November 24, 2010 at 1:15 pm

Melissa Graham

Thanksgiving gets a bum rap. The Jan Brady of holidays, it’s sandwiched between the two most over-merchandised days all year. While it’s been overlooked and underappreciated in the past, 2010 has taken it to a new level. I’m watching the Black Friday ads punctuate television shows announcing that some popular stores will now open at 4:00am. Even more despicable, Toys R Us, is opening Thursday night. Shove that food down your gullet, it’s merely fuel to spend, spend, spend. Just like Rodney Dangerfield, Thanksgiving “gets no respect.”

I find this all very sad. While it has been a tough few years for many of us, we still can find things to be grateful about. Most of us beet eaters will be enjoying a feast of locally sourced delicacies, pasture raised turkeys partnered with farmers’ market produce. As Newsweek effectively reminded us this week in “Divided We Eat,” these are luxuries that many Americans cannot afford. I’m painfully shown this fact several times a week during Purple Asparagus’ education programs where we visit some of the most underserved communities in Chicago.

I know that when I sit down tomorrow at my Thanksgiving table, I won’t be making my shopping list for Christmas. I’ll be enjoying our delicious feast and more importantly the pleasure of my family’s company. I hope you’ll join me in giving Thanksgiving its due – focusing on what we have as opposed to what we can buy.

At our table, we’re having a Southwestern themed Thanksgiving. One of our family traditions is for my son and I to collaborate on a new recipe. This year, the little locavore suggested a black bean dressing, which we’re making with Floriole’s yeasted cornbread, Cedar Valley’s chorizo, and Three Sisters black beans. I can’t exactly give you the recipe as it hasn’t yet been made, so instead, I’ll share our Pumpkin Cheesecake, made with a pepita crust.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Pumpkin Mascarpone Cheesecake
Serves 10-12

1 ½ cups finely ground whole wheat graham cracker crumbs
½ cup pumpkin seeds
3 tablespoons turbinado sugar
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 pound cream cheese at room temperature
1 pound mascarpone at room temperature
1 ½ c. sugar
5 large eggs
1 ½ c. unsweetened pumpkin puree, canned or home made
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ginger
¼ teaspoon coriander
½ teaspoon lemon juice
½ cup heavy cream

• Preheat oven to 350° F.
• In a small skillet over medium heat, toast the pumpkin seeds for 5 minutes or until just slightly colored. Let cool.
• In a food processor, finely grind the pumpkin seeds with the whole wheat graham cracker crumbs and the turbinado sugar.
• Add melted butter and process just until combined.
• Press the crumb mixture into the bottom of a 10 inch spring form pan.
• Bake for 10 minutes. Cool on a rack.
• Increase the oven temperature to 450°.
• Place cream cheese and sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on medium speed until fluffy, approximately 5 minutes.
• Add the mascarpone, beat for another minute.
• Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Beat in the eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl after the addition of each one.
• Add the pumpkin, mix until well combined.
• Add the spices, lemon juice and cream, mix until combined.
• Mix by hand with a rubber spatula to insure that all ingredients are incorporated.
• Pour into the spring form pan.
• Bake for 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to 225° F and bake for another 1 hour and 15 minutes. The center will not be completely set. Turn the oven off, open the door to the oven, and leave the cheesecake in for another half hour. The top will likely crack. Remove the cheesecake and let cool on a rack for two to three hours. Refrigerate overnight before serving.