Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Roasted Goodness: An Easy (and Healthy) Thanksgiving Side

During my 11 Thanksgiving seasons at Southern Living, few things perplexed readers more than what to serve alongside their big holiday bird.  They were cool with the turkey (unless, of course, it was still frozen solid and guests were just around the corner).  And I reckon they had dessert down too.

But the subject of side dishes was an altogether different matter.

Home cooks seem to be stuck like chuck when it comes to fresh ideas for sides.  Granted, in many homes, Thanksgiving is NOT the time to try out new recipes—there's a reason green bean casserole and mashed potatoes are so popular—this is a time for comforting food with familiar ingredients.  I get that.

So when the Food Network decided to get the food community together to celebrate a Virtual Thanksgiving (called The Communal Table), I immediately knew my focus would be on the age-old, side dish dilemma.

SIDEBAR: The Food Network's Communal Table is all about connecting the delicious recipes and photos that are shared on websites and blogs across the country. Follow along on Twitter, too, using the #PullUpAChair hashtag.

So here's this year's suggestion: Roasted Vegetable Salad.  It has enough of the familiar (in the carrots, sweet potatoes, garlic) with an updated touch (serving over salad greens with feta), plus it's kid-approved (at least by my finicky 11-year-old daughter).  Oh, and it's dead-on seasonal and good for you too.

Roasted Vegetable Salad (Printer Friendly Version)
Line jellyroll or baking pan with non-stick aluminum foil for easy cleanup.

2 large sweet potatoes, peeled, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
4 large carrots, peeled, cut into 3/4-inch pieces
4 large parsnips, peeled, cut into 3/4-inch pieces
1/2 pound green beans, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces 
1 large red onion, cut into 1/4-inch slices
5 garlic cloves, peeled
2 to 3 Tbsp. olive oil
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
1/2 cup bottled olive oil-and-vinegar dressing
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
2 tsp. horseradish
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
Fresh arugula or mixed salad greens
Feta cheese

1. Preheat oven to 400˚F.  Combine sweet potatoes, carrots, parsnips, green beans, onion, garlic, olive oil, salt, and pepper in a large bowl; toss to coat.  Place vegetables in a single layer on a large, nonstick aluminum foil-lined jellyroll or baking pan.

2. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes or just until tender, turning vegetables after 25 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, whisk together dressing, parsley, horseradish, and mustard.  Place cooked vegetables in a large bowl, and drizzle with desired amount of dressing; toss gently to coat.  Serve over arugula with any remaining dressing.  Sprinkle with feta cheese.

Kitchen Tips:
1. Get the kids involved! This recipe allows for plenty of washing, peeling, and tossing.
2. Prep vegetables ahead to save time.  Store chopped veggies in a damp paper towel-lined airtight container in the refrigerator up to 2 days ahead.
3. Feel free to substitute with other vegetables like butternut squash, turnips, rutabegas, or beets. (Just remember to stick with the 3/4-inch size for even roasting.)
4. If using beets, roast peeled and cubed beets on a separate jellyroll or baking pan to keep them from bleeding onto the other veggies.  Once roasted, tossing them in the vinaigrette will keep them from staining the salad.
5. Try crumbled goat cheese if feta is not your thing.
6. Loose the cheese altogether, and instead drizzle veggies with lemon crème fraîche or sour cream (1/4 cup crème fraîche or sour cream, 1/2 tsp. grated lemon rind, 1/2 tsp. lemon juice). Crème fraîche is a thicker, less sour version of sour cream that, due to it's high fat content, doesn't curdle when heated.  Bottom line: It's worth the splurge.

Other friends a The Communal Table:

Cocktails, Appetizers, Soups and Salads:
Sweet Life Bake: Pumpkin Margarita
Easy Peasy Organic: Thanksgiving Ginger Cocktail
Dishin and Dishes: Butternut Squash Bruschetta With Sage Pesto
Mooshu Jenne: Green Salad
Two Peas and Their Pod: Maple-Roasted Butternut Squash Apple Salad
Jones is Hungry: Roasted Vegetable Salad
Purple Cook: Pasta and Bean Stew With Tomatoes and Broccoli Rabe
From My Corner of Saratoga: Curried Pumpkin Soup

CIA Dropout: Turkey and Stuffles Roulades With Squash Mash
FN Dish: Alton Brown's Good Eats Roast Turkey
My Angel's Allergies: Cranberry-Glazed Cornish Hens

Cafe Terra Blog: Cranberry Pumpkin Stuffing
Virtually Homemade: Twice-Baked Cheddar and Chive Potatoes
Easy Eats Magazine: Sausage and Dried Cranberry-Walnut Stuffing
The Sensitive Epicure: Oyster Dressing and Gravy
Daily*Dishin: Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes Supreme
What's Gaby Cooking: Rustic Herb Skillet Stuffing
Family Fresh Cooking: Coconut Brown-Butter Mashed Sweet Potatoes
Silvana's Kitchen: Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free Mushroom-Rye Stuffing
The Cultural Dish: Cranberry Sauce

I Am Baker: Pumpkin Cake
Heather Christo: Pumpkin Vanilla Ice Cream Pie
And Love It Too: Pumpkin Custard (Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free)
Haute Apple Pie Girls: Double Pumpkin Mini Pies With Candied Pecans
Ladles and Jelly Spoons: Not Your Same Old Pumpkin Pie
Daydreamer Desserts: Cuban Diplomatic Pudding

Thursday Night Dinner: Red Wine Chocolate Cake
Napa Farmhouse 1885: Caramel Apple Pie


Thanksgiving Lagniappe: Wine & Beer Pairing
Check out my "10-Minute Wine & Beer Matchmaker" column from the November issue of Cooking Light.  I suggest reds, whites, and a couple of rich Winter lagers to pair with your Thanksgiving turkey (and everything's $12 and under).


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  1. Fun to be in this Thanksgiving feast with you! Your recipe looks amazing. Please update the link to my mashed sweet potatoes recipe, it is incorrect: http://www.familyfreshcooking.com/2011/11/16/brown-butter-coconut-mashed-sweet-potatoes-recipe/

  2. You salad looks wonderful, love the mix of flavors! I love the idea of adding arugula with the root vegetables. It was fun cooking with you at the Communal Table with Food Network! Take care, Terra www.cafeterrablog.com

  3. Love roasted veggies and have yet to make them a salad! I love broccoli and cauliflower roasted as well - a little curry powder mixed in with olive oil is fun to try too! One of my fav restaurants here serves an antipasa platter full of roasted veggies, cheeses, charcuterie and nuts and their veggies are pickled or marinated ..great idea! Thanks!