The Thanksgiving table is full of tempting brown and beige, the crisp mahogany skin of turkey, toasted breadcrumbs on top of casseroles, stuffings and dressings of tan and white, and the fried or caramelized onions on the green bean casseroles. Silky, rich mashed potatoes glisten with butter. All yummy, all succulent, all traditional.

But what about those who crave freshness to offset the richness? A friend always grumbles about Thanksgiving at her mother-in-law’s home. “Nothing green to eat,” she mutters. “It’s all covered in white or brown, all rich, all fattening. By the time I leave there, I’m going through salad withdrawal. Celery sticks and cucumbers with vinegar sauce are not enough.”

Salads to the rescue. It’s simple logic: The more salad one eats, the less of the richer things go down. Salads take up room on the plate, crowding out the more caloric choices. Served as a starter, they can be on the table ready to eat first, forerunners to the main event.

Take citrus. Nothing challenges the heaviness of fat better than a bit of citrus to clear the palate. Apples and pears combined with dried cranraisins or raisins, even with the addition of a bit of mayonnaise, give a fresh crunch to the table. Red peppers substitute for pale pink tomatoes for a splash of red.

This is one time to flirt with imported vegetables and fruits when local are not available.

Don’t feel beholden to any ingredient in these recipes, as they are suggestions, not laws. And by all means, add a bit of arugula, or a plain green salad, to the mix. The day after Thanksgiving, a bit of turkey added to any of these salads would make a tempting lunch.

Citrus, Fennel and Pepper Salad Topped with Goat Cheese

Serves 4 to 6

I crave the freshness of citrus in the winter. It is easy to find jars of roasted peppers, and the two combine to make a cheerful colorful combination as welcome in the winter months as in the summer.

Note: Another name for shaved fennel is fennel slaw. All three citrus are not necessary — substitute all oranges for the grapefruit, for instance. — Nathalie Dupree


1 red grapefruit, peeled and segmented

1 white grapefruit, peeled and segmented

1 orange, peeled and segmented

1 fennel bulb, sliced thinly

1 roasted red bell pepper, torn into 1/2-inch strips

1 small red onion, thinly sliced

1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil (optional)

1 to 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

Grated rind of 1 lime or 1 orange, no white attached

1 garlic clove, chopped


Freshly ground black pepper

Granulated sugar

1/2 cup crumbled soft goat cheese

1 to 2 green onions or chives, chopped (optional)

2 teaspoons chopped fresh herbs (optional)


Toss the grapefruit and orange segments, fennel, pepper strips, and onion together in a large bowl.

Whisk together the oil, lime juice, lime rind, and garlic in a small bowl. Toss the dressing with the fruit mixture. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and sugar.

Garnish the top with the goat cheese, onions or chives and fresh herbs, if using.

Waldorf Salad

Serves 4 to 6

Mrs. Dull’s 1928 edition of “Southern Cooking” includes this salad, and legions of Southerners grew up thinking it was Southern, even though it originated elsewhere. Leaving the apple unpeeled, as we did at home, adds color and nutrition. Our family always added raisins, but the nuts came and went, depending on the time of year and availability. The amounts in this recipe are just general guides, as it is never the same twice, being dependent upon the size and variety of apples. I often substitute pears and cranraisins for the apples and raisins.

— Nathalie Dupree


1 to 2 Red Delicious apples, or any other crisp, sweet red apple

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup heavy cream (optional)

2 ribs celery or fennel

1/4 cup chopped pecans, walnuts, almonds, or other nuts (optional)

1/4 cup or raisins or dried cranraisins

Squeeze of fresh lemon juice (optional)

Lettuce or spinach leaves (optional)


Core and cut the apples into wedges and mix with the mayonnaise in a bowl. Add a little cream if the mayonnaise seems too stiff.

String and chop the celery or fennel into 1/4-inch cubes; stir into the apple mixture along with the nuts and raisins. Taste and add a bit of fresh lemon juice if desired.

Cover and refrigerate until ready to use. Serve in a bowl, or put lettuce leaves on plates and top with the salad.

Variation: Add chunks of banana, like we always did at home.

Roasted Beet Salad

Serves 2

This is a basic beet salad dressed with a simple vinaigrette. The variations provide endless opportunities for creativity.

— Nathalie Dupree


3 tablespoons red or white wine vinegar

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon granulated sugar

3 tablespoons oil, cook’s preference

1 tablespoon finely chopped herbs, such as marjoram, thyme or basil

4 medium roasted beets, preferably multicolored


Freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons chopped chives or green onion ends


Whisk together the vinegar, mustard and sugar in a small bowl. While whisking, slowly drizzle in the oil and continue whisking until emulsified. Whisk in the herbs. Slice, quarter or grate the beets, depending on size. Pour dressing over beets. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Refrigerate until chilled. Top with chives.


Add grated ginger.

Place beets on a bed of lettuce, arugula, or a chiffonade (thin ribbons) of baby beet greens.

Toss with orange slices.

Green Bean, Blue Cheese and Pecan Salad

Serves 4

Crisp cooked green beans, Clemson blue cheese, and pecans — the makings for a uniquely Southern salad.

— Nathalie Dupree


1 pound green beans, tips removed

4 ounces Clemson blue cheese, if available; or feta or soft goat cheese

1/2 cup roughly chopped or whole pecans, toasted


Add the beans to boiling salted water and cook 3 minutes. Toss the drained, warm beans with the blue cheese and pecans. For a creamier sauce, continue to toss until cheese mixture becomes a creamy consistency. The longer the beans are tossed, the more an elegant blue cheese sauce will develop. Serve at room temperature or chill until serving.

Nathalie Dupree is the author of 13 cookbooks, most recently “Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking.” She lives in Charleston and may be reached through Nathalie