Thanksgiving Vegetable Choices

Thanksgiving dinner is a wonderful meal for sharing winter vegetables from the kitchen garden. The challenge is to figure out how to serve the greatest number of these tasty roots and greens without overwhelming the guests or the turkey.

This year, in an effort to combine lots of root vegetables into one earthy, colorful dish, I’m planning to cut rutabaga, turnip, carrots, parsnips, beets and celery root into bite sized pieces, roast them at about 400 degrees until they are soft, then toss the still-warm roots with an apple cider vinaigrette and serve this dish at room temperature as a salad. I may even arrange the roasted roots on a bed of radicchio or arugula so I can include these favorite hardy greens in the mix. Thanks to my friend Nancy for the inspiration for this salad.

Brussels sprouts are another favorite winter vegetable and Thanksgiving classic that many but not all guests like. A little camouflage goes a long way to creating converts. Rather than simply steaming whole sprouts, I sometimes slice them thinly and sauté them quickly in butter. Or I will halve or quarter them, toss them in olive oil and roast them at 450 degrees until they begin to crisp, usually in five minutes or so. Either way their appearance is unfamiliar enough that people try a few and then try more.

Mashed potatoes are the perfect vehicle for gravy and an essential part of Thanksgiving dinner but winter squash also mashes beautifully and holds gravy just as well as mashed potatoes do. Instead of serving one bowl of potatoes and one of squash, I’m considering a single bowl of Alice Waters’ Delicata Squash, Potato and Celery Root Puree from Chez Panisse Vegetables (1996), not two but three vegetables in one dish. It’s deliciously rich on its own and gravy would only make it better. Mashed potato purists might resist until they try it, but just to be safe, I may serve a separate bowl of mashed potatoes.

Finally, winter salads are sometimes on my Thanksgiving menu and when they are they often feature our apples or pears mixed with hardy greens, kale, mache, arugula or radicchios, and maybe toasted nuts or even crunchy bits of raw celery root. This year, I have a lovely crop of flavorful, dark green mache thanks to seeds saved and shared by my friend Heike. I could make a simple mache salad with sherry vinegar vinaigrette, but if I decide my roasted roots dish fills the salad slot, I might skip the greens and serve a platter of roasted pears. Their caramelized sweetness would mix well all the other dishes and provide a sweet complement to tart cranberry sauce.

So many vegetables, so many choices: I’ll decide by Thursday morning. And I’ll post photos of the finished dishes then.

Day After Thanksgiving:

With the turkey, stuffing, gravy and cranberry sauce, we enjoyed roasted roots with apple cider vinaigrette, mache salad, roasted Brussels sprouts and Alice Water’s squash, potato, and celery root puree.

T-day vegetables

T-day diners

Apple Cider Vinaigrette

¾ cup extra virgin olive oil

¼ cup apple cider

¼ cup apple cider vinegar

2 Tbsp. finely shopped shallot

1 Tbsp. whole grain Dijon mustard

1 Tbsp. honey

1 ½ tsp salt

1 tsp fresh thyme leaves

½ tsp freshly ground black pepper

Combine all ingredients in a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid. Cover with lid and shake well. Makes 1 ¼ cups

Store vinaigrette, covered, in the fridge. Let stand 10 minutes or until room temperature. Shake well and check seasoning before using.



The February Kitchen Garden

Roots bed croppedThe February kitchen garden looks a little ragged.  In the root vegetable beds, only a few green stems rise here and there above the soggy mulch, several celery roots, a couple of turnips and rutabagas.  Under the mulch, the last parsnips and carrots are just starting to re-sprout.  I’ll harvest all these roots soon, before they lose their flavor and texture to new growth. The few remaining leeks are droopy-leaved but still sweet and tender.  I’ll harvest them soon too before their cores harden into seed stalks.  And the Brussels sprouts are listing, top-heavy with the final, still-tasty sprouts.Carrots in mulch

Brussels sprouts 2013

Leeks, carrots, sprouts in basket

These favorite winter vegetables have served us well all winter and I’ll savor the last of them in meals that celebrate the end of this season. Roasting large batches these remaining roots, leeks and sprouts is a good way to prepare them. Sitting out on plates, they are tempting snacks.  Having several days worth of them available for lunch and dinner salads and maybe a root vegetable tart stretches out the pleasure of their intense flavors and colors, their chewy, caramelized textures.Roots roasted on plates

In the beds of hardy greens, the remaining leaves of kale, chard, mustard and arugula are sturdy but still sweet from frosts, still delicious sautéed or in salads.  As I harvest these last winter leaves, new growth is already sprouting from the stems of kale, the thick bases of chard, the centers of mustards and the tangle of arugula. Unlike the roots, whose season is ending, these re-growing greens will provide earthy, spicy salads for a month or two before they send out the flower buds that will end their season in my favorite spring stir-fries.  Here are two posts from last year that explore these new growth greens and flower buds: and

Greens bed 2013

Kale buds 2013

Mustard growth 2013

The other night, I made a salad that brought some of the last roots and newly growing greens together.  I cut a rutabaga into small cubes, tossed them in olive oil and roasted them until they softened and caramelized.  They were the perfect addition to a salad of new kale leaves, new and old arugula and mustard and the last of the mache.  A sprinkling of roasted leeks completed this February salad, celebrating both the last roots and the re-growing greens. Salad February