People tend to go on and on about the giant bird in the center of the table, but even the most ardent of omnivores cannot ignore this simple fact: Without the abundance of side dishes, a plateful of poultry would be just another meal. It’s the vegetables that make the feast.
So while you’re planning your menu, don’t forget about the broccoli, the kale, the turnips, the beets, the sweet potatoes, the carrots and all the other gifts of the Georgia autumn harvest. But don’t fuss over them; keep the cooking simple.
You don’t have to make a production out of each side dish. In fact, uncomplicated recipes—steamed broccoli with butter and lemon, sautéed spinach with a little garlic, sliced roasted beets sprinkled with toasted walnuts—keep the spotlight where it belongs, on the seasonal stars. The first Thanksgiving, after all, was a celebration of a successful harvest. Do you think the Pilgrims were opening can after can of condensed cream of mushroom soup to turn every vegetable dish into a casserole? Of course not. Everyone knows the Pilgrims forgot to pack a can opener.
My strategy: A pretty table. A main entrée (people will expect this). Lots of bowls of seasonal produce, cooked simply, each with just a few added ingredients. And at least two kinds of pie.
To get you started, I’ve compiled a list of veggie recipes that are easy enough to make on an ordinary weeknight but delicious enough to include in your most spectacular meal of the year. And I invite you to weigh in with your own suggestions for simple side dishes featuring seasonal local produce.
This year, let’s give thanks for the earth’s many blessings and for the hard-working people who coax those gifts from the ground. And please pass the sweet potatoes. I believe I’ll have seconds.