This seems as good a year as any to break with holiday eating traditions if you’re in the mood.
One of our family’s favorite Thanksgiving side dishes could be called nontraditional: cipolline onions, braised to caramelized perfection in an Italian sweet-sour mixture of wine vinegar and just a little sugar and butter (recipe).
Another route to tart-sweet flavor is presenting homemade giardinera–pickled vegetables of your choice–in a pretty bowl.
A cut-glass container passed down several generations in my husband’s family is specifically for celery. Back then, they knew you need some refreshing crunch to break through a holiday meal’s richness. At least once a year, I fill it with a bouquet of slender celery spikes for our table.
Another idea: Put out a relish tray consisting of blanched broccolini, bright-tasting radishes and crisp carrots–to enjoy with or without ranch or Green Goddess dressing.
An abundance of angle-sliced celery, dressed in a citrus vinaigrette and topped with toasted walnuts and Parmigiano Reggiano shards, would also be a refreshing treat.
I usually make mushroom-onion-sage bread dressing, but this year I’ll return to my Texas-Oklahoma roots and make cornbread dressing. I’m thinking of seasoning one panful with a few serrano peppers, because spicy flavors are hard to come by on the average holiday table.
To change up familiar side dishes, play with an interesting Mediterranean spice blend. Lately I’ve been wild about a Greek-inspired herb and saffron blend purchased at a nearby spice vendor.
I’ve been sprinkling this blend lavishly on roast fowl, tzatziki (cucumber-yogurt salad), Japanese sweet potatoes, and vegetable combos such as these roasted carrots and fennel.
Savory almond granola can add a special finish to any holiday vegetable side: green beans, chard, Brussels sprouts. Or try this unusual two-way cauliflower dish , in which roasted cauliflower rests on a bed of pureed cauliflower, with a shower of savory granola on top.
Even before the leftovers of our holiday feast are gone, I’ll be ready for an a change. The day after, we’ll be eating spaghetti with cherry tomatoes, anchovies, garlic and toasted breadcrumbs.
These caramelized onions are a mandatory side for our Thanksgiving table.
- 2 pounds cipolline onions or pearl onions or shallots
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt
Fill a medium saucepan or skillet broad enough for the onions to fit in a single layer with water; bring to a boil. Add the onions (they will bob to the top) and let them cook for about 20 seconds; drain and cool slightly. Pull off the papery outer skin; trim any dangling roots or tips but leave the root ends intact (otherwise, the onions will come apart when cooked).
Return the onions to the saucepan; add water half way up the sides of the onions. Bring to a boil; reduce the heat and simmer the onions for about 20 minutes, stirring at least once, until tender and about half of the water has evaporated. Add the olive oil, butter, vinegar, sugar and salt; continue to simmer slowly, with the lid ajar, stirring often, until the liquid has mostly evaporated.
When the onions start to sizzle, pay close attention. This is when they begin to brown--a good thing, but you must be careful not to burn them. Add a little water and reduce the heat if they seem to be cooking too quickly. When they are a burnished golden brown, consider them done.
This recipe is based on a clever lunch dish we sampled at the Whitney Museum's restaurant.
- 2 large heads cauliflower cored
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Sea salt or kosher salt
- ¼ cup heavy cream or half and half
- Freshly ground white or black pepper
- Juice of 1/2 lemon
- Up to 1 cup Savory Almond Granola for sprinkling (see recipe)
- Turmeric honey for drizzling (see recipe)
Prepare cauliflower: Preheat oven to 400F. Break or cut cauliflower into small pieces. Reserve 4 cups to puree.
Spread remaining cauliflower (about 16 cups) on two parchment-lined sheet pans. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Roast, turning from time to time, for about 40 minutes until golden brown and tender.
Put reserved 4 cups cauliflower into a saucepan and barely cover with salted water. Bring to a boil and simmer until very tender. Drain, reserving ½ cup cooking water. Transfer cauliflower to a blender or food processor. Blend, adding the cream and enough cooking water for a creamy consistency (a little runnier than mashed potatoes). Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Assemble dish: Swirl pureed cauliflower on oven-proof platter or casserole. Pile roasted cauliflower on top. Drizzle with a little olive oil and the lemon juice.
Sprinkle with Savory Almond Granola. Heat in oven until hot. Drizzle with turmeric honey.
Use this crunchy savory topping on any vegetable dish, including green beans, broccoli and cauliflower.
- 2 cups old-fashioned oats
- ¾ cup slivered almonds
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ½ teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 300F.
Mix oats and almonds on a parchment-lined sheet pan. Add olive oil and salt. Stir again.
Cook for 30 minutes, stirring often, until lightly browned and crisp.