Inspiration for your Thanksgiving Menu from Venice

Venice already celebrated her own special Festa del Ringraziamento on 21 November,  a Thanksgiving Feast with a totally different background. At the same time you can see the bountiful winter harvest now arriving at the markets and this is where the inspiration for this article came from.

Would you like to see what Venice looks like now, getting ready for Christmas? All the ingredients for our colorful winter soul food recipes have arrived in a town decorated with pale red erica and pink cyclamen.

As you can see we’ve arrived at the Rialto Market at Casa del Parmigiano, a best-loved gourmet store where you can get delicious food and cheese in particular, rice, beans, jam and honey. They also sell traditional food like baccala’ which Venetians love to eat especially in winter, We will tell the story of the Baccala’ soon on the blog !

If you are in Venice right now you’ll find there are many dishes making up for the lack of a “real” Thanksgiving Dinner. For my American friends the good news is that the number of restaurants offering turkey (not in the traditional American way, but still it’s turkey) is rising. Tacchino (turkey) is served in a different manner here, cut in thin slices and decorated with herbs such as rosemary, bay leaves and sage.

Eating poultry in November is a long-standing farmer tradition of the Veneto. In addition to goose on 11 November, people in the countryside including the Lagoon of Venice ate chicken, duck and faraona (guinea fowl). Grandmother’s recipe journals contain quite a few recipes for turkey baked in the oven with what herbs are now available in the garden, that is rosemary, sage, bay leaves and parsley. You could also add chunks of sweet potatoes or mela cotogna (quinces!) to be cooked until soft alongside olives and tomatoes. We love yellow mustard seeds to flavor turkey, it does make a difference! Then we use pomegranate seeds and half a pear to flavor turkey, a hint of cinnamon and lots of ground black pepper.

Of course, you can still buy pumpkins at the markets. Venetians just LOVE them baked in the oven in small chunks glazed with a mixture of olive oil, sea salt, pepper, a hint of aceto balsamico, yellow mustard seeds and fresh rosemary (or bay and sage leaves, use fresh ones if possible).

Autumn is also a favorite time to eat gnocchi like we show you in the picture below. These are gnocchi in a sugo made from baked tomatoes (I used yellow ones), parmesan, dried red tomatoes, rosemary and lots of grated cheese (taleggio or parmesan).

November also ushers in the time for special desserts which in winter taste of citrus fruit. Like the oranges which are sold in heaps at the Rialto Market. Yes, oranges and other citrus fruit also grow in Venice in private gardens, while those you can see below at the market definitely arrived from southern Italy. So now starts the time of orange spice cakes and puddings which we will describe during Advent time.

There’s also pomegranates and an incredible variety of pears, both grow here in the Lagoon or in the Veneto. The markets become REALLY colorful now with all the dried produce, leafy vegetables and tropical fruit. With the exception of pineapples, many exotic fruit species also grow in Italy. Kiwis almost everywhere with the exception of the mountains and in the south, for example in Positano, people harvest bananas in their gardens.

This picture conveys the market mood of late November. It’s all about fruit not eaten raw but used to bake and cook. Fruit baskets decorated with red peppers you can use to make a relish or the sweet-sour jam that Venetians love so much to eat with meats.

From now until just before Christmas, Venice is so quiet to which Venetians have been looking forward to all year long. Click here to discover how you can enjoy a wonderful holiday now in Venice just before the onset of the Christmas season.

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