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Byline: Natalie Haughton Food Editor

It may not seem possible, but Thanksgiving is just a couple of weeks away. Whether you're hosting the big feast or contributing a dish, it's not too early to consider the sides.

While traditional favorites are a must, jazz up the buffet table with a new contemporary creation or two.

There are many ways to give the classics -- such as squash, sweet potatoes, green beans and cranberries -- a different point of view. Add dried cherries or cranberries and red onions to cranberry relish; heat cooked fresh green beans with butter, fresh ginger and a little grated lemon zest; saute brussels sprouts with caraway seeds, bacon, onion and a splash of cider vinegar; serve green beans with kalamata olives and a creme fraiche dressing with a hint of lemon; or roast spears of sweet potatoes and top with a favorite bacon vinaigrette or aioli.

We've culled some recent cookbooks and offer some delicious variations on the theme. Several can be made a day in advance to streamline cooking tasks on Thanksgiving day.

It's `all about the sides'

``To me, Thanksgiving dinner is all about the sides,'' says Katherine Alford, Food Network's test kitchen director, who developed, with her staff, many side-dish creations for

``It (Thanksgiving) is like barbecue -- the protein is predictable. You know you are going to have turkey, but the way you express yourself as a cook and a host -- and your personality and your style -- is in the sides.

``I do an Italian-style butternut squash that is sweet and sour and served at room temperature. It is surprising, has a bright taste and is showing off a kind of classic Sicilian dish in a new and different way.''

The dish has been streamlined to roast instead of fry the squash, as it is traditionally.

Vegetables ... many ways

Alford suggests roasting green beans, brussels sprouts (halved), fennel (just the bulb, quartered or cut into eighths, but the core left on) and other vegetables, toss with olive oil (or even some nut oil), place on a baking sheet and sprinkle with salt and pepper, in a preheated 400-degree oven for 10 to 25 minutes. They can be done a day in advance, refrigerated and then reheated or served at room temperature. Sprinkle with fresh herbs (Italian flat-leaf parsley, thyme, basil or tarragon) and shaved Parmesan, if desired.

Roasted cauliflower (cut into florettes) is fabulous, too, tossed with Dijon or whole grain mustard and a little olive oil and served with a prepared tapenade of your choice on the side. Or try roasted cauliflower with a tempting combination of olive oil and capers -- or even some curry powder. Roasted broccoli, with red pepper flakes, olive oil and grated Manchego cheese, is good too.

Alford is also partial to serving mushrooms on Thanksgiving -- a mix of oyster, shiitake, cremini sauteed with a little butter, shallots and fresh herbs and finished with a bit of madera or cognac and more fresh herbs.

If she serves green beans, they are in a bistro salad and tossed (blanched and refreshed) with shallots, cremini mushrooms and a white wine vinaigrette with Dijon mustard and served on a bed of endive -- red if available.

Potatoes made easy

Make mashed potatoes ahead this year with a little cream cheese and stash in the fridge. Pull out and simply reheat an hour before serving.

Doctor up cranberry relish, store-bought or homemade with some orange liqueur, grated orange peel and even some fresh or frozen unsweetened raspberries. Or stir in some ginger, dried apricots or cherries, pecans or raisins.

For a twist on sweet potatoes, add some smoked chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, butter and a little cream. Or add buttermilk, orange zest and brown sugar to yams.

For another take in the salad realm, offer sweet red and golden beets atop spicy greens (such as mizuna or peppery arugula) and top with tangy feta cheese and crunchy and smoky pistachios to create a fine blend of color and texture.

Another possibility -- a pear and blue cheese salad that goes together with ease.

A bisque divine

If a soup intrigues, serve a gorgeous shrimp bisque. The intense flavor comes from the shrimp shells simmered with leeks and orange zest, and the silky texture from heavy cream.

For a bit of nostalgia, cook up red cabbage and onions in a red wine and balsamic mixture.

Other vegetable combos -- glazed carrots with an apricot and orange or a molasses and marjoram glaze. Peas with roasted onions and mint, and chipotle-Cheddar mashed potatoes -- sound wonderful too.

And for something offbeat, try creamed edamame beans (instead of peas or corn) and pearl onions.

Natalie Haughton, (818) 713-3692


1 bunch watercress

1 bunch arugula

1 tablespoon cider vinegar

2 teaspoons whole-grain mustard

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste

Freshly ground black pepper

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 Belgian endive

2 ripe pears, such as Anjou, Bartlett OR Comice

2/3 cup nuts (walnuts, pecans, almonds OR cashews), toasted

2 ounces mild blue cheese (about 1/2 cup loosely packed crumbles)

Trim the stems of watercress and arugula. Rinse and dry leaves. Meanwhile, whisk vinegar and mustard together in a large salad bowl. Season with 1/4 teaspoon salt and black pepper. Gradually whisk in olive oil, starting with a few drops and then adding rest in a steady stream, to make a smooth, slightly thick dressing.

Halve endive lengthwise, then thinly slice crosswise and add all greens to the salad bowl. Quarter and core unpeeled pears and thinly slice; add to the salad. Scatter cheese and nuts over the salad, and season with salt and black pepper to taste. Toss salad gently to evenly dress all greens. Divide among 4 plates and serve immediately.

Makes 4 servings

From ``Food Network Kitchens: How to Boil Water, Life Beyond Takeout.''


