thanksgiving notes + no-cook cranberry salsa

Let the Thanksgiving countdown begin. Can you believe I still haven't ordered my turkey? I kid you not. Thankfully my local butcher will take orders through this weekend. I think the delay has been because the turkey really plays second fiddle for me. I'm all about the sides, and channel all my energies in that direction. Here are some really brief highlights from my "To Do" list for the coming days in hopes of a peaceful and manageable Thanksgiving cooking experience.

Saturday & Sunday

  • order the darn turkey—I imagine you're all light years ahead of me on this one.
  • buy  bread for the stuffing. Now I don't want to judge, but making your own bread cubes is really easy, so stop your moaning. Depending on how humid your house is, they'll need a good 2 to 3 days to fully dry out and get stale. Make sure they're cut in an equal size and shape so they cook evenly.
  • roast pumpkins for pie filling. Canned is actually a very acceptable substitute but since I don't hunt for the turkey, this fulfills my primal needs. Oh, and it's really makes the house smell nice.
  • Greenmarket shop for apples, any root veggies I need, sweet potatoes and yukons.


  • Try to remember to buy bread I may have forgotten this past weekend. I'm not perfect, and never pretend to be. Shopping lists are my arch nemesis since I always forget them at home.
  • Make the cranberry relish (recipe is below).


  • Try to beat the crowds at the local Italian shop. It wouldn't be an occasion without an antipasto platter, complete with olives, fresh mozzarella, prosciutto and cacciatorini.
  • Make pie crusts and store, tightly wrapped in fridge, for Thursday morning. I like really fresh baked pies, so they go into the oven before the turkey.


  • Decor. I pride myself in making beautiful centerpieces a la Martha Stewart. This started out of thrift but I enjoy it so much, it's become a tradition. It's sure to have gourds, tiny pumpkins, leaves collected from our backyard, pomegranates, cranberries and daisies. That reminds me, need to add floral green foam to the weekend list that I'll inevitable forget at home.
  • Prep the stuffing. This always taste best once it's had time for the flavors to meld in the fridge overnight.


  • Walk to local bakery for cheese bread, prosciutto bread and Italian bread. The first two are for the antipasto—the latter is in case I get too crazed to make biscuits. It's always important to have a backup plan.
  • Pray the baby is in a good mood and likes to watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. The Mr. will likely take her older sister to his friend's office overlooking the parade route.
  • Thinking about my mom, and missing her terribly. As crazy as she drives me sometimes, my Thanksgiving table is not complete without her there. She's caring for my disabled aunt and the schlep is to much for her to get to my house. Then again, maybe a few comments or tweets of encouragement (oh, something like "Maria, you can't miss Thanksgiving with @jenniferperillo!" might work, eh? She does read my blog and twitter feed afterall, and you can't blame a girl for trying.)

No-Cook Cranberry Salsa

makes about one quart

I'd never thought about cranberry salsa as a compliment to my Thanksgiving menu until putting together the November issue of Working Mother magazine. One of the recipes in our featured cookbook, How to Cook a Turkey and All the Other Trimmings (Tauton Press 2007), was eye-opening for two main reasons: 1) uncooked cranberries when properly balanced with more than just a ton of sugar are bright in flavor and fun in texture and 2) it gains big points for not monopolizing an already busy stove top. I 86'd the pears to let the cranberries be the star and nixed the chilies too to keep it kid friendly. And what would salsa be without a splash of fresh lime juice? The real secret here, though, is agave nectar. Unlike honey which is more pungent tasting, agave nectar adds a creamy sweetness to temper the tart nature of cranberries. This dish only gets better with time, so plan on making it at least two days in advance.

1 onion, peeled and quartered

1 bag cranberries, picked over and rinsed

freshly squeezed juice of 1 orange

freshly squeezed juice of 1 lime

1/4 cup agave nectar

1 tablespoon chopped cilantro

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Add the onions and cranberries to the workbowl of a food processor. Pulse until coarsely chopped. Combine with remaining ingredients in a large bowl and stir until well mixed. Store in a sealed container in the refrigerator. Best served two days later, so this requires advance planning but the pay-off is a delicious no-cook condiment.


  • Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction

    It must be so nice living in NYC for Thanksgiving… I wish I could go to all of the markets/shops like you can. I plan on hitting up a farmers market on Tuesday, though (if I don’t have to work).
    I’m sure your Thanksgiving dinner will be wonderful… I haven’t really done much planning yet, so I appreciated seeing your checklist! Loving the cranberry salsa, too!

  • Dani

    I live in Arizona, so I love salsa as long as it has lime juice and cilantro. This sounds really good. (I might add a little orange zest, do you think that would be okay?)
    Maria, if there is any way that you can get to Jennie’s for Thanksgiving, please try. My mother is gone now and I really miss her at Thanksgiving and Christmas. Plus, you know you want to see your granddaughters!

  • Lindsey

    I made the salsa and served with chips and crackers at a party last night. Everyone kept complimenting how good it was! I love the fresh taste. I’m wondering a healthier way to serve it though that could replace the chips and crackers? Any suggestions?