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Something lemony to finish the feast

By the time you read this, it will probably be too late. This paper comes out this Thursday, Thanksgiving day. However, if you haven’t yet figured out what to make for dessert, if you haven’t yet mastered the art of making pie crust and are starting to panic or if you’re already thinking ahead to Christmas dinner, read on.

If you’ve been following this column for the past few weeks, you’ll know that we’ve been writing about ways to make the annual American autumn feast a little less filling and a little less fattening.

One method, of course, is to take a big nasty walk in the cold, damp air right after dinner. My athletic and outdoorsy husband makes us do just that every year. It’s not my favorite part of the day, but I have to confess that it does aid digestion — and it takes away some of the sweeping guilt I would otherwise feel as I choose from among all the luscious Thanksgiving dessert options.

There are other, less strenuous ways to diminish that post-prandial guilt, of course, and one of them is to have some lightweight dessert options to offer to your guests (and yourself).

One of my favorites is not exactly low-calorie or low-sugar but it’s full of vitamins and fiber, and isn’t particularly filling. If you feel like it’s cheating to offer a fruit-and-nut course in place of pumpkin pie, consider serving it as an intermezzo between the main course and the actual dessert course. Nowadays you don’t have to go to a specialty store to find excellent dried fruit choices. Put some currants, dates, figs and dried cherries (or dried strawberries if you live near Zabar’s) in sweet little bowls and serve them with some big, lusty whole walnuts. And at this time of year, pretty much everyone in America is happy to eat a few clementines. Add some of those to the platter as well.

Another light-weight dish that can be a dessert or an intermezzo is no-churn lemon ice cream.

This recipe is based on a technique that Nigella Lawson uses for making all kinds of flavored ice creams, and it’s quite easy although it does freeze quite hard. Store it in small  containers and take it out of the freezer about 15 minutes before you need it. It’s pretty simple. I used two cups of heavy cream and one cup of lemon curd (I made mine fresh, because I like to make lemon curd, but you can just as easily buy it; if you want to make it, I recommend Mark Bittman’s recipe, which I adapted and posted at our website, tcextra.com).

Combine the curd and cream and whip them with a whisk (I’m not sure why it requires a whisk but it did seem to come out better with a whisk than with an electric mixer) until soft peaks form and the surface becomes slightly glossy. This takes a good 5 minutes or more. Seek help if your arm gets tired. Freeze in a small container. This will feed about three people as an intermezzo or very light dessert. If you want more, don’t double the recipe; make multiple batches.

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