Natural Foods Merchandiser

Produce Perspectives: Knock the stuffing out of traditional Thanksgiving recipes

The produce department plays an important role in any holiday meal, but I think this is especially true at Thanksgiving. So many parts of this traditional dinner feature our cornucopia of fruits and vegetables. Sweet potatoes for candied yams, cranberries for sauce, russets or Yukons to be mashed, garlic to be roasted, pumpkin and apples for pies and crisps, nuts to be cracked. The list goes on.

And an essential—but oftentimes too simple—part of this feast is the stuffing. Whether your customers are preparing to stuff a turkey or a Tofurky, a little inspiration from you about how to spice up this side dish with surprising fall produce can make it the conversation piece of the meal.

There are so many variations on this favorite, and many of them include items from your produce department. So this year, why not display produce items that are different from the normal stuffing fare of onions and celery? I'm not saying that these stuffing staples aren't important. Believe me, you'd get run out of town if you didn't have these on hand and in great abundance. But how about making an end cap filled with breadcrumbs, onions, celery, spices and … kiwi?

That's right, kiwi! That little fuzzy brown oval of nutrition is, ounce per ounce, the most nutrient-dense of the 27 most commonly consumed fruits. Set out copies of a stuffing recipe that includes this fall fruit along with the kiwis in your display. (You can find a stuffing recipe with kiwifruit, along with others I mention in this column, at This is also a great way to highlight your organic kiwis, since recent research has found that organic kiwifruit has much higher polyphenol and vitamin C content than conventional kiwi, which results in higher antioxidant activity.

Adding fruit to Thanksgiving displays will intrigue customers

Another winter favorite that's a great addition to traditional stuffing? Pomegranates. Yes, that native of Iran and the Himalayas that's taken the nutritional and culinary worlds by storm can add a surprising twist to your typical stuffing. Not only will including this powerhouse fruit boost the health factor, the rich red color will really complement stuffing's traditional browns and greens.

Since adding this fruit to your Thanksgiving displays will likely get customers intrigued, why not really rattle the holiday menu by encouraging customers to make pomegranate sauce instead of cranberry sauce? Blasphemy, you say? I'm willing to bet the folks shopping in your department who really love food will be grateful for your clever ideas and come back for more during the next holiday—and throughout the following year.

Here are a few tips to consider for Thanksgiving sales success:

  • Make copies of the recipe you post so people can take them home.
  • Ask the prepared foods department staff to make one or all of these recipes so you can point harried holiday shoppers to their case. You could also ask them to prepare extra items to sample, since nothing seals a deal like a taste of what's tempting you.
  • Put the display and recipes up at least a couple weeks before the Thanksgiving holiday to start the inspiration process.
  • If you can, post the recipes on your Web site in case someone gets home and has forgotten or lost the recipe.

I'm getting hungry merely thinking about these different possibilities; just imagine what your customers will do when they see your beautiful display with these recipes. Both you and your customers will love the tasty and festive atmosphere it creates in the store.

Mark Mulcahy has more than 25 years in the organic produce industry and is the produce director for New Leaf Community Markets in Santa Cruz, Calif. Contact him at [email protected].

Kiwifruit nut poultry-stuffing

Adapted from

1 organic yellow onion, chopped
1 cup organic celery, chopped
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice
1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1/2 cup organic butter
6 ounces sourdough croutons, unseasoned and toasted
11/4 cups chicken broth or vegetable broth
1/2 cup organic almonds, coarsely chopped and toasted
3 organic kiwis, peeled and chopped

1 tablespoon melted butter or margarine (optional)
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (optional)

In a large skillet, sauté onion and celery with sugar and spices in the 1/2 cup of butter until vegetables are just soft. In a large bowl, combine croutons, sautéed vegetable mixture, chicken broth and almonds, and toss well. Gently mix in kiwi, and then spoon mixture into a well-buttered, 2-quart casserole or soufflé dish. Sprinkle the top with the melted margarine or butter and additional pumpkin pie spice, if desired. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 35 to 40 minutes, or until heated through.

To stuff poultry: Prepare stuffing as above, using only 1 cup chicken broth.

Note: Sufficient to stuff six Rock Cornish hens, one 8- to10-pound goose or one 10- to 12-pound turkey.

Chicken with apple and pomegranate stuffing

Adapted from

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon caraway seeds
1/4 medium onion, chopped
1/2 celery rib, sliced crosswise 1/8 inch thick
1/4 cup pomegranate seeds
1/2 cup apple butter
1/8 cup coarse bread crumbs
1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
pinch of salt
1/8 teaspoon (or more, if desired) coarsely ground black pepper

Chicken and sauce
2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unfiltered apple cider
1/2 cup chicken broth

Melt butter in a 12-inch, heavy skillet over moderately high heat until foam subsides, then sauté caraway seeds, stirring for 1 minute. Add onion and sauté, stirring, until softened, about 6 minutes. Add pomegranate seeds and celery and sauté, stirring occasionally, until crisp-tender, about 4 minutes. Add apple butter and warm through, stirring for about 1 minute. Remove from heat and stir in remaining stuffing ingredients. Cool stuffing completely.

Pomegranate sauce

Adapted from

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium Spanish onion, finely diced
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
1 cup port wine
6 cups homemade chicken stock
2 cups pomegranate juice (or cranberry juice)
2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
Salt and freshly ground pepper
3 tablespoons finely chopped chives
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds

Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat, and sweat the onion and garlic until the onion is tender, about 3 minutes. Add the peppercorns and cook another 3 minutes. Add the port and cook, stirring, until most of it has evaporated. Add the stock, pomegranate juice, molasses and brown sugar, raise the heat to medium-high, and reduce slowly to a sauce consistency. As the sugars caramelize, the sauce will turn brownish red. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper. Remove from heat and add chives and pomegranate seeds.

Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXVIII/number 11/p. 32

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