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Favorite side dish recipes from The Perfect Pantry

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.

Baked cherry tomatoes

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.

Cranberry chutney

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.

Even if you have a cousin who doesn't like them, don't forget beets. Either honey roasted beets with thyme or glazed beets with maple syrup would be welcome additions.

Zucchini with golden raisins, pine nuts and lemon

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.

Broccoli and cauliflower sformatino

"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.

Spicy green beans

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.

Thyme roasted new potatoes

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

Saag aloo (potatoes with spiced spinach) brings a taste of India to your side dish presentation; turmeric gives it both rich color and flavor.

Puff pastry cups filled with sweet potato, apple and nuts

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.

Fennel, pear and olive salad

I'm partial to this fennel, pear and olive salad, with its red wine vinegar dressing, and Moroccan cucumber salad with herbs and olives. Both feature kalamata olives, the kind my son-in-law adores.

Next: dessert, of course.

Previously: favorite turkey and vegetarian main dishes.

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how do you keep squirrels from stealing your eggplants???

i made the saag aloo a few months ago and loved it!

OK SERIOUSLY I may have to stop visiting because I can't take the torture - everything LOOKS SO GOOD! My first love is tomatoes and my heart stood still when the first picture loaded. Maybe I should switch to reading after dinner at night instead of during the day before lunch, maybe I wouldn't be so hungry! or maybe my renewed efforts at dieting lately are "getting to me."
This is truly a "top 15" recipe guide for the holiday!

For years I've WAY more interested in the side dishes, than the poor bird. So I appreciate this post- with all your tempting choices. Wish I could make one of each. Tonight!

I love the idea of a cranberry chutney! Yum, that will be on my list to make for Christmas dinner!

Thanks for your post listing some of your favorite side dishes. The puff pastry cups filled with sweet potatoes, apples and nuts looks wonderful.

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