We all know that Thanksgiving is a turkey-centric holiday, but I don’t think I’m speaking an untruth when I say that for most of us, it’s a meal that’s really more about the side dishes than the main event. Truly, it’s stuffing, potatoes, green beans, and casseroles that make this annual meal feel both special and festive.
Cookbook author Tara Matazara Desmond knows that it’s really the side dish that makes the meal, and has recently published a book celebrating the things we serve along with our mains. Called Choosing Sides: From Holidays to Every Day, 130 Delicious Recipes to Make the Meal, this book features side dishes for every occasion.
Whether you’re searching for something special to join a brunch menu or you’re simply on the hunt for some new flavors to enhance a weeknight regular, this book is here to serve as useful guide for home cooks who are stuck in a rut and need a few new ideas.
When my sister was 14 years old, she stopped eating meat. We were always a household that was big on vegetables, so it wasn’t too much of a hardship, but when meat-centric holidays like Thanksgiving rolled around, it was a little bit more of a challenge.
One year, my mom sprang for a tofu roast that was pressed into the shape of a turkey. Other years, we did fanciful things with sautéed mushrooms, roasted acorn squash, and toasted nuts.
Eventually, my sister returned to the poultry-eating fold, but over those years I learned a lot about making main dishes that were both suitably celebratory and free from meat.
As a vegan, I try not to get preachy about my diet. But a certain common exchange makes it hard to hold my tongue.
“A vegan?” someone will ask, scrunching up his nose. “So what do you eat, then? Salad,” the S word uttered with distain.
The truth is that salad gets a pretty bum wrap. And sadly in many instances, its poor reputation is somewhat deserved. Look at any mid-range chain restaurant menu, and you’ll see that most of the dishes in the “Salad” category are just strips of chicken, beef, or fish sitting on an underwhelming pile of lettuce, shaved carrots, and flavorless cherry tomatoes.
In salad’s role as a health food, it receives even less respect. The typical mound of iceberg lettuce topped fat-free Italian dressing may be low in calories, but it fails to satisfy most people, including myself.
If only more people knew how to make a great salad, it wouldn’t have this bad reputation. These are my basic rules for pulling together a hearty, healthy, delicious salad: MORE
My grandma Bunny was of the opinion that if you had to turn your oven on in the summertime, it was best to do it for short periods of time at very high heat. Her thinking was that fairly quick blasts of heat (no more than 45 minutes were permitted) could be fanned out of the house without too much effort, while longer roasts and braises would stay with you all darned day. I have long taken her word as gospel on this topic because her A/C-free Southern California home was always perfectly temperate, even on the hottest days.
If you grow your own vegetables, have a CSA, or shop at a farmer’s market, you’ve already experienced the seasonal abundance of radishes. You’ve done all you can imagine to use them up. You’ve eaten them raw — sliced into salads, layered onto sandwiches, garnishing the top of tacos. You’ve pickled jar after jar to save for later in the year. And now, you’re frankly just tired of dealing with them. You want nothing more than for the fresh corn, tomatoes, and peaches of summer to arrive.
I understand, I do. But don’t be too quick to bid radishes adieu. You’re likely not really bored of the actual radishes; you’re only bored of how you’re eating them. It’s time to mix up your radish routine — these vibrant and spicy bulbous root vegetables can, and should, be enjoyed in more than just salads. MORE
Green garlic is one of the true joys of spring. It’s immature hardneck garlic, plucked from the rows to give the rest the space they need to grow into heads of garlic that will last through the winter. It’s typically picked before the cloves or their papery layers have formed, and so is entirely edible from top to bottom.
Typically, green garlic is sold in long, grassy stalks with the roots still attached. I like to trim away the leggy roots and use the rest of the vegetable in stir fries, baked goods, salads and pestos.
The flavor of green garlic is bright and mild (compared to storage garlic, at least). It mellows nicely when cooked or roasted. The green tops can be wilted into soups, though do take care to trim away any browning or tough parts.
Celebrities go through identity crises and need to reinvent themselves all the time. Rarely do vegetables face the same problem. But for the Jerusalem artichoke, the rebranding process has been crucial to its revival. The first step? A new, friendlier name: Everyone, meet the sunchoke.
Will sunchokes steal the spotlight away from kale, become the new cauliflower, or out-trend Brussels sprouts? It’s too soon to tell. Regardless, sunchokes are the next dowdy vegetable that wants to be a star.
Each spring, when the first local asparagus arrives in the farmers markets, I go a little bit overboard. Those fat, green-verging-on-purple stalks mean that the season of abundance has finally arrived. I binge on asparagus, buying several pounds at a time without any kind of a plan, a little bit fearful that it will disappear before I have my fill. MORE
My grandma Bunny had a rule about dining out. She believed that if you were going to eat at a restaurant, you had to choose one that served food that you weren’t able to make at home. In Bunny’s case, that meant that she passed on the Italian and American joints in her neighborhood and opted instead for Mexican, Vietnamese, and Chinese.
This always seemed to be me to be sound advice and so, throughout my adulthood, I’ve always made a point to seek out restaurants serving food that was outside my own skills as a cook.
I’ve always found Chinese food to be a particularly mysterious cuisine to cook at home, with all the different sauces, spices, and fermented condiments. So in the past, when I’ve had a craving for flavorful beef with tender crisp broccoli, or cold, spicy noodles, I reached for the takeout menu. MORE
I don’t spend a great deal of time thinking about peas. For most of the year, they are an ever-present vegetable that lives in the freezer. I regularly add a handful to soups and salads (rinse them under warm water to quickly defrost them) and appreciate them for how little they demand of me. However, when spring arrives and peas are in season, I feel it necessary to celebrate the joy that is the green pea. MORE
I have been in something of a cooking slump since mid-February. When the Brussels sprouts first arrived in late fall, I bought them by the stalk and brandished them joyfully. Now, I recoil slightly at the bin of sprouts at Iovine’s. I’ve been similarly unmoved by potatoes, kale, and dense winter squashes for weeks.
I thought it was simply a general weariness with winter that was causing my resentment towards the available produce. However, now I realize that I was simply suffering from the effects of a rut – because since a copy of Deborah Madison’s new book, Vegetable Literacy, arrived last week, I have found myself picking up beets, carrots, and onions with fresh inspiration and no small amount of giddiness.