixed. Just before serving pour the dressing over the salad and toss well to combine. Makes 8 to 10 generous servings. I double the recipe and it serves all who are willing to try something a little different.

Thanksgiving is almost here. Go to the Internet, or your local library, and research the long history of Thanksgiving in this country. Then pause, remembering why it was established as a national holiday. If we are given a day off, from everyday toil and tumult, perhaps it is right and proper and honest that we use the holiday as it was intended: To give thanks for mercies and blessings undeserved. Happy Thanksgiving.

Joni Woolf, a writer and editor, now lives in Schley County, having moved from her home in Macon several years ago. Contact her at indigojoni@windstream.net