Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It's the only day of the year that all of us--regardless of our religious beliefs or cultural backgrounds--join family and friends at the dinner table to enjoy an elaborate homemade meal and express gratitude for the bounty of food on our table.
I’ve been completely obsessed with food and cooking for many years now, and I always look forward to spending every spare minute brainstorming menu themes, researching recipe ideas, and then spending days in the kitchen making stocks, breads, and pie crusts from scratch.
Over the past 12 years, I’ve been lucky enough to host Thanksgiving dinner most of the time. It all began with a potluck “friendsgiving” where about 15 friends piled into my Brooklyn living room, happily balancing overfilled plates on our laps as we snagged seats on couches, chairs, and the floor.
But my favorite Thanksgiving memory is from three years ago when I first hosted my parents at my house as an adult. It felt like such a meaningful event, a real milestone of adulthood. Several of my friends and their parents were able to join us as well, and we ended up with a total of 12 people crowded around a long table that took up most of the living room in our cozy Portland home.
I spend a great deal of time planning out my holiday menus, but I know I put extra thought and care into the dishes I would serve at this meal. One dish I’ll never forget from the meal is a surprising one: the salad.
I'm a devoted lover of vegetables and healthy food, but typically look at salads as a waste of space on my Thanksgiving table. Why bother with something so virtuous when buttery mashed potatoes and gravy abound? However, when I came across the recipe for this flavorful salad, I knew it would make an elegant--and delicious--addition to my Italian-inspired menu that year.
Dandelion and Roasted Carrot Salad with Black Olives and Ricotta Salata
Very lightly adapated from Suzannne Goin
1 lb carrots, ideally small ones
3/4 cup olive oil
2 tsp thyme leaves
1 tsp ground cumin
3 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp lemon juice, plus more as needed
1/4 pound ricotta salata (or feta cheese)
3 oz oil-cured black olives, pitted and thinly sliced
1/4 cup thinly sliced shallots
3 oz dandelion greens
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and place a heavy baking sheet in the oven.
Clean the carrots and cut in half lengthwise, or quarter them if they are very thick. Toss the carrots with 1/4 cup olive oil, the thyme, 1/2 tsp salt, and some freshly ground pepper.
Place the carrots on the preheated baking sheet and roast them for about 20 minutes, until they are tender and lightly caramelized. Set aside.
Meanwhile, make the cumin vinaigrette. Combine the cumin, 1/4 tsp salt, the red wine vinegar, and lemon juice. Whisk in the remaining 1/2 cup olive oil. Taste for balance and seasoning.
Place the ricotta salata flat side down on a cutting board. Using a chef's knife, cut thin slices of the cheese.
In a large bowl, toss the carrots, olives, and shallots with most of the dressing to coat well. Add the dandelion, season with salt and pepper, and gently toss to coat the greens. Taste for balance and seasoning.
Arrange the salad on your serving platter and gently tuck the cheese into the leaves. Spoon a little more dressing over and around the salad and serve.