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last minute thanksgiving veggies
also known as, last minute intrepid media column
by jeffrey d. walker

Saturday, November 18, 2007, kitchen of the Walker / Cissner household.

Walker: "[deleted], Thanksgiving is this Thursday?" [edited for adult content]

These sorts of things slip up on you when you aren't traveling, and also haven't yet made plans to entertain. I'm sure there's time to work this out.

Later Saturday, November 18, 2007, living room of the Walker / Cissner household.

Walker:... "[deleted], I still have an Intrepid Column due for Monday!"

The solution, of course: kill two birds with one stone. The article and the menu plan in one.

Sunday, November 19, the study of the Walker / Cissner household (one day before column run time).

Walker: "Ok, I guess I should do this."

Having the gift of a vegetarian wife, and having been delegated the general responsibility of meal preparation, I have decided to hold a last-minute get together for our friends who don't otherwise have Thanksgiving plans.

One Thanksgiving "orphan" friend has agreed to do the turkey and gravy. As such, my duty and mission this year is to ensure a plethora of tasty vegetarian choices for my lovely wife for the main course, and also a bounty of side dishes for the carnivores.

The obvious Thanksgiving choices (mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, stuffing), are already in the bag. If you need recipies to make these, Google (or any search engine of your choice) can help. I'm here to suggest a few alternative side dish choices to add flavor to your Thanksgiving table.

I'm starting by dipping into my southern upbringing by offering the classic indulgence known as the deviled egg. But, like mashed potatoes and stuffing, many recipes on this topic are similar (eggs, mayonnaise, mustard and paprika). This spicy gem puts a nice Mexican spin on the traditional. From the cookbook, Retro Fiesta A Gringo's Guide to Mexican Party Planning, by Geraldine Duncan, found at page 27:
Deviled Eggs Puebla.
Makes 24 halves.

12 Eggs, hard-boiled, cooled, and peeled.
2 to 3 cloves garlic, very finely minced
About 1/2 small yellow onion, very finely minced
1 green onion including green, finely minced
1/4 cup fresh bell pepper, very finely minced
About 1/2 tsp hot chile, very finely minced, to taste
About 2 tbsp cilantro, very finely minced
1 tsp chile powder, to taste
Juice and zest of one lemon, to taste
2/3 cup mayonnaise, or enough to moisten
Salt and black pepper to taste

Halve eggs and put yolks in bowl. Set whites aside. Mash yolks with fork. Add remaining ingredients and mix thoroughly. Adjust seasonings. Stuff whites with mixture. For special occasions top each egg with olive slice, baby shrimp, pickled pepper slice, roasted garlic clove, anchovy sliver, sardine, or a few capers. Garnish plate with cilantro sprigs. These are a favorite party munchie.
A couple of months ago, faced with the expiration of miles I had accumulated with a nationally known airline, and not having enough to trade in for a flight, I instead got a boatload of free periodical subscriptions. These next two recipes were taken from one of those selections, Everyday Food, (A Martha Stewart Magazine), Issue 48, Dec. 2007, page 132 (picture on 130). Though these are both untested, a scary proposition for entertaining, these two recipes which came paired by Martha (or her editing underlings) popped high on the Thanksgiving list at the request of my wife based on a combination of their attractive photographs, their short prep time (a value I have taught her to look for in recipe review), my wife's Popeye-rivaling love of spinach, and the attraction of a new tasty way to prepare the seldom used parsnip. So without further adieu:
Honey-Roasted Parsnips
Serves 4
Prep Time: 10 Min.
Total Time: 50 Min.

2 1/2 Pounds Parsnips, peeled, halved lengthwise, and cut into 2-inch lengths on the diagonal
2 tbsp olive oil
Coarse also and ground pepper
1 tbsp honey

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Divide parsnips and oil between two rimmed baked sheets, and toss. Season with salt and pepper.

Roast until parsnips are tender and starting to brown, 35 to 40 minutes, tossing halfway through. Transfer to a serving bowl, drizzle with honey, and stir to coat.

Sauteed Spinach and Shiitakes
Serves 4
Prep Time 20 Min.
Total Time 20 Min.

2 tbsp Olive Oil
8 Ounces shiitake mushrooms, stems discarded, caps thinly sliced
Coarse salt and ground pepper
10 ounces baby spinach (7 cups)
1 to 2 tsp white-wine vinegar

In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium. Add mushrooms; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a plate (reserve skillet).