(On the cover)


3 red beets

3 golden beets


Juice of 1 orange

Juice of 2 tangerines

1 shallot, thinly sliced

1 teaspoon fennel seeds

1 sprig tarragon

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil


4 to 6 ounces arugula OR mizuna

1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese

1/4 cup pistachios, toasted

Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

To prepare Beets, if beet greens are attached, remove them, leaving about 1/2 inch of the stalks. Do not peel beets. Wrap red and golden beets separately in foil, leaving the top of the foil open. Roast them in a preheated 400-degree oven until they are tender when pierced by a fork, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours, depending on size of beets. When beets are cool enough to handle, peel skins and remove tops. Cut peeled beets into quarters or eighths and set aside.

For Vinaigrette, in a small saucepan over high heat, bring orange juice, juice of 1 tangerine, shallot, fennel seeds and tarragon to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and reduce by half. Strain into a small mixing bowl and discard solids. Whisk in olive oil and remaining tangerine juice.

To prepare Salad, lay a bed of arugula on 4 salad plates. Divide red and golden beets evenly on top of greens. Top beets with feta cheese and pistachios. Whisk vinaigrette one last time and drizzle 1 to 2 tablespoons over each salad. Or you can top the beets with the greens and cheese (as in the photo). Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Makes 4 first course servings

From ``The PlumpJack Cookbook: Great Meals for Good Living,'' by Jeff Morgan.


2 slices bacon, finely chopped

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1/2 medium onion, coarsely chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 pounds brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved

1/8 teaspoon coarse salt

3 tablespoons water

Freshly ground pepper

In a large ovenproof skillet or pan, cook bacon over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until it starts to turn crisp, about 2 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil and onion and cook for 1 minute, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to medium-low and stir in garlic. Cook 1 more minute.

Add brussels sprouts, remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and salt. Gently stir to coat sprouts evenly with oil and salt. Remove pan from heat and add water. Gently stir again and place pan in a preheated 375-degree oven on the middle rack. Roast, stirring gently every 5 minutes, until sprouts are golden brown and tender enough to be easily pierced with a fork, about 20 minutes. Garnish with pepper and serve.

Makes 4 to 6 side dish servings

From ``The PlumpJack Cookbook: Great Meals for Good Living,'' by Jeff Morgan.


2 pounds ready-to-eat baby-cut carrots

1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces

1 medium onion, cut into 8 wedges and separated

1/4 cup olive OR vegetable oil

2 tablespoons chopped fresh OR 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

2 (10-ounce) loaves French baguette bread, EACH cut into 30 slices, toasted in oven if desired

Spray a 15x10x1-inch jelly-roll pan with cooking spray. Place carrots, sweet potato and onion in pan. Drizzle with oil. Sprinkle with thyme, garlic, salt and pepper. Stir to coat.

Roast uncovered in a preheated 350-degree oven 35 to 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender.

In food processor, place vegetable mixture. Cover, process until blended.

Spoon into a serving bowl. Serve warm or cover and refrigerate until serving and serve cold with baguette slices.

Makes 20 servings

(2 tablespoons spread and 3 slices bread each)

From ``Betty Crocker Easy Everyday Vegetarian: Meatless Main Dishes You'll Love!''


1 1/2 pounds medium shrimp, in the shell

1 orange

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 leeks, trimmed, halved lengthwise and rinsed well

1 onion, trimmed, peeled and halved

2 celery stalks, cut into big chunks

2 carrots, peeled and cut into big chunks

3 fresh thyme sprigs

1 bay leaf

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/4 cup brandy

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 to 3 cups water

4 cups heavy whipping cream

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Finely chopped fresh chives, for garnish

Peel and devein shrimp, reserving shells; refrigerate shrimp. Use a vegetable peeler to strip off a couple pieces of orange zest, then grate remaining zest. Cover and refrigerate grated zest for garnish.

Heat olive oil and butter in a large pot over medium heat until butter melts. Add shrimp shells, leeks, onion, celery, carrots, thyme, bay leaf, strips of orange zest, tomato paste and cayenne. Cook, stirring every now and then, until shells are red and vegetables begin to soften, about 10 minutes.

Remove pot from heat. Carefully pour in brandy. Return pot to medium heat, cook a minute more, then sprinkle in flour, give it a stir and cook another 2 minutes. Now add water to cover, 2 to 3 cups, and deglaze, scraping up all browned bits on bottom of pot with a wooden spoon. Add cream and bring to a boil. Immediately reduce heat to low and simmer gently until soup is reduced and thickened, 30 to 40 minutes. Strain into a clean pot (discard shells) and season with salt and pepper.

When you're ready to serve, return bisque to a simmer, add shrimp and cook 2 to 3 minutes, just to cook the shrimp through. Give bisque a final taste for seasoning, pour it into warmed soup bowls and serve garnished with reserved orange zest and chives.

Makes 6 to 8 servings

From ``Tyler's Ultimate: Brilliant Simple Food to Make Anytime,'' by Tyler Florence.


5 photos


(1 -- cover -- color) Winning sides

Thanksgiving go-alongs with a delicious difference


Photo by Leigh Beisch from "The PlumpJack Cookbook: Great Meals for Good Living," Rodale

(3 -- color) SHRIMP BISQUE

Photo by Petrina Tinslay from "Tyler's Ulimate: Brilliant Simple Food to Make Anytime," Clarkson Potter/Publishers


From "Betty Crocker Easy Everyday Vegetarian: Meatless Main Dishes You'll Love," Wiley Publishing

(5 -- color) no caption (PEAR AND BLUE CHEESE SALAD)
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Article Type:Recipe
Date:Nov 7, 2006
Next Article:GOOD TASTES.

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