For Alexandra Shytsman, “Friendsgiving” isn’t some buzzword. The Ukrainian immigrant has been marking Thanksgiving by throwing dinner parties for her friends since she was a teen growing up in Brooklyn.
The 20-something shares what she’s learned about hosting the holiday — along with 25 recipes — in the new cookbook, “Friendsgiving: Celebrate Your Family of Friends” ($16.99, William Morrow).
“Friendsgiving is everything you love about Thanksgiving — hearty food, day drinking, good company — without the things you don’t love, like nagging family members and heated political discussions,” Shytsman writes.
The food writer, who blogs at “The New Baguette,” has prepared five themed dinner menus, as well as appetizers to mix and match and desserts that pair well with all the menus.
Here, she shares a recipe for a kale and butternut squash salad from “The Nonna Special” menu.
“Fact: Everyone loves Italian-American food,” she writes. “If you’ve got picky eaters — or friends with kids! — at the table, this menu is the way to go.”
The trickiest part is dissecting that awkwardly shaped squash. “One way to set yourself up for success is to use a sharp chef’s knife,” Shytsman advises. “Once the squash is cubed, the rest is a breeze.”
Kale and butternut squash salad
Makes 8 servings
1 medium butternut squash (about 2 1⁄2 lb.)
1⁄4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp. shelled pumpkin seeds
1⁄2 tsp. unrefined coconut oil or extra-virgin olive oil
1⁄4 tsp. smoked paprika
1⁄4 tsp. garlic powder
2 bunches of lacinato kale, stemmed and sliced into thin ribbons
3 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
2 oz. goat cheese, crumbled
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
2. Using a sharp knife, trim the top and bottom of the squash, then halve it widthwise, separating the thinner top from the bigger bottom half. Stand halves on a flat side and slice off the skin, running your knife from top to bottom around the squash. Discard the skin. Halve the bottom portion lengthwise, and using a tablespoon, scrape out and reserve the seeds. Cut all the squash into 1-in. cubes and place into a large bowl. Drizzle with 2 tbsp. of the olive oil, 1⁄4 tsp. salt, and a few grinds of pepper and toss to coat. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet and spread into an even layer. Roast for 25 to 30 minutes, tossing once halfway through cooking, until the squash is tender and lightly browned.
3. Meanwhile, pick out the reserved squash seeds (you should have about 2 tbsp. of seeds), discarding any squash strings. Place the seeds in a colander and rinse under running water. Transfer the seeds to a kitchen towel and pat dry. Place the seeds in a small skillet and toast over low heat until they are slightly puffy and smell nutty, about 5 minutes. Add the shelled pumpkin seeds and continue toasting for another few minutes. Add the coconut oil and toss to coat. Season with the paprika, garlic, and 1⁄4 tsp. salt. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
4. Place the kale in a large mixing bowl and drizzle with the balsamic vinegar, the remaining 2 tbsp. of olive oil, and a generous pinch of salt. Using your hands, massage the kale until it is softened and darkened in color, 1 to 2 minutes.
5. Transfer the kale to a serving platter and top with the roasted squash, spiced seeds, and goat cheese. Serve immediately.
From “Friendsgiving” by Alexandra Shytsman. Copyright © 2017 by Alexandra Shytsman. Reprinted by permission of William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.