Heat remaining tablespoon oil in skillet. Add as much spinach as will fit season with salt and pepper. Toss spinach, adding more to skillet as room becomes available. Cook until tender, about 2 minutes. Remove form heat, drain off any excess liquid, and stir in vinegar. Top spinach with mushrooms.
This next one is a family recipe, handwritten on an index card, passed down on my mother's side. It may not be the most original recipe, but it's a reminder of my family's gatherings.
Sweet Potato Casserole
3 cups cooked sweet potatoes
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/3 cup melted margarine
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt

1 cup brown sugar
1 cup chopped pecans
1/4 cup flour
1/3 cup melted margarine

Mix well and place in greased casserole dish. Add topping. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.
Thanksgiving, back in the original pilgrim days, was alleged to have included corn as supplied by the "Native Americans." Following in the corn's historical role in this holiday, this is a tried and truly tasty recipe that is a nice departure from the typical on-the-cob or creamed corn options, and also could be a cornbread substitute. Appearing originally in Country Living magazine, these Corn Fritters will be a great compliment to the aforementioned Mexican theme deviled eggs.
Corn Fritters with Chili-Lime Mayonnaise
Serves 12
Prep Time: 55 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total time: 1 hour(s) 5 minutes

3 cups corn kernels (fresh from cob, or frozen)
1 cup flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1/3 cup Romano cheese, finely grated
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp chili powder
1 large egg
1 egg yolk
1 1/2 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup green onions, chopped (green part only)
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tsp butter
2 limes
1 1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 tsp jalapeno pepper, finely chopped

1. Make the fritters. Fill a medium saucepan halfway with water, and bring to a boil. Add the corn, and cook until just tender -- 2 to 3 minutes. Drain, rinse under cold water, and set aside. Combine the flour, cornmeal, cheese, baking powder, salt, and chili powder in a medium bowl. Beat the egg, yolk, and buttermilk together in a small bowl. Whisk the egg mixture into the flour mixture until well combined. Stir in green onions and 1 1/2; cups cooked corn. Heat 2 tablespoons oil and 1 1/2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Spoon 3 tablespoons batter for each fritter. Cook until golden -- about 3 minutes each side. Repeat using remaining batter, oil, and butter.

2. Make the Chili-Lime Mayonnaise. Zest and juice a lime. Stir the mayonnaise, juice, zest, and jalapeno together in a small bowl until well blended. Slice the remaining lime into wedges. Serve the fritters warm with Chili-Lime Mayonnaise, and garnish with remaining corn kernels and lime wedges.
If I haven't gone into overkill mode yet, yet me thrown another green veggie into the mix. Brussels sprouts are best after being roasted, and can only possibly be improved by adding browned butter.

If you've never browned butter before, I'll warn that it is easy to screw up. But if you can pull it off, and your arteries can handle it, you'll thank me.

This recipe was found on taunton.com's "finecooking" section , and is credited to a Martha Holmberg.
Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Brown Butter and Lemon

1-1/2 lb. Brussels sprouts, trimmed and cut through the core into quarters
3 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 Tbs. unsalted butter
1 Tbs. minced shallot
1-1/2 Tbs. freshly squeezed lemon juice; more to taste
1-1/2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
1 tsp. lightly packed finely grated lemon zest
1/4 tsp. Dijon mustard

Position racks in the top and bottom thirds of the oven and heat the oven to 425 degrees. Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment.

In a medium bowl, toss the sprouts with the olive oil and season generously with salt and pepper. Spread the sprouts out evenly on the two baking sheets. Roast until the sprouts are tender (the best way to test is by tasting), 20 to 22 minutes, stirring the sprouts once or twice during roasting. (Note that any loose leaves will be browning deeply; if they seem to be actually burning, turn down the heat a bit or just pick out the burned leaves.)

While the sprouts cook, combine the butter and shallot in a small, heavy saucepan. Cook, stirring often, over medium heat until the butter is melted and the shallots are soft, about 2 minutes. Raise the heat to medium high and continue cooking, swirling the pan, until the milk solids in the butter turn golden brown and the butter smells very nutty (take care that none of the shallots burn), about 2 minutes.

Whisk in the lemon juice, thyme, lemon zest, mustard, and salt and pepper to taste. Keep warm until ready to dress the sprouts.

