Ghostly Gatherings: A Thanksgiving in Black and Bright

The colors of nature really pop on a field of black for this semi-casual Thanksgiving for the living — and beyond.

When work schedules are constantly changing, it can be difficult to host (or even properly RSVP to a friend’s) Thanksgiving dinner. And, since I’m not one to be easily discouraged, I planned our version of the perfect Thanksgiving, for just us two (living) humans — no matter what time we got to enjoy it.

It’s pretty much our tradition to start each Thanksgiving morning with raspberry-pecan baked brie, fruit, and mimosas, while the parade plays in the background, and I start again, in the kitchen, right where I left off the night before.

Even though we weren’t sure if work would get in the way, it all turned out nicely. We got to have our favorite foods, eat at the time that fit our schedule, and set a table for two that reflected our personal style.

I’ve always loved the way the vibrant colors of nature really pop against dark hues, like a single, white bird against a stormy sky, or a white, misty specter in a midnight grave yard. All of the contrast doesn’t stop there, either. From crystal and champagne to casserole dishes and homemade cranberry sauce, it all nestled nicely among the abundantly haphazard accumulation of fall flora, peppered with the almost seance-like glow of simple, white votives on the backdrop of a pitch-black tablecloth. For me, the fun of setting a table isn’t only about color and contrast; it’s also about shape, texture, and light.

Since I’m a pescatarian, our small feast for two included roasted turkey breast and ham for him, and baked salmon for me. Our stuffing situation included acorn squash, filled with homemade, vegetarian, sourdough stuffing made with homemade broth, plenty of herbs and spices, apples, dried cranberries, and pecans, which is also free of garlic and onions. Everything is made without onions or garlic because my husband is a vampire has a pretty strong allergy to the stuff.

We kept it festive with Ernest Hemingway’s favorite cocktail, champagne and absinthe, called “Death in the Afternoon”, along side warm apple cider. We ventured into healthier realms with collard greens (mine were vegetarian), fresh green beans, and a green salad topped with a fan of sliced pears, dried cranberries, pecans, fennel fronds, and Gorgonzola, with a homemade raspberry vinaigrette.

We don’t make mashed potatoes often. But, when we do, we make large, overflowing tureens of buttermilk-Parmesan-rosemary mashed potatoes. And, let me tell you, they are worth the year-long wait!

Wild-caught Atlantic salmon, seasoned liberally with Herbs De Provence and citrus zest has to be the easiest and yummiest non-conventional Thanksgiving main dish I’ve ever made. It goes so well with creamy mashed potatoes, and fresh green beans, dressed in fruity extra virgin olive oil and coarse sea salt.

Traditional pumpkin and apple pie shape-shifted into a new form in custardy, cupcakes that were part souffle, with “crust” bottom layers of pecan-nutmeg (for the pumpkin) and walnut-ginger (for the apple), topped with homemade vanilla-maple whipped cream, and a tart, fresh cranberry. A mug of warm apple cider beckoned for a touch of bourbon, which was pure alchemy, when combined with all of the spices, vanilla, and maple.

It’s so satisfying to set a table for two, that’s part feast, part seance, with plenty of room for ghostly guests and to create a meal worthy of diners from other dimensions, who are eternally welcome to pass through at any hour.