Still working on your holiday menu? Same here. All this week, we're bringing you our favorite mains, sides and desserts, made with ingredients in The Perfect Pantry.
When I was a younger and more nervous cook, I'd have nightmares about Thanksgiving dinner.
In my dreams, either I'd forget to turn the oven on, and I'd serve the turkey raw, or I'd put the turkey in the oven after breakfast, and by dinner time it would be burned to a crisp.
Would anyone notice if there were no turkey in the middle of the table, as long as all of the traditional sides were there? Although, if there were no main dish, could we still call side dishes sides?
Thanksgiving is all about the sides, and every family has its favorites: sweet potatoes with marshmallows, green bean casserole, giblet gravy, cornbread stuffing. Don't be afraid to break with tradition, though; everyone will still love you if you experiment a bit and serve dishes catering to more modern tastes and, occasionally, more modest use of butter and sugar.
After all, everyone needs room for dessert.
Here are some of our favorite side dishes, using ingredients we always have in the pantry. I like to plan for something from each of these categories: red, green, potatoes and salad.
For the red, how about these gorgeous baked cherry tomatoes (in the top photo), topped with bread crumbs from the pantry? Cherry tomatoes are available year round, and bring a burst of color as well as fresh flavor to the menu.
On the more purplish end of the reds, cranberry chutney replaces overly-sweet cranberry sauce on our holiday table. Made with a combination of fruits and bright cider vinegar, the chutney tastes great on sandwiches, and best of all, you really need to make it far ahead to allow the flavor to mellow.
I love the greens most of all, and topping the list on our table this year will be zucchini with golden raisins, pine nuts and lemon, made with pine nuts that I always keep in the freezer.
"Poor little eggplants", flavored with the oregano that's still thriving in my garden despite ever-colder overnight temperatures, make a beautiful presentation, not your typical eggplant-as-mush dish. For those who like their green vegetables nestled in a cheese-y gooey casserole, broccoli and cauliflower sformatino will be just the thing.
For many families, green beans are synonymous with holiday meals. Instead of green bean casserole, try these spicy green beans that get a bit of warm heat from Szechuan peppercorns.
Potatoes deserve their own special category, because a feast without them would be unthinkable.
Definitely on the menu this year, these thyme-roasted new potatoes, tossed with extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper and fresh thyme leaf, won't mind if a bit of gravy falls on them. If there's still any lemon thyme in the garden next week, I might make a batch of roasted potatoes with lemon thyme vinaigrette, too.
Saag aloo (potatoes with spiced spinach) brings a taste of India to your side dish presentation; turmeric gives it both rich color and flavor.
And would it be Thanksgiving without sweet potatoes? I think not. I love making these futuristic puff pastry cups filled with sweet potato, apple and nuts (there's always puff pastry in the freezer), or for something more substantial, a sweet potato, raisin and lentil stew, which can be made with any dried fruit you have in the pantry.
My table always features a green salad, for those who are watching their waistlines (like me), but for the holidays I like to offer a variety of salads made with vinegar-based dressings, to balance the richness of the meal.
Next: dessert, of course.
Previously: favorite turkey and vegetarian main dishes.
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