“Only vegetables are happy.”
- William Faulkner (1897-1962), American writer
Everyone has his/her own favorite Thanksgiving dishes. Dark meat v. White meat. Stuffing hogs. Mashed potato mountains. Pie-a-holics. I am the girl that eats all the vegetables, leaving the rest of my family to fight it out for the stuffing. I am not the ghost of vegetable past. I just like my veggies. Dark green leaves, such as kale or Swiss chard, are bitter if eaten in the summer. The frost allows for the sugars to develop in these greens. Mushrooms are in their full glory. Cruciferous vegetables – broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower – can all be eaten a number of ways. More veg for me please.
This is not to suggest that I am some low-fat, low-calorie health nut. Vegetables need some fat to balance out their acidity and greenness. But it doesn’t have to be some cream-of-whatever-it-is disaster or a duvet of cheese. Like anything else, vegetables, if cooked properly, can be the undiscovered understudy of Thanksgiving. You just have to give them a chance.
One of the ways one can do this is by roasting vegetables. Roasting caramelizes sugars inherent in vegetables (yes, there are sugars in vegetables) and makes them a whole new eating experience. Also, not overcooking your vegetables would help. You would be surprised how many people think that an overcooked vegetable is the only way to prepare vegetables. No wonder why kids hate them.
The dishes here have made avowed vegetable haters into vegetable maybes. They need to get their vitamins and minerals from somewhere. They might as well start here.
Roast Cauliflower with Yogurt and Mint
This can be made a day ahead. Just remember to make the yogurt right before serving. This can easily be doubled, even though you may have to roast the cauliflower in batches.
1/4 plus 1 tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. ground fennel seed
1/4 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 of any good curry powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 head of cauliflower, cut into medium florets
1 onion, chopped
2 tbs. chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/2 c. Greek Yogurt (full-fat)
1 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
zest and juice of 1 lemon
1/2 tsp. chopped mint
salt to taste
1. Preheat oven to 450ºF. In a large bowl, thoroughly mix 1/4 c. of olive oil, salt and all the spices. Toss the florets to coat. Spread florets on a heavy baking sheet (try to keep them separated) and roast for 15 minutes, flipping florets over halfway through roasting. They are ready when barely tender and browned in spots. (You can do this 1-2 days ahead, with the florets stored in the fridge. Just bring them to room temperature before you continue the recipe.)
2. Blend yogurt, olive oil, lemon zest and juice in a small bowl. Stir in mint and season to taste with salt.
3. Heat 1 tbs. of olive oil in a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Sauté onions until soft and translucent, but not browned, about 6-8 minutes.
4. Remove skillet from heat and add florets. Mix to combine. Add parsley and toss again.
5. Distribute yogurt dressing among 4 plates. Pile cauliflower on top. Serve immediately.
Green Beans Tricolore
I know, I know. This has nothing to do with Southeast Asia. But this dish has a reputation on 4 continents (and Antarctica is not one of them), and it always requested at dinner parties. I had yet to give out the recipe, until this bloody blog thing started. I am now obligated to share. To Christian and Sophie: I hope you two are happy now. And Christian, you now owe me a box of Ladurée macaroons – Fed Ex please!
1 pound of green beans (haricot verts, if you can get them), washed and trimmed
2 shallots, minced
1/2 pd. tomatoes, chopped (use grape or cherry tomatoes this time of year)
1 tsp. honey
salt and freshly ground pepper
5 tbs. walnut oil (see note)
2 tbs. balsamic vinegar
1. Boil a large pot of water with a pinch of salt. Blanch green beans briefly (1/2 minute for haricot verts, 1 minute for regular green beans) in boiling water and immediately drain, rinsing with cold water to stop cooking. Reserve.
2. In a small bowl, whisk honey, walnut oil and vinegar. Add salt and pepper to taste.
3. In a large bowl, add green beans, tomatoes and shallots. Toss with dressing. Add additional salt and pepper, if needed.
Note: Walnut oil, or huile de noix can be found at specialty stores, such as Whole Foods, Dean & Deluca, or Balducci’s. It’s somewhat pricey, but a little goes a long way. Remember to store it in the refrigerator because it turns rancid quickly once opened.