Ada here. Food media has officially entered the Thanksgiving gauntlet and there are recipes for the perfect sides, pies, and succulent turkeys flying at us from every corner. Bon Appetit’s 2021 Issue still feels relevant. The featured dishes are “simplified” featuring “Irresistible recipes featuring 10 ingredients or less”. I’ve seen the theme of simplicity echoed in other sources, and I like it. Also: so many “Thanksgiving” recipes, sides specifically, are just elevated vegetable dishes - and ones that I think you should be making all season long.
With SALAD GREENS so vibrant and fresh, you can’t not serve a delicious Vrdnt salad at Thanksgiving. As I see it, you can go two directions: make a tangy lemon vinaigrette that coats your peppery greens, maybe with nothing more than some freshly grated parm - a welcome lightness to a heavy table setting of casseroles. OR, you can make a very hearty salad, maybe with a miso maple dressing, that features roasted carrots, crumbly cheese, and memorable torn croutons . Something more substantial. Neither choice is wrong.
If you get whole HEADS OF LETTUCE and feel like incorporating some char into your dish, why not (quickly) grill your greens?
Do you have Vrdnt RADISHES? Why not cut these into matchsticks and marinate them. Like cranberry sauce, put tiny dishes of marinated radishes on your table and let people add a spoonful of crunch to their plate, topping whatever they feel needs a bite. These could either lean more pickley or more oily like this or like this, with breadcrumbs.
When I started working at farms years ago - awakened to the glory of sweet, fresh CARROTS - I started to roast a tray of carrots (plus a chimichurri-ish or a yogurt sauce) as my contribution to the Thanksgiving table. Maybe because everyone misses me and they’re just being nice, or maybe because simple roasted carrots were a welcome addition to an.. errr… outdated menu, but my family has raved about “my carrots” ever since. It’s become an inside joke between me and my sister - about how I’m getting all this glory for just roasting some carrots - but it’s a tradition I keep up, nonetheless. The fans get what the fans want. Maybe don’t overcomplicate things, and roast some carrots (Remember these tips for perfect caramelization!).
More CARROT ideas: Glaze your carrots. Many recipes use a bit of honey, making this a super sweet, and delicious, side.
Or, make a CARROT HUMMUS, like this one, and serve it as a pre-meal snack, something to keep folks occupied while the waiting for the main event. Feeling ambitious? Serve it with some seedy homemade crackers.
Last, and it may seem a little weird, you could make an old-school grated CARROT SALAD.. with raisins, maybe some mayonnaise. Checkout this list of carrot salads from around the world to get you thinking. I'm always a fan of a few raw components on the Thanksgiving table - there to balance all the heft - and a raw salad could fit this very niche.
KALE, COLLARD, OR BRAISING MIX could also be transformed into a VERY quick side with this creamy recipe that I saw on Instagram. Sauté greens, mix w/ cream, top with crispy fried panko (that I would mix with lots of lemon zest).
Or, make a more traditional casserole like this Grits & Greens casserole, courtesy of Trisha Yearwood
Or this creamy collard (or whatever other green) au gratin.
Farmer Becky always serves simple stewed collards at her table, also not a bad idea.
Anything a regular potato can do, a SWEET POTATO can do, too. When thinking about how you’d like to incorporate your Vrdnt SWEET POTATOES onto your table, feel free to let your mind roam from the sweet to the savory, and then back again.
Here is a perfect take on SWEET POTATO casserole that swaps marshmallows for a pecan crumble.
Sub a SWEET POTATO for a SQUASH in this simple recipe - twice roasted with vanilla, maple, and chile.
Need more sweet potato ideas including fries, fritters, and Edna Lewis’s casserole recipe? Checkout this list of 26 options here.
Or, make this dessert: This Sweet Potato Loaf Cake with Dark Chocolate Ganache looks divine, and my sister gave me the go-ahead to make it this year, instead of salad.
What I’m Reading
I’m working on a story about sausage, specifically German sausage traditions in Texas, and so have been reading up on all things sausage. Texas Monthly has some good resources. I've also been pouring over a collection of old PTA cookbooks available to browse via the Gillespie County Historical Society.
This piece from the Counter about a San Francisco food journalist/writer turned Iowa farmer.
This interview with Adan Medano, "food writer and historian on the intricacies of ‘Texas Mexican food’ and the trinity of garlic, cumin, and black pepper". Looking forward to watching his documentary Truly Texas Mexican whenever I can figure out how to stream it!
What I’m Eating:
I recently went on a fishing trip to Matagorda and was charged with Saturday night dinner. We made chicken enchiladas, based off of this recipe, and though I pre-made the sauce and cooked the chicken, I waited until Saturday to assemble the enchiladas which was done as a group activity. Mental note: it’s always memorable to involve others in the prepping of food. I had leftover sauce and made a vegetarian version of these enchiladas that were stuffed with zucchini, kale, and sharp cheddar. Dare I say, they were better than the chicken-versions.
I also had leftover shredded chicken, diced poblanos, onions, and cilantro, as well as a tub of sour cream, and I went ahead and made a white-bean-white-chili soup situation. I’m a lover of traditional (no beans) chili, and so the thought of a WHITE BEAN CHILI always seemed like a bastardization of something so perfect. But really, it’s just something else entirely, and is delicious to boot. Veg components included: CILANTRO, ONIONS, CARROTS, PEPPERS, AND DICED TURNIPS.
I’m also eating miso mashed POTATOES from Bon Appetit (skipped garlic/oven bit and just warmed some olive oil on the stove with smashed garlic for a while). These got topped with a very quick mixture of ground venison, corn, zucchini, and herbs - a deconstructed shepherd's pie, if you will.
As a reminder that you gotta loose some, I made some very not good EGG MUFFIN things that I hoped would serve as an easy, quick breakfast. A gentle reminder to myself that, when cooking something new, it doesn’t hurt to consult at least one recipe. Luckily, my dogs are less discerning and have taken to the flavorless rubber discs. If I could have a do over, I’d use Vrdnt COLLARDS and make this version.