Slide the sprouts into a medium bowl, add the vinaigrette, and toss to coat. Season to taste with salt, pepper, or lemon, and serve immediately.

The vinaigrette can be made 1 to 2 hours ahead and kept warm.
If you've waited until the last minute to plan your Thanksgiving, I hope these help. Just add friends and loved ones.

If you've waited until the last minute to write your Intrepid column, I just stole the Thanksgiving recipe idea. Suckers.


A practicing attorney and semi-professional musician, Walker writes for his own amusement, for the sake of opinion, to garner a couple of laughs, and to perhaps provoke a question or two, but otherwise, he doesn't think it'll amount to much.

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tracey kelley
11.19.07 @ 7:21a

It's only Matt and me this year, so we're keeping it simple. I haven't decided the full menu yet, but one of the dishes I know I'm making is Nigella Lawson's Sweet Potatoes with Pecans and Blue Cheese:

*4-1/2 pounds sweet potatoes, unpeeled, cut into 1-inch cubes
*3 TBS. olive oil
*6 springs fresh thyme ( or 1/2 tsp. dried)
*1 cup pecans
*1 cup crumbled Roquefort or other blue

Preheat oven to 425. Combine sweet potatoes and olive oil in a roasting pan, sprinkle with leaves from 4 thyme springs. Roast for 30-45 minutes or until tender.

Transfer the sweet potatoes to a serving bowl. Gently toss with pecans and cheese. S/P and garnish with remaining thyme twigs. Serves 6.

The spinach and shitakes sounds a little like my kale and crimini mushrooms, which I might also make Thursday. It's almost the same recipe, only with balsamic vinegar. I saute the mushrooms first, then when I'm ready to sweat down the kale, I add salt and vinegar and kale, then pepper before serving. Quite yummy.

jeffrey walker
11.19.07 @ 9:14a

I've done sprouts with cheese and nuts, but never tried sweet potatoes. This sounds fantastic.

jael mchenry
11.19.07 @ 9:41a

Mmmm. Parsnips are magic.

My fave way to do brussels sprouts is to shred them and saute on the stovetop -- plus, if you're also doing the turkey in the oven, it's good to have a couple things that don't need oven time.

Happy T-day to everybody!

adam kraemer
11.19.07 @ 10:10a

Why would I add my friends and relatives to your recipes? Wouldn't that make them both non-vegetarian and, well, really wrong?

tracey kelley
11.19.07 @ 10:49a


Jeff, can't you just taste it now....the sweet of the potato with the sharp bite of the blue cheese? Mmmmm, heaven.

Plus, you can roast them ahead of time and just flash fry/nuke them to warm up before tossing.

I might be able to try brussels sprouts shredded...but otherwise, I can't do them. Which is odd, since I like cabbage.

heather millen
11.19.07 @ 12:42p

I'm definitely coming into a time where I want to experiment with the Thanksgiving fare. Traditional foods, but taken up a notch. Which is what some of these recipes do very well. The problem is when you run into the traditionalists who only want to see the same old standbys year after year... or someone like my husband. There is at least one thing in EVERY one of these recipes that makes it a no-go for him.

Damn picky eaters!

heather millen
11.19.07 @ 4:17p

I have decided to take a stand an am now making the delish sounding blue cheese sweet potatoes listed above. It sounds like a delightful blend! Thanks, Trace!

russ carr
11.19.07 @ 4:32p

Though I'm a big fan of cranberry-orange relish, I wanted to get away from tradfood this year. So I'm incorporating the cranberries thusly, thanks to Food and Wine:

Savory Cranberry-Walnut Biscuits

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter—10 tablespoons cut into 1/2-inch cubes and chilled, 2 tablespoons melted
1 shallot, minced and sautéed
1/2 cup chopped dried cranberries
1/2 cup chopped toasted walnuts
1 cup buttermilk, chilled
Flaky salt, such as Maldon, and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 425° and position a rack in the lower third of the oven. In a large shallow bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda and fine salt. Add the chilled butter and use a pastry blender or 2 knives to cut the butter into the flour until it is the size of peas. Stir in shallot, cranberries, walnuts, and pepper. Stir in the buttermilk just until the dough is moistened. Lightly dust a work surface with flour. Turn the dough out onto the surface and knead 2 or 3 times, just until it comes together. Pat the dough into a 1/2-inch-thick disk.
Using a floured 2 1/4-inch round cookie cutter, stamp out biscuit rounds as closely together as possible. Gather the scraps and knead them together 2 or 3 times, then flatten the dough and stamp out more biscuit rounds. Pat the remaining scraps together and gently press them into a biscuit.
Transfer the biscuits to a large baking sheet and brush the tops with the melted butter. Lightly sprinkle the biscuits with a few grains of flaky salt and chill until firm, about 10 minutes.
Bake the biscuits for 20 minutes, or until golden. Let the biscuits cool slightly on the baking sheet before serving.

