How many times have you passed over the veggies at Thanksgiving in favor of the more delicious, more special turkey and potatoes and stuffing and other stuffing and rolls and pie only to feel a little sick and very sleepy afterwards? It happens! Everyone wants to eat their absolutely favorite dishes and (with the exception of potatoes) those favorites include a vegetable about 0% of the time. While I fully support you in your quest to eat all of your favorite foods, I also don’t want you to feel crappy afterwards. One good way to feel a little less sick and sleepy is to make sure to include some vegetables. And it shouldn’t be a matter of sacrificing valuable stomach space for a “lesser” side – I want your veggies to be awesome! I believe that the best way to make this happen is to give the veggies just as much attention as the turkey! Holidays are a time to pull out all the stops and really go for it with your flavors, and the following are suggestions for how to make this a reality for your vegetables:
- Consider your source: Locally grown and sourced vegetables have a superior taste and texture AND provide you with the warm fuzzy feeling that comes with doing business with your neighbors. It may be a little late to make this happen for Thanksgiving, but think about it for Christmas. There is no central database of farmers markets, but ask around (both real people and Google) to determine where you can get some good local produce: farmers markets, some smaller grocery stores, farm stores, and perhaps even some late-season farm stands can all be great sources.
- Cook with the bird: This is a very simple suggestion, but if you roast some veggies in the pan under the turkey rack, they cook in the turkey fat and whatever other seasonings you’ve thrown in there and it’s AWESOME. They get nice and crispy on the outside with some really over the top flavor. If you have a veggie hater in your family, feed that person a carrot cooked under the turkey. They’ll be converted.
- Toast your nuts: Nuts add a lovely crunch to just about any dish, and this is the Holidays. We are pulling out all the stops. You BETTER be toasting those nuts! They will get even nuttier tasting, even crunchier, and I am willing to bet you’ll struggle to get all of them into the salad or veggie dish they’re intended for because they’re too delicious not to snack on. Try this.
- Add a gremolata: Gremolata is a finely chopped condiment that typically includes garlic, parsley, lemon, and anchovy, but many variations exist if one of those ingredients doesn’t appeal to you. It’s packed with fresh, savory flavor that can take any vegetable from boring to thrilling. Yes, thrilling. Try this Roasted Vegetables with Pecan Gremolata recipe, or make a classic gremolata based on this recipe.
- Fancy breadcrumbs: You can use breadcrumbs similar to the way you’d use a gremolata – as a condiment. But where the gremolata is wet with perhaps a slight chew from nuts that may be added, breadcrumbs done right add a bit of texture. Sprinkle over a vegetable dish to add flavor and a delightful crunch from toasted, buttery breadcrumbs! These aren’t any old breadcrumbs though, you’ve got to put some work into artfully seasoning and toasting your holiday veggie breadcrumbs. Here is a full on veggies with breadcrumbs recipe, and here is another recipe that includes tasty breadcrumbs that you may want to put on EVERYTHING.
- Fresh herbs: This should be news to no one, but fresh herbs are really tasty and I never fail to be impressed by just how much flavor they add to dishes. Now, the prices they charge for those little plastic containers with 3 sage leaves at the grocery store are basically extortion so now is a good time to find a friend with an herb garden.
- Go BIG or go tiny: Everyone has seen cauliflower florets, but how about an ENTIRE HEAD OF ROASTED CAULIFLOWER? During my time in New Orleans, my entire dietetic internship class became obsessed with the whole roasted cauliflower at Domenica. You just can’t not want to try a piece of that behemoth. On the other end of the spectrum, baby-sized vegetables are also incredibly cute. Baby bok choy is incredible. Martha Stewart used to always have actual tiny baby carrots with the tops still on! I have no idea where you source a mini carrot like that, but if you happen to come across them I vote you buy it. Everyone loves minis.
- Cook correctly: I have counseled a shocking number of grown adults who don’t eat vegetables. Usually, it is due to some scarring experience in childhood with veggies that were boiled to hell and turned into a pile of mush. Pay attention to your vegetables and don’t let them become baby food.