Thanksgiving isn’t exactly a colorful vegetable-forward occasion. The holiday’ palette is rather somber: There’s a lot of brown, beige, camel and dull green, and a few nice autumnal colors thanks to cranberry sauce and candied yams.
Don’t get me wrong — I have no quarrel with brussels sprouts, bread stuffing and mashed potatoes on my plate, and tawny giblet gravy too. I’m all for creamed onions, and I love parsnips, turnips and squash. But we can make room on the table for more vibrant options, no?
Times, and tastes, change. There are significantly more people doing completely vegetarian Thanksgiving gatherings nowadays. Consider these three recipes as bright side dishes that can be served with whatever you’re having. As a bonus, they can all be prepared in advance and served warmed or at room temperature. Traditions begin with you.
Miso and sesame add a nutty warmth to this buttery dish of glazed carrots. Look for young, slender carrots for the best flavor. Bunched carrots with their tops still intact are always fresher than the two-pound cello-packed type. (And we all know those cute, peeled, cork-shaped baby carrots are whittled down from “horse carrots.”) Choose a mix of rainbow carrots if you wish, but orange or yellow carrots are fine.
It’s a fairly simple side to put together: Parboil the carrots, then toss them with a tasty mixture of yellow miso, butter and sesame oil before they go in the oven to glaze. Finish with a sprinkle of gochugaru and toasted sesame seeds. They’re a little sweet, a little salty and very aromatic.
A luscious vegetable casserole, this can be a green vegetable side dish or a substantial vegetarian main course. Make it with chard, spinach or any other hearty cooking green — it is a layered crowd-pleaser.
The cooked chard is dabbed with fresh ricotta and Parmesan, then covered with a creamy béchamel sauce and topped with crunchy bread crumbs. Lasagna-ish, but without the pasta.
Though it’s a bit of a project to put together, it’s not at all hard to make if you approach it in an organized fashion, and the finished product is well worth the time invested. You can imagine what heady aromas will be wafting about the kitchen as it bakes. This one is best served warm, but I guarantee you’ll go back for more once it’s cooled down.
Pomegranate molasses makes a sweet-tart contribution to this salad of cooked, not raw, kale. (Call me crazy, but I never fell for the raw kale craze.) I like to boil the greens just a bit to soften the leaves, which yields a much more pleasant result. Then simply drain, blot and dress.
The tangy vinaigrette is a mixture of the pomegranate molasses, which is more tart than sweet, lemon juice and zest, good olive oil and a dab of Dijon mustard for sharpness. Dress the kale, which should be seasoned with salt and pepper, then adorn the salad with chopped toasted walnuts and pomegranate seeds.
While I treat it as a vegetable side dish, it could very well be a salad course on its own under other circumstances.
There’s a morsel of warm kale, walnut and pomegranate in every bite, but, truth be told, it is just as tasty served at room temperature.