How to bring Jewish flavors to the table at Thanksgiving

How do we invite Judaism to the Thanksgiving table?  That’s a concept I’ve been giving a lot of thought to lately, researching prayers, practices and commentary to make the holiday more of a home ritual observance beyond friends, family and football without losing its all-inclusive, American nature.

One idea is giving the food a bit of a Jewish twist, which is what I’ve done with the recipes below.

The Pumpkin Hummus with Za’atar Drizzle is a versatile appetizer with Middle Eastern and New World flavors. It is quick and easy to put together.

Make the Challah “Stuffing” Kugel with Fresh Herbs in a shallow baking dish for lots of crusty bits, or a deeper dish for lots of succulent ones. Either way, it’s a savory way to serve dressing on Thanksgiving. If the fresh herbs are not available, substitute about a third of the amount of dried, ground sage and thyme.


Pumpkin Hummus with Za’atar Drizzle

Makes 8 appetizer servings

7 or 8 oz. container of unflavored hummus

1 cup canned or fresh pumpkin puree (do not use canned pumpkin pie filling)

2 Tbs. za’atar seasoning mix (or use 5 tsp. ground oregano, 1⁄4 tsp. of cumin and 1 tsp. sesame seeds)

1⁄4 cup olive oil

6 to 8 flatbreads or pita breads

Mix hummus with pumpkin puree. In a separate bowl, combine za’atar with olive oil and stir well. Heat flatbreads or pitas in dry fry pan or griddle until warm and toasted.

Serve either as a topped flatbread or dip. To serve as a flatbread, spread the pumpkin hummus on the bread, drizzle with za’atar mix and cut into triangles.

To serve as a dip, stir half of the za’atar into the hummus until just combined and you can still see “streaks” of the herb oil mixture. Drizzle the remainder on top of the pumpkin hummus. Cut the warmed breads into triangles and serve with dip.


Challah “Stuffing” Kugel with Fresh Herbs

Serves 6 to 8

1 Tbs. plus 2 Tbs. oil

2 cups chopped onion

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1⁄2 cup chopped carrots (1⁄4-inch chunks)

1⁄2 cup chopped celery (1⁄4-inch chunks)

2 cups chopped mushrooms (1⁄4-inch chunks)

1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes

1/4 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. ground black pepper

1 lb. turkey Italian sausage, removed from casings and crumbled

1 Tbs. minced fresh sage leaves

2 tsp. minced fresh thyme leaves

1 lb. challah, torn or cut into 1-inch pieces

4 cups chicken stock

4 eggs, beaten

1⁄2 tsp. paprika

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a large baking dish or casserole with

1 Tbs. oil. Put remaining oil in large pan, and when heated, add onions and garlic and sauté until softened. Add carrots, celery and mushrooms, sautéing until just softened. Add pepper flakes, salt and black pepper and stir well. Add crumbled sausage, stirring often to break up clumps until browned. Add minced sage and thyme. Sauté for a minute.

Remove from heat. Combine with challah in a large mixing bowl. Add chicken stock and eggs, mix well. Place in greased baking dish. Sprinkle top with

paprika. Bake for 50-60 minutes until top is brown and crusty and kugel is set. (Timing will vary depending on dimensions of baking dish.)

Faith Kramer is a Bay Area food writer. Her columns alternate with those of Louise Fiszer. She blogs at Contact her at [email protected]

Faith Kramer
Faith Kramer

Faith Kramer is a Bay Area food writer and the author of “52 Shabbats: Friday Night Dinners Inspired by a Global Jewish Kitchen.” Her website is Contact her at [email protected].