Thanksgiving Salad Days

thanksgiving2There is no right way to celebrate Thanksgiving. Growing up, we had everyone – grandparents, parents, children – all around one or two tables with bottles of Champagne, an overcooked turkey (not when my mother and father were cooking), stuffing, gravy, and my grandmother’s grapefruit and avocado salad.

As our family changed – kids moved, grandparents died, marriages dissolved – so has the celebration. My brothers and sister and their families celebrate in their respective home states. My parents bought a second home on the Gulf Coast of Florida, where the weather is warmer and the beaches are open all year.

That became a sanctuary for Thanksgiving six years ago when liver disease nearly took my life. I was in the hospital until just before Thanksgiving (and again after Thanksgiving, and again in the week leading up to Christmas). I made a small Thanksgiving dinner at home for my then-husband and I  – our daughter had gone south with my parents. I flew down the day after and reveled in the sun, sand, and club soda.

Since then, my daughter and I have been in Florida for five of the past six years. That one year in Erie was because my job demanded being at a desk the day after Thanksgiving. We enjoyed celebrating with friends, but there’s nothing like a walk on the beach without a hat, gloves, and down jacket after the meal.

Other friends have had to change their celebration as family members have aged into nursing homes, children have moved away, or divorces dictate times with children. Then you have to improvise. Last week I celebrated Thanksgiving a week early because circumstances allowed this blended family to be together. A death brought them together, but it allowed them to sit down at a family heirloom dining table. We had vegetarians, picky eaters, and omnivores. The menu reflected this – standing rib of beef along with a butternut and spinach lasagna. And everyone united around a flourless chocolate cake with caramel sauce.

Typically, my contribution to Thanksgiving dinners is a salad since the hosts take care of the main dishes. With pears and chestnuts in season now, it seemed an ideal combination. My pears, a variety called Concorde that are delicious, made the dish quite sweet. I haven’t been able to find them this week, so I used red pear in today’s photos.

Happy Thanksgiving.



Print Recipe
Roasted Pear and Camembert Salad
This salad combines some of the best fall ingredients - pears and chestnuts - into a celebration of flavors. Perfect for vegetarians, too.
Course Salad
Cuisine American
Course Salad
Cuisine American
  1. For the relish: Bring the cider, honey, shallot, and raisins to a boil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the mixture thickens, 10 to 15 minutes.
  2. Remove from heat. Stir in the chestnuts, vinegar, rosemary, and salt. Cool the relish to room temperature before serving, or cover and refrigerate up to 1 week.
  3. For pears, if ripe to semi-ripe: Halve and core the pears. Add 2 teaspoons olive oil to a large nonstick skillet. Place pears cut side down and saute over medium-low heat until lightly browned, 10 to 15 minutes depending on the pear. Flip over and saute about 5 more minutes. Lay a slice of cheese on top of each and remove from heat. It should melt using the residual heat of the pear.
  4. If pears are not ripe (quite firm): Bake cut side down in a baking dish in a 375-degree oven for 30 minutes. Turn them over and continue roasting until tender, 5 to 10 minutes more.
  5. To serve, toss the arugula with 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil and the juice of the lemon and divide it among 6 salad plates. Place a warm pear half over each and top with a spoonful of the chestnut relish.
  6. Serve immediately
Recipe Notes

If you don't want to make the chestnut relish, simply top with toasted candied pecans and golden raisins.


Adapted from


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