Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Side Dishes--The True Stars of the Thanksgiving Feast

At Thanksgiving when I was young I eagerly perused the side dishes and quickly filled my plate with carrot salad, roasted vegetables, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, and stuffing leaving little room for the turkey. Dark, light meat? It never mattered to me, I wanted second helpings of all the vegetables in this ensemble cast.

This year I want to give props to the many vegetables that make up the side dishes of Thanksgiving. They are the unsung heros and often the underrated characters of this fine meal. Here are ten side dish ideas to make your meal special this year.
1. Roasted winter squash is one of my favorite foods this time of year. But when making a special meal, I want something more than a simple vegetable. One CSA newsletter from The Fry Family Farm in Talent, Oregon, had this fabulous, easy roasted kohlorabi and squash recipe. But if you're looking for something a little more quirky, try this Thai Squash recipe with ginger and coconut milk from Winter Green Farm in Noti, Oregon.
My assistant says just roast and eat, but Thanksgiving calls for a little more thought.

2. Carrot sticks were always on the scene when I was young, but recently I found this fabulous recipe in The New York Times. Parsley and thyme on roasted carrots--I was already dreaming about this one when I found a similar recipe by Molly Wizenberg only her recipe involves sauteing the carrots in a skillet and adding wine vinegar to perk up the earthy sweet flavor.

3. Green Bean casserole with canned beans, canned soup and canned onions may have been part of the picture when I was young, but when I came across this Green Bean-Potato Salad on Culinate, I had to add it to my list of must-make recipes. And why not potato salad for Thanksgiving? Surely this is a recipe whose time has come.

4. Beets--unpretentious slices of them marinated in apple cider vinegar was common when I was young, and I could eat them every day but when I found this recipe for beets marinated in champagne vinegar with horseradish, I fell in lust. If you just don't care for horseradish or mustard, try this recipe that features roasted beets, balsamic vinegar and walnuts.
5. Cauliflower and Romanesco--are a couple of my favorites, raw or cooked but when I found this great recipe a few months ago in the New York Times, I've been making it nearly every week. It's an Indian-spiced recipe with tomatoes and if that's too much variation for your meal, try this recipe with green olives, parsley and lemon from Winter Green Farm in Noti, Oregon.

6. Potatoes--where would Thanksgiving be without them? My grandmother even had a special bowl reserved for mashed potatoes, but why serve the same old boring dish year after year? I found this post for roasted garlic mashed potatoes and if that's too much of the same old for you, check out this one for mashed potatoes and cabbage. I think both recipes give a new dimension to this old standby that has fallen out of favor with the low-carb trend.

7. Sweet Potatoes--just mention them and many people cringe remembering the super sweet casseroles topped with marshmallows. Even I skipped this as a kid and I love sweet potatoes. I've been crazy about sweet potato fries for a long time and when my friend Kathy Gehrt added lavender to them, I thought I was in heaven. You simply have to try them. I also found this great crockpot sweet potato dish from Kalyn's Kitchen that I can't wait to try.

8. Kale--so ubiquitous in the Northwest, we could all use a few more recipes. I'm fond of kale chips, a recipe given to me by my friend Patty and one I added at the last minute to my cookbook. Another way to serve this hearty winter vegetable is to puree it into a dip--just cook until it's soft, then puree with hazelnut or almond butter, lemon juice, green salsa, garlic and sea salt to taste. And it that doesn't work for you, how about a fresh kale salad with avocado, lemon and apples or pears? It was a big hit at the King County Green for the Holidays event in Shoreline last Saturday. Also check out the Veggie Queen's raw kale salad with a touch of tahini.

9. Brussels Sprouts are at their peak when a cold snap hits them because they turn sweeter. I never tire of reading new recipes for them and I almost always find a winner recipe at 101 Cookbooks. I loved this one and who wouldn't? Describe anything as Golden Crusted and I'm there. She also had a very cool Sprout Salad if you want to go the salad route.

10. Apples--no self-respecting Northwest table will be without them this year. My assistant likes them raw and quickly disposed of all unused cores but for a fancy dinner try this easy spinach and apple salad from The New York Times. Or if you're like me, you have fond memories of Waldorf Salads of the past. I found one recipe I kind of liked, but must admit, I'd wing it with this one and just get out my old Joy of Cooking cookbook and go from there. Here is another apple recipe that intrigued me with cooked red cabbage and apples, and of course they always go well with cranberries.

Whatever you do, choose your sides carefully--they're just as important as the main event.


Kalyn said...

So glad you liked the idea of the Spicy Crockpot Sweet Potatoes! Thanks for featuring it.

ddzeller said...

Loved the unusual spice mixture and ease of preparation.

Joan said...

wow, I can't write as fast as I read! I think I've written down 8 on you awesome list that I want to print and tryout. What a great idea for a post! thanks for inspiring me to new heights. I've been wanting to add more squash and sweet potatoes to our diet. Happy Thanksgiving!

Kathy said...

Thanks for including my Sweet Potato French Fries among your stars in the Side Dish category. All the sides you mentioned sounded fantastic. I want to offer one of my favorites for you to try. To make it vegetarian, skip the pancetta. Here's the link to Roasted Brussels Sprout - http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Roasted-Brussels-Sprouts-with-Garlic-and-Pancetta-104566

ddzeller said...

Hey Kathy, thanks for adding one of your favorites--the roasted Brussels Sprouts sound delicious, I'm going to add them to my list today! And thanks Joan for the encouragement.

Tom @ Tall Clover said...

I'm with you; side dishes reign supreme in my kitchen, on this day and every day. Look forward to tasting my way through your suggestions. Boz and Gracie send their love (slobbery as that may be).

ddzeller said...

Much appreciated--slobber just part of the package around here, too