Photos by 
Jessicarobyn Keyser
Jessicarobyn Keyser

Turn This Cranberry Sauce into Salad Dressing

by 
Julie Laing
November 17, 2021

When we start to pass the turkey, the gravy, and any other meaty bits at the Thanksgiving table, I let them sail right on by me. But the homemade cranberry sauce: you must call to me loudly to get that bowl out of my hands.

Put simply, I love cranberry sauce. The tart berries with a hint of sweetness please my taste buds enormously. I was lucky enough to grow up with homemade sauce as the norm at holiday feasts. My mom occasionally bought a can to serve with a weeknight meal, and it was always a sickly sweet reminder of why she made it from scratch.

For Thanksgiving, my grandmother cooked the turkey and then hosted a dozen or so family members every year into her 90s (she died at 104), but my mom always made the fresh cranberry sauce. When I became vegetarian and turned up my nose at the table’s iconic poultry, I still spooned cranberry sauce over everything on my plate: mashed potatoes, fruit-and-nut dressing, steamed green beans. I’d even plop a dollop on my spinach salad and splash it with vinaigrette for an on-the-spot cranberry dressing.

These days, my Thanksgiving gatherings tend to feed just a handful of people, but I still make a full or even double batch of cranberry sauce from scratch. Holiday leftovers have long been as traditional as the feast-day meal, and cranberry sauce keeps for several days when refrigerated in a sealed container. It adds zing and pop to any leftovers, but it’s also primed for a quick salad dressing at or after Thanksgiving.

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If you’re all for banning salad from the holiday table, hear me out. I know it’s tempting to skip over the salad in favor of less frequently prepared foods.

By dropping the salad from the spread, we’re forgetting its key role in a drawn-out meal: balance. Studies have found that leafy greens can help you digest everything else on your plate. When we should eat the salad during a multi-course meal is open to debate. American restaurants tend to serve it first, French diners typically eat it after the entree, and Italians enjoy it alongside the main course. So go ahead and just pass the salad bowl around the table with everything else.

Here’s one more reason for salad at (or after) the holiday feast: cranberry dressing. Blend the cranberry sauce with a little oil and you have a tangy salad dressing that’s more presentable than my teenage “stir it on my plate” technique. Like cranberry sauce, salad dressing becomes a table favorite when it’s homemade. Mix some up for a spinach salad at the holiday table, and add it to the refrigerator shelf of leftovers, too.

Spinach Salad with Cranberry Sauce Dressing

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Ingredients

Sauce and Dressing:

Zest and juice of 1 medium orange plus juice of 1 more orange

12 oz fresh cranberries

½ cup plus 1 tsp honey

2 tbsp grated ginger

¼ tsp nutmeg

½ cup extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Salad:

8 oz Fifth Season spinach

1 small red onion, thinly sliced

1 orange, peeled and thinly sliced

½ cup chopped pecans, toasted

4 oz blue cheese, crumbled

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Ingredients

Sauce and Dressing:

Zest and juice of 1 medium orange plus juice of 1 more orange

12 oz fresh cranberries

½ cup plus 1 tsp honey

2 tbsp grated ginger

¼ tsp nutmeg

½ cup extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Salad:

8 oz Fifth Season spinach

1 small red onion, thinly sliced

1 orange, peeled and thinly sliced

½ cup chopped pecans, toasted

4 oz blue cheese, crumbled

Ingredients

Sauce and Dressing:

Zest and juice of 1 medium orange plus juice of 1 more orange

12 oz fresh cranberries

½ cup plus 1 tsp honey

2 tbsp grated ginger

¼ tsp nutmeg

½ cup extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Salad:

8 oz Fifth Season spinach

1 small red onion, thinly sliced

1 orange, peeled and thinly sliced

½ cup chopped pecans, toasted

4 oz blue cheese, crumbled

Directions

1. To make the cranberry sauce, add the orange zest and juice to a medium saucepan. Stir in the cranberries, ½ cup honey, ginger, and nutmeg.

2. Bring the mixture to a boil, and then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for about 10 minutes, until the cranberries begin to burst.

3. Mash the berries gently, cooking an additional 1–2 minutes as needed for the sauce to reach your desired texture. Remove the pan from the heat and let the sauce cool.

4. Transfer the sauce to a lidded container and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight so that it sets. Before serving, set aside about ¼ cup of sauce for the salad dressing.

5. To make the salad dressing, place ¼ cup of cranberry sauce in a small food processor and blend until smooth. With the machine running, slowly pour the oil, the juice of  the second orange, the 1 tsp of honey, and salt and pepper through the feed tube until well blended.

6. To make the salad, wash the spinach, tearing large leaves into bite-size portions. Add it to a large bowl, along with the onion and orange slices. Sprinkle with the toasted nuts. Crumble in the cheese, and toss gently to combine.

7. Just before serving, toss the salad again with the dressing until evenly coated, or serve the dressing on the side. The sauce recipe makes about 2 cups, enough for 8–10 servings. The salad with dressing serves 4.

About the Author

Julie Laing

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