Whatever you do this Thanksgiving, don’t spoil your spread with underdressed vegetables.
Sure, well-dressed produce — such as green beans adorned with bacon or carrots swimming in butter — are less healthy than those that are simply steamed and seasoned. But they also taste a heck of a lot better. And since this is Thanksgiving, why not live a little?
To get you in the mood, we dressed our roasted Brussels sprouts with Gruyere cheese, pumpkin seeds and dates. Sweet, cheesy, caramelized deliciousness.
GRUYERE ROASTED BRUSSELS SPROUTS WITH PEPITAS AND DATES
Start to finish: 1 hour (20 minutes active)
2 pounds Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and ground black pepper
1 cup shredded Gruyere cheese
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds (also called pepitas), toasted
1/2 cup chopped dates
Heat the oven to 400 F.
Spread the Brussels sprouts on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with the olive oil and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper.
Roast for 30 to 40 minutes, or until tender and well browned. Sprinkle with the shredded cheese and return to the oven for 10 minutes. Transfer to a serving dish and sprinkle with the pumpkin seeds and dates.
Nutrition information per serving: 250 calories; 110 calories from fat (44 percent of total calories); 13 g fat (4.5 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 20 mg cholesterol; 26 g carbohydrate; 7 g fiber; 13 g sugar; 14 g protein; 260 mg sodium.
Like onions, leeks develop a rich, savory flavor when cooked slowly. And when cooked this way, they make an excellent addition to a creamy mound of mashed potatoes.
Rather than caramelize the leeks, which requires a bit more hands on cooking, we decided to melt them. It’s actually a braise, but the result is meltingly good. And braising requires only an occasional stir. The leeks are thinly sliced, then slowly simmered in broth or stock until extremely tender, then the whole mixture is stirred into the potatoes.
The easiest way to clean leeks is to cut them up first. Trim off the ends, cut them in half lengthwise, then thinly slice them. Place the slices in a large bowl of cool water and toss well, separating the layers, to rinse away any dirt. Allow the dirt to fall to the bottom of the bowl, then use a slotted spoon to scoop out the floating leeks.
MELTED LEEK MASHED POTATOES
Start to finish: 45 minutes
3 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 cups thinly sliced and cleaned leeks
1/2 cup chicken stock or broth
1/2 cup half-and-half
3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
Place the potatoes in a large stockpot. Add enough water to cover by 1 inch. Set over high heat and bring to a boil. Cook until tender, about 20 minutes.
While the potatoes cook, prepare the leeks. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, melt the butter. Add the leeks and broth and cover. Bring to a simmer, then reduce heat to maintain the temperature and cook, stirring occasionally, until the leeks are extremely tender, about 30 minutes.
When the potatoes are cooked, drain and return to the pot. Add the half-and-half, then mash until smooth. Season with salt, then stir in the melted leeks — along with any liquid in the pan — and the chives.
Nutrition information per serving: 210 calories; 50 calories from fat (24 percent of total calories); 6 g fat (4 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 15 mg cholesterol; 37 g carbohydrate; 3 g fiber; 3 g sugar; 5 g protein; 140 mg sodium.
Roasted squash is so been-there-done-that. Not that it isn’t delicious. But how many times can you get excited by tossing butternut chunks in oil and seasonings, then roasting?
Still, Thanksgiving is about tradition, so we didn’t want to go too far astray from that. Instead, we looked at two ways to jazz up your otherwise basic roasted squash — by giving it a partner and by giving it a dressing.
Let’s start with the former. Potatoes would be out of place, particularly because they usually show up mashed, too. Plus, we didn’t want something so starchy. Beets were the answer. They have a wonderful, gentle sweetness that plays really well with the natural sweetness of the squash.
For the dressing, we went with garlic. Garlic can be a difficult flavor at the Thanksgiving table. The danger is that it can overpower the other flavors and dishes. So we mellow it with a long, slow simmer in heavy cream, then we puree it. The result is a savory, rich sauce to drizzle over your roasted vegetables.
Nothing been-there about this Thanksgiving side.
ROASTED SQUASH AND BEETS WITH CREAMED GARLIC
Start to finish: 1 hour 15 minutes
1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 4 cups)
4 large beets, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 4 cups)
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and ground black pepper
3/4 cup heavy cream
2 heads garlic (or 24 cloves), peeled
3 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
Heat the oven to 400 F.
Spread the squash and beets on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with the olive oil and toss to coat. Season with salt and black pepper. Roast for 40 minutes, or until tender and browned, stirring every so often.
Meanwhile, make the creamed garlic. In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the cream and the garlic. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to just below a simmer. There should be just occasional bubbles in the cream. Cook for 45 to 50 minutes, or until the garlic is very tender. Mash the garlic with a fork in the cream, or transfer everything to a blender and puree until smooth. Stir in the thyme and season with salt and black pepper.
Serve the roasted squash and beets drizzled with the garlic cream.
Nutrition information per serving: 180 calories; 110 calories from fat (61 percent of total calories); 12 g fat (6 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 30 mg cholesterol; 19 g carbohydrate; 4 g fiber; 6 g sugar; 3 g protein; 190 mg sodium.
Injecting a taste of the exotic at Thanksgiving is a tricky business. After all, this is a holiday built on tradition; mess too much with what everyone loves and you’re going to have some grumpy diners.
But the dinner rolls are a place you can play around. For this recipe, we took a basic — and ridiculously easy — approach to monkey bread (pull-apart bread), and simply added the exotic flavor of dukkah, an Egyptian seasoning blend made from herbs, spices and ground nuts. It has a warm, savory flavor that works well with Thanksgiving staples.
DUKKAH MONKEY ROLLS
Start to finish: 1 hour 15 minutes (15 minutes active)
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1/2 cup hazelnuts, toasted
1 tablespoon whole coriander seeds
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 cup fresh mint
1/4 cup fresh marjoram
16-ounce frozen white bread dough, thawed
6 tablespoons butter, melted
Coat a muffin tin with cooking spray.
To make the dukkah, in a food processor, combine the sesame seeds, hazelnuts, coriander, cumin, salt, pepper, mint and marjoram. Pulse until well chopped and sandy in texture.
Cut the bread dough into small pieces, about the size of a marble. Place the dough pieces in a zip-close plastic bag. Add the melted butter, then close the bag and toss the mixture around inside the bag until everything is well coated. Add the dukkah and toss again.
Place about 1/2 cup of the coated bread dough pieces into each muffin well. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat the oven to 400 F.
After the dough has sat for 30 minutes, uncover and bake until golden brown and cooked through, about 30 minutes. Cool in the pan until easily handled, then remove from the muffin wells and serve warm.
Nutrition information per serving: 210 calories; 110 calories from fat (52 percent of total calories); 12 g fat (4 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 15 mg cholesterol; 20 g carbohydrate; 2 g fiber; 0 g sugar; 6 g protein; 380 mg sodium.