With less than a week away, the countdown to Thanksgiving has begun, and along with it, a massive preparation to make the day a gastronomic success. For our family, the day doesn’t begin with the turkey dinner. Ever since our children were very little, we would start the day with brunch, the Macy’s parade occasionally catching our attention, and a food project for the little ones. Each year it was something new—decorating cupcakes, cookies or mini bundt cakes—not works of art, I assure you. But as the children got older, their final products looked more…shall we say—edible. They took on more difficult and challenging tasks—using marzipan to decorate the top of a cake or icing cookies a professional would be proud of. In our family, as you will find out as the week goes on, we don’t let go of tradition easily. The “kids” now range from the ages of nineteen to twenty-eight and they still expect to do their morning project on Thanksgiving. Last year my twenty-three year old niece asked me, “Aunt Ef, what’s our Thanksgiving craft this year?” I had to laugh. Naturally, I had one planned, but I told her that when they had their own kids, they would be pushing them aside, still wanting to do the craft themselves, as if they were still the children.
I guess it’s a given that most people will make a turkey next Thursday. I’ve been asked for suggestions for side dishes. There are always the obvious choices—mashed potatoes, stuffing and yams. It seems everyone has a favorite recipe, I know I do, but here are some vegetable suggestions that are easy and won’t consume too much of your time.
- You can slice the carrots the day before and even prepare them a day ahead if time is short. Parboil 2 pounds of sliced carrots for 3 minutes. Dice an onion and sauté in 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter and 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil. Add carrots, salt and pepper to taste. Simmer until carrots are tender.
- Another variation is to eliminate the onion. Cook the carrots in the butter and add1/3 cup of brown sugar and 3 tablespoons of honey. Cook until tender. Add some thinly sliced almonds and remove from heat.
- Steam or boil 2 pounds of string beans with some sliced garlic until tender. While the sting beans are cooking, season ½ cup of panko bread crumbs with grated cheese, salt, pepper, parsley and garlic powder. Drizzle either 3 tablespoons of olive oil or butter on the string beans and toss. They should be coated but not dripping with grease. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs and toss to coat.
- Or forget the breadcrumbs and add 3 tablespoons of olive oil and the zest and juice of one lemon. Salt and pepper to taste. Toss to coat.
- Roast these with whole garlic cloves and a drizzle of olive oil in your oven for about 35 minutes at 350 degrees. Everyone’s oven is different, so adjust accordingly. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Follow the above instructions, but sprinkle a generous amount of grated cheese and seasoned breadcrumbs on top before roasting.
- Another way to prepare asparagus is to steam or boil them until tender-crisp. Add olive oil, zest and juice from one lemon, a little crushed garlic and salt and pepper to taste.
Cut Brussels sprouts in half. In a bowl, toss with olive oil, salt and pepper to coat. Lay them on a baking sheet and put in oven for 45 minutes at 350 degrees. The Brussels sprouts will caramelize and become tender.
- Boil or steam until tender but still firm. Drizzle olive oil and lemon juice on top. Season with salt, pepper, parsley and garlic powder.
- Boil until very tender with a couple of cloves of garlic. Drain and place in a food processor. Add salt, pepper and 2 tablespoons of melted butter. Pulse until smooth. The consistency will look like mashed potatoes.
If you notice, I wrote very few exact measurements. I suggest you work by feel and taste. Be conservative with the oils and butters. You can always add, but you can’t take away. Each of us is hosting a different number of people at their table. The amount of vegetables I make will be different than what you will make. I will be cooking for twenty.