By CINDY COOPWOOD AND CORDELIA CAPPS • Photography by RORY DOYLE
LET’S BE HONEST. Holiday meals are really about the sides. There’s a lot of talk about turkeys, spiral-cut hams and prime rib roast (if you’re lucky), but what everyone really remembers from year to year are the side dishes. And since we only get to enjoy this celebratory feast once a year, why not dig in to all the indulgent dishes we so eagerly anticipate…right? Then again, if you have a lot of leftovers, these dishes might be lurking around for several days after said holiday—so we’ve gathered some healthier options to throw into the mix. Here is our take on a few classic sides but with a tweak or two to make each one less of a splurge.
ROASTED WINTER ROOT VEGETABLES
Colorful winter vegetables are a great addition to your holiday table. Save time by chopping the vegetables the night before.
4 tablespoons butter, divided
½ pound turnips, peeled and cut into chunks
1 pound carrots, peeled and cut lengthwise
1 pound red beets, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 pound small Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
½ head of red cabbage sliced into wedges
3 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt and coarse ground
fresh rosemary or thyme sprigs
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Combine all vegetables in a large bowl and drizzle generously with olive oil. Toss to coat well. Divide vegetables between two aluminum foil-lined rimmed pans. Spread vegetables in a single layer in each pan, being sure not to crowd pieces. Season well with salt and pepper.
Bake both pans for 20 minutes, on the middle and lower racks if possible. Stir vegetables gently and switch pans; bake 20 more minutes or until vegetables are tender. Gently loosen vegetables, adjust seasonings to taste. Sprinkle with fresh herbs.
SAUTEED GREENS BEANS WITH CHARRED
Old habits die hard, but we think you’ll love this just as much as Aunt Virginia’s traditional green bean casserole.
1 pound fresh green beans, trimmed
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
2 cups frozen pearl onions, thawed and patted dry with paper towels
⅓ cup balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons sugar
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
Blanche beans in boiling water to cover in a large saucepan until tender-crisp, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from pan and spread on paper towels to drain.
Heat 1 tablespoon of the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add pearl onions; stirring often, until tender, caramelized and brown, about 10 minutes. Add balsamic vinegar and sugar, and cook until reduced to a light syrup consistency, 3 to 4 minutes. Add beans back to pan and sear lightly, toss with remaining tablespoon butter, season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.
SAUTEED SPINACH WITH GOAT CHEESE
Creamed spinach or spinach Madeleine will not be missed with the bright and fresh flavors in this quick and easy dish.
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1medium red onion, halved and thinly sliced
1⅓ pounds baby spinach
⅓ cup (about 2 ounces) soft goat cheese, crumbled
Salt and pepper to taste
½ cup coarsely chopped toasted pecans, for garnish
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Saute’ onion; stirring occasionally, until onion has softened, about 5 minutes. Remove from pan. Add spinach to pan, tossing until spinach has started to wilt, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Arrange spinach on a serving platter, tossing gently with onions and leaving some onions on top. Dot with goat cheese and sprinkle with pecans if desired.
BAKED ACORN SQUASH
SLICES WITH BROWN SUGAR
The sweetness of acorn squash is reminiscent of sweet potatoes. This is an uncomplicated substitute for classic sugar-laden sweet potato casserole.
2 acorn squash (about 3 pounds), halved and seeded
2 tablespoons maple syrup
4 teaspoons olive oil, plus more for greasing the pan
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Cut each squash into slices, about 1-inch thick. Combine syrup, olive oil, pepper and salt in a large bowl. Add squash, and toss to coat. Place squash on a rimmed baking sheet lined with aluminum foil and coated with cooking spray. Bake for 30 minutes or until tender.
BLACK RICE, FETA AND CRANBERRY SALAD
Let this light, crunchy, nutty salad take the place of your rice consommé this year!
3 cups cooked black rice
½ cup toasted chopped pecans
½ cup dried cranberries
1 can mandarin oranges, drained
⅓ cup chopped green onions
¼ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon coarse black pepper
½ cup crumbled feta cheese
Cook black rice according to package directions. Stir in all remaining ingredients, other than mandarin oranges and feta cheese. Adjust seasonings, and gently fold in mandarin orange segments and cheese crumbles. May be enjoyed chilled or at room temperature.