sarah ficke
11.19.07 @ 10:40p

Oooh, those sound tasty.

ken mohnkern
11.20.07 @ 6:15p

Mm. I loves the brussel sprouts, even with just butter and a little pepper.

Tell me I'm not the only one here who prefers that cranberry sauce be can-shaped.

tracey kelley
11.20.07 @ 9:01p

Sorry, dearest. You won't get a siren call from me on that.

robert melos
11.21.07 @ 3:17a

Ken, have you tried homemade cranberry sauce? It's fairly easy to make. Once you've had that you'll never go for canned again. Bear in mind I'm from NJ, cranberry capital of the world.


jeffrey walker
11.21.07 @ 8:09a

Ken, I love the canned cranberry sauce. this year, however, we are going to have one someone is making for us. I'll give my thoughts tomorrow.

jael mchenry
11.21.07 @ 9:04a

I love canned cranberry sauce, but what I usually serve is a cranberry relish, which is just chopped cranberries, orange, pecans, and sugar. Delish.

The canned is awesome. So tart and sliceable.

I'll be trying out my new potato ricer for the mashers this year, and haven't yet decided whether the green vegetable will be green beans, brussels sprouts, or something else that tickles my fancy at the market.

lisa r
11.23.07 @ 11:06p

I vote for fresh cranberry relish, although home-made cranberry sauce is excellent, too. We settled for canned sauce this year, however. Thanks to a surfeit of free-lance projects, I worked nearly the entire time I was home. (To the folks at the Forsyth County Main Library--I'm grateful you installed the free wireless access...but please, PLEASE--replace those horrid wooden chairs in Coffee Central with something a little more tush-friendly!!!! )

The greens/mushroom combination is something I've never heard of. Then again, I imagine there are a few folks here who will think I'm crazy because I love turnip greens with the turnips cooked and mixed in with them. (Seasoned with fatback, of course, like all good southern-style veggies. )

For those of you who have had enough turkey or who need something quick after shopping, give the Black Bean Chili recipe in the November Southern Living a try. It comes in vegetarian and beef versions, and it is fantastically easy and tasty.


jeffrey walker
11.23.07 @ 11:11p

I have to agree that homemade cranberry sauce was quite good.

We ended up getting invited to a party with turkey deep frying, which is also great. They threw in the skins from the potatoes that were masked, and those were killer chips. After turkey, they deep fried oreos, bite size snickers, a pie of pie. It may be the best way to eat.


russ carr
11.24.07 @ 8:56a

You're not totally deranged, Lisa; I wouldn't want the entire turnip in there, but a few chunks diced up and simmered with the greens and some hamhock/bacon/fatback is gooooood eatin'. Especially with a little bottle of hot pepper vinegar on the side, and maybe some black eyed peas (also cooked with ham) and a skillet full of cornbread and a tall glass of iced tea.

The day after dinner was ropas viejas cooked ahead of time on Wednesday. Up next is a lasagna, also cooked Wednesday. So nice to cook all at once, then just coast for the next week...

lisa r
11.24.07 @ 8:54p

Russ! My mom actually fixed that exact meal for me while I was home. I was eating turnip greens and peas at 10 that night, and loving every bite, and I brought some of both back with me for my freezer. I need to make up a fresh bottle of pepper vinegar, though.

Now if I could just convince Pennsylvania farmers they've got a completely untapped market for turnip greens and crowder peas for all the transplanted Southerners up here. This having to wait until I can go south of the border to get my veggie fix is annoying.

juli mccarthy
11.26.07 @ 11:35p

I do the Italian version of beans-n-greens: cannellini beans and escarole, sauteed in olive oil with chopped garlic and red pepper flakes, with a quick dollop of balsamic vinegar.


sandra thompson
11.28.07 @ 10:52a

Okay, so now that I'm salivating I don't know where to start!

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