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Maureen Abood suggests adding a little Lebanese flavor to your Thanksgiving feast

Nov 24, 2015

Maureen Abood with a copy of her cookbook, "Rose Water & Orange Blossoms"
Credit Rick Pluta, Michigan Public Radio Network

The Thanksgiving feast is at hand.

­If you’re a guest this year, you might be wondering what you can bring to the table.

East Lansing food writer Maureen Abood has some suggestions for one of her favorite holiday meals.

Abood tells us she loves Thanksgiving because “the focus is so much on food.”

“It’s a day when we throw some caution to the wind and we use good butter, and we aren’t too afraid to use a little bit of sugar, a little brown sugar, some corn syrup, it’s OK on Thanksgiving,” she says.

Sumac Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Abood tells us she likes roasting vegetables not only because it’s simple, but also because it gives them a nice browning on the outside while keeping the inside nice and soft.

She says there’s no need to peel the sweet potatoes, but go ahead and do so if you don’t like the skins.

“Just cut them into wedges. Toss them with a wonderful mix of olive oil, little bit of honey to bring out the sweetness, and some of my favorite spices. One of those is sumac, which is a Lebanese spice. It’s bright red and it has a real citrus-y sort of tang to it. That combined with the sweetness of the sweet potato and maybe a little hit of cayenne pepper, and it is a winner.

“Toss the wedges in this sauce and then put them on a hot sheet pan that you’ve heated as the oven is heating, real high, to about 500 [degrees.]”

Abood explains that preheating the sheet pan helps the potatoes start to develop that crisp, brown exterior right away.

She tells us that sumac can be found at most international grocery stores.

Lebanese Fattoush Salad

Abood recommends adding a crisp salad to the Thanksgiving table to break up the action.

She likens it to pairing wine and cheese, explaining that including this variety allows all the other flavors in the meal to really stand out “so that not every bite you’re taking is the sweet, sugary, salty, fatty bite.”

“The salad that I love is another Lebanese style salad, which is a fattoush salad. And also you can use sumac in this for the dressing, a little pomegranate molasses which has a sweetness to it, but the lemon in particular, a lemon vinaigrette on a crisp romaine salad with lots of other veggies in there – radish, cucumber, red onion, it’s just wonderful.

“And classically fattoush has toasted pita chips in it, which I love. It gives it crunch, texture. You can leave them out if you feel you’re already carbed out, but I like them in the salad. It’s a nice crunch with the lettuce.”

Chocolate Caramel Pecan Tart

According to her blog she’s planning on making at least four pies this Thanksgiving, but this dessert holds a special place in Abood’s heart.

“I have to have, absolutely have to have my chocolate caramel pecan tart on Thanksgiving.”

She tells us that this tart uses a “push-in crust,” so you won’t even need to break out the rolling pin.

Abood says the dough can be made in a food processor, and adding an egg and some almonds to the mix will give the dough more body and make it easier to work with.

“You take the dough and you just push it into the tart pan. And then you bake that off and you add this wonderfully chocolate-y sauce in the middle which has toasted pecans in it, and then it’s topped again with another dark chocolate sauce over the top.”

You can find these recipes and many more at maureenabood.com, where you can also catch up on her blog Rose Water & Orange Blossoms.