I recently wrote a post on Brooklyn Based about Where To Get Your Gobble Gobble, a round-up of sustainably-minded turkey farms and purveyors in the region that are now offering their best for the big, birdy holiday. But as I was walking through the Greenmarket today, I thought, these vegetables are pretty fascinating, too — and I’m never short of finding a new one with each stroll. So, since we all know the most exciting part of the Thanksgiving meal are the sides, here’s a few shout-outs to vegetables that might even be worthy of a main course of their own.
Because, no matter if you think the famed feast between the pilgrims and Wampanoag Indians is bunk, Thanksgiving is essentially a fall harvest festival. And that means fall harvest food is the feast. I’m not sure when or how green beans came to be a standard addition (perhaps when the legume rose to popularity sometime in the 1990s, in glossy magazines), but they’re one of spring’s signature crops. So here — and instead of focusing on particular farms that have them — are seasonal veggies that are available in most parts late November. Hope you find them at your favorite markets, too.
Carrots: Glazed and grilled, roasted or even served raw, these tough roots of beta-carotene are a sure-fire fall treat. They’re almost so ubiquitous to seasoning, though, that we seldom think of serving them alone, as a vegetable side. Once again, bunk! Go ahead and roast them with rosemary, or shred them in a raw salad.
Recipe: Ginger-Glazed Grilled Carrots
Grilled Carrots with Carrot Greens Pesto
Radishes: Radishes are one of the most prolific plants I have seen; they refuse to not grow into dainty red bulbs after just a few weeks from planting. It’s high time we found more uses for the easy-going source of fiber and Vitamin C, aside from just slicing them up to toss into salads. Melissa Clark had a great article about roasting radishes, and since then I’ve seen it done in restaurants here and there. Radishes vary incredibly; these are some watermelon radishes that are large and dense, good for slicing up raw but pretty cool to cook with, too.
Recipe: Brown Rice & Radish BiBimBap
Kabocha Squash: This one is a bit of an “on-trend” winter squash, but it’s not without well-deserved warrant. You can eat the rind of the kabocha squash as it’s near undetectable when cooked, and hence, you can cook it in a number of ways, such as by simply braising or sauteeing. Plus, it’s so dense and creamy when roasted and pureed, that it’s a killer for soups. No wonder the Japanese have been cooking with this winter squash only for centuries.
Recipe: Cider-Braised Kabocha Squash with Golden Raisins & Chile
Parsnips: This root often finds its way into “roasted vegetable” medleys, but it’s really delicious on its own. I sometimes liken the taste of a roasted-til-caramelized parsnip to a banana, for its similar mild, sweet taste and texture. Whatever tropical visions you may have of the crop, though, it does well when you attempt to replace it for potatoes, I’ve found. They’re a ton sweeter, but they still retain that starchy fluffiness, especially when baked. Let’s check it out some more.
Recipe: Parsnip Pancakes
Kale: Okay, you can choose collard greens, or if you can find it at this late harvest time, Swiss chard, but a leafy green that’s dense in Vitamin K and antioxidants should be part of any meal, period. And Thanksgiving, notwithstanding. I love kale in all its crazy varieties, which can range from having thick and bristly leaves like the common variety, or being more delicate (but no less a sponge of deep jade-colored juice), like Tuscan or Dinosaur. No matter the variety, they all cook well into soups or garlic-infused braises. And if you’re blessed with a very fresh bunch (or if you grow it on your porch, which is no big deal at all), you can have a wonderfully crisp and filling salad with this stuff when it’s shredded. Spinach salads, step aside.
Recipe: Tuscan Kale Salad with Pomegranate Seeds
–Acorn Squash Soup with Kale Chips