Don’t be fooled by turkey’s top billing at Thanksgiving — the holiday is also a vegetable jackpot! My absolute favorite parts of the meal are the plant-based side dishes. Seasonal produce prepared simply or with a creative twist shows off just how versatile, complex and satisfying vegetables can be.
These three favorites are always on the table for my family’s big holiday meal:
1. Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Grapes and Walnuts
I love Brussels sprouts. This recipe blends nuttiness with a little bit of sweet — a perfect balance to the slight bitterness of the sprouts.
4 cups Brussels sprouts, halved
2 cups red seedless grapes
1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
Sea salt (I like Maldon Sea Salt Flakes), to taste
Ground black pepper, to taste
2-3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Preheat the oven to 400°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper for easy cleanup. Trim sprouts of any dry ends and loose leaves, then halve. Place sprouts, grapes and walnuts on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle the olive oil evenly over the top, sprinkle with thyme, salt and pepper, and toss to coat.
Roast for 25 to 30 minutes, or until sprouts are well browned, nuts are fully toasted and grapes are darkened in color and very plump. As soon as you remove the pan from the oven, drizzle the balsamic vinegar over the contents of the pan and toss to coat. Transfer to a serving dish and sprinkle with a little additional sea salt, if desired.
2. Twice-Baked Sweet-Potato Casserole
Serves 10 to 12
I don’t hate anything a sweet potato does. I always make this twice-baked casserole, which is really just a modern version of my mom’s and my mother-in-law’s.
8 small sweet potatoes (4 to 4½ pounds)
2 tablespoons ghee
1 small sweet onion, diced
Large pinch plus 1½ teaspoons sea salt
2 cups (16-oz) plain Greek yogurt (or you can substitute real sour cream)
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups shredded cheese (I like 365 Everyday Value® Organic Italian Blend)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives (optional)
Preheat oven to 375°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Poke sweet potatoes a few times with the tines of a fork, place on the sheet pan, and bake until soft, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Cool.
Reheat oven to 375°F if necessary and grease a 9x13-inch baking dish or 2-quart casserole. In a large skillet, melt ghee over medium heat. Add onion and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring, until onion is translucent and soft but not browned, about 5 minutes.
Halve cooled potatoes and scoop out flesh. Place flesh in a very large bowl and mash. Add onion, yogurt, pepper and remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and mix well. Stir in 1 cup of the cheese. Spoon the mixture into the baking dish. Sprinkle with the remaining 1 cup of cheese and bake until the casserole is very hot and the cheese on top is browned, about 45 minutes. Sprinkle with chives (if using) and let cool at least 10 minutes before serving.
3. Caramelized Acorn Squash
This one is so easy. You just pop in a little bit of brown sugar and go to town. And you don’t even wash a dish because you eat right out of the squash.
4 small (1-pound) acorn squash
8 teaspoons ghee
8 teaspoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
Preheat oven to 400°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut squash lengthwise and scoop out all of the seeds and goop. (Then, I also like to cut a small slice off the bottom of each half to stabilize them on the baking sheet. Your call!) Place the halves cut-side up on a baking sheet. Using your fingers, coat the flesh of each half with 1 teaspoon ghee, then sprinkle each with 1 teaspoon sugar and salt. Roast on the top rack of the oven until browned.