Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and it's time to start hammering out the details of your holiday feast. The turkey or, better yet, Tofurkey always steals the spotlight, but give the protein a run for its money this year with a bounty of delicious side dishes made from the freshest local vegetables. The Greenmarket stands are overflowing with the best the New York region has to offer this time of year, from rich, leafy kale and bright green Brussels sprouts to hearty sweet potatoes and earthy, mouth-watering mushrooms. Hit the jump to see our must-have Thanksgiving veggies and tips on how to serve them!
Beets are one of the healthiest vegetables out there, but they can inspire a different breed of vegetable-hatred. With a few simple tips, you can transform these earthy bulbs into a delectable dish that even the surest beet-hater will love (we’re speaking from experience, here!). While beets are available year-round, they reach their peak freshness during the fall. Roast the beets whole to bring out their unique sweetness, then chop them up and enjoy them in a fresh spinach salad. Or highlight the whole beet by sautéing the greens with garlic and tossing with the chopped roasted bulbs and crumbled goat cheese.
Given the dozens of different types of squash available at most city markets, it may a little silly to lump them all together. But for the sake of simplicity, we only picked up our favorites: butternut and acorn, both of which are sweeter winter squashes that are rich in vitamins. Our favorite way to cook butternut squash is in pastas, as it adds a nutty, creamy flavor – this butternut squash mac and cheese recipe is amazing and makes an awesome main course for vegetarians. For acorn squash, we love to preserve their beautiful shape by simply slicing off the top, seasoning the inside with butter and spices, and baking until the squash can be easily mashed. Use cinnamon and brown sugar for a sweeter side, and swap the butter for faux-butter or olive oil to make it vegan.
While Tropical Storm Irene completely ruined crops for many farmers (and gave us a pumpkin shortage!), the heavy rains were a godsend for mushroom growers. Normally exotic mushrooms can be a bit pricey, but the bounty has helped level the cost, making it the perfect time to showcase one of our region’s most underrated delights. Add roasted oyster or crimini mushrooms to your standard roasted potatoes for a dressed-up side, or let the mushrooms take center stage with a quick saute.
Kale is in-season through mid-winter, and our favorite farm stand literally had a mound of beautiful, leafy kale for sale at this week’s market. The dark hearty greens are possibly one of the best vegetables you could eat since it’s full of vitamins K, A, and C, plus magnesium, fiber and much more. Our go-to way for preparing kale is to simply sauté it with some garlic and olive oil, and for a fancier, deeper flavor, we like to add a bit of smoked paprika. If you’ve already got too many pots on the stove, toss the leaves with oil and garlic and roast it in the oven.
A classic on every Thanksgiving table, sweet potatoes usually get sweetened beyond edibility into some type of gooey marshmallow blob. This year, keep the sweet potatoes’ integrity by preparing the spuds in a more refined way. After all, the bright orange roots are packed with beta-carotene and can be a very healthy side if you go light on the butter and sugar. Nearly every Greenmarket vendor was stocked to the max with sweet potatoes, so pick up a couple pounds and whip them into this creamy, vegan-friendly twist on mashed potatoes or chop them up and roasted them with a drizzling of maple syrup.
Carrots play a supporting role in most Thanksgiving dishes, but when we saw the beautiful pile of bright orange roots at our Greenmarket, we knew we were going to change that this year. Like most root vegetables, carrots are available year-round, but they reach the heigh of their flavor in the fall. We could eat roasted carrots by the bunch, but for this holiday, we’re switching it up and giving the carrots more pizazz with this amazing Indian-spiced carrot saute. If you can’t resist roasting (and we don’t blame you!), keep the carrots whole to make the dish a little more sophisticated.
While Brussels sprouts can make many want to turn and run, these adorable little cabbages are vitamin powerhouses and are quite delicious when treated with respect. Plus, the bright green orbs make for a very pretty side dish. We recommend slicing them in half and sautéing them with shallots and (for the omnivores) sprinkling them with a bit of crumpled bacon (local and sustainably raised, of course), or roasting them whole in the oven and garnishing with sliced almonds.
all photos © Jessica Dailey for Inhabitat