Agri Leader

Celebrate Thanksgiving with Florida Fresh

Thanksgiving dates back to a 1621 celebration that was held in honor of a good harvest at Plymouth, in what is now Massachusetts. The celebration has been an annual tradition in the United States since 1863. It is a day when American family members gather around the table and pass the turkey, mashed potatoes, green bean casseroles and, of course, pumpkin pie. It's a time of giving thanks for all of the bountiful foods, and also a time to give thanks to farmers, ranchers, growers, grocery store owners, food packagers, truckers, farmer's market workers, field workers and all others who work in agriculture. After all, if it weren't for their labors these delicious meals wouldn't be on our tables. One way we can show our appreciation is by making sure that the Fresh From Florida logo is on the fruits and vegetables that are purchased for your Thanksgiving feast. The logo ensures that the commodities were grown in Florida.
Thanks to our year-round sunshine, there are a plethora of fruits and vegetables that are currently in season and make for great choices for main dishes, sides and desserts. Sweet peppers, snap beans, cauliflower, carrots, eggplant, mushrooms, corn and squash are among the choices. With these selections, you can add delicious sides to your Thanksgiving feast. "Stuffed sweet bell peppers, snap bean casserole, cauliflower-potato mash, Florida honey and ginger-glazed carrots, eggplant stuffing, mushroom soup, sweet corn bisque, squash gratin, make for delicious additions or even replacements for some of the traditional favorites," said Justin Patrick Timineri, Florida's executive chef and culinary ambassador. Peppers, zucchini and eggplant can also be considered for main dishes, especially for those who are non-meat eaters or for those who prefer an alternative. "Eggplant can be roasted in place of meat," explained Timineri, who also explained that one could also stuff peppers, zucchini and eggplant for a main dish. (Stuffing turkey actually has food safety issues, and is not recommended.) "One more tip for a vegetarian alternative is to use vegetable stock in place of chicken stock in an otherwise vegetarian recipe," added Timineri. Strawberries, which are also in season, make for delicious dessert items, such as pies. Also in season are tropical fruits, like guava, carambola (star fruit), passion fruit, as well as citrus like oranges, grapefruit and tangerines - all of which can be chopped into a fruit salad or made into a citrus compote. "Don't forget to look for Florida pecans to make pecan pie." said Timineri, who plans to make his own Florida pecan pie with bourbon sauce. As a special touch, Timineri adds chocolate chips to the filling. Also, consider Florida Fresh fruits and vegetables to enhance a table setting, add aroma, or use as garnishes. Baskets of fresh oranges, grapefruits, tangerines, eggplant and carrots, add color and interest to a table, while fresh cinnamon sticks and fresh citrus slices simmering in a crock pot will make the whole house smell wonderful. Using fresh cut fruit as garnish is a great way to make the dishes look as if a professional chef prepared them. "A simple slice of citrus or star fruit with a small bouquet of fresh herbs will set your dish apart," said Timineri. While many of us are traditional turkey eaters, you can think outside the box and try seafood. Timineri has plans to cook with seafood this year. "Gulf shrimp, blue crab stuffing, and stone crab claws," explained Timineri. It's little wonder he is cooking with seafood, considering that in 2006 he won the Food Network Challenge Great American Seafood Cook-off in New Orleans, where he held the title of having the country's best domestic seafood dish. Florida ranks among the top 12 U.S. states for fresh seafood production. In November, clams, flounder, grouper, mullet, oysters, shrimp, mackerel, lobster, crab claws, swordfish and tilapia are all available and make great choices for main dishes sides or salads. Whatever you plant to cook up this year, look for the Fresh from Florida label and be sure to check out the delicious recipes for starters, entrees, sides, desserts and seafood dishes at: