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The Blonde Cucina: Try these satisfying Thanksgiving side dishes

by on November 22, 2016 12:38 PM

Folks, Thanksgiving is tomorrow, and that means football, football, football! And, if you haven’t planned your menu yet, I’m here to help you be that clutch player in the last few minutes of the Thanksgiving preparation game. Not only are these items simple, easy and quick, they are not from your grandma’s Thanksgiving table.

Don’t get me wrong: I love the slow-roasted turkey, mashed potatoes, mashed sweet potatoes, cranberry relish, green bean casserole and gravy, gravy, gravy! However, we need to realize not everyone’s table has to look the same.

I'll be attending Thanksgiving dinner at the home of Uncle Dennis and Aunt Trudi. I haven’t spoken to my uncle, but I can tell you I already know what he will be making. We will have slow-roasted turkey, a clove-spiked ham, green bean casserole, twice baked potatoes, sweet split sweet potatoes and a broccoli and cauliflower au gratin.

I was talking with a friend about Thanksgiving, and he and I have similar tastes, but he threw me a curveball when it came to his holiday menu. He told me he must take his own hot/Buffalo sauce when he attends Thanksgiving dinner, because his family doesn’t have that condiment. That didn't surprise me — he puts Buffalo wing sauce and balsamic vinegar on a lot of his food. What made me shake my head, though, was when he said he wasn’t a gravy person. Again, it just shows you that not every Thanksgiving meal is the same.

These not-so-traditional sides may become a tradition once you see how simple and easy they are. The first dish is my Turkey Day slaw. This can be a side dish on the plate, or replace that mundane salad you have year after year.


Start to finish: 30 minutes

Servings: 8

For the dressing:

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

2 tablespoons maple syrup

4 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 medium red onion, minced in a liquid paste

For the salad:

1 small head Napa cabbage (about 5 cups shredded)

1 small head of purple cabbage (about 2 cups shredded)

1 small head of green cabbage (about 3 cups shredded)

3/4 cup butter-toasted sliced almonds

3/4 cup dried cranberries


black pepper

Whisk the vinegar, oil, maple syrup, Dijon mustard and salt together in a large bowl. Add the red onion and whisk more to fully combine. Let sit at least 10 minutes for the flavors to meld.

Shred the cabbage. When finished, add the shredded cabbage, almonds, dried cranberries and parsley to the dressing and toss to combine. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed.

Note: Do not make this ahead, as it wilts.

This next recipe that will make everyone at the turkey table cheer.


Start to finish: 45 minutes

Servings: 6

1/3 cup olive oil

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

1 pound sliced bacon, cut into 1/4-inch strips

1 large white onion, finely chopped

8 ounces mixed mushrooms, such as cremini, Portobello and stemmed shiitake, thinly sliced

3 heaping tablespoons finely and freshly grated garlic

Salt and pepper

1 pound fresh green beans

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, and more for garnish if desired

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. In a large nonstick skillet, heat the olive oil. Add the bacon and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until golden brown and the fat is rendered, about 6 minutes.

Add the white onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 3 minutes.

Add the mushrooms and garlic, season with salt and pepper and cook until the vegetables are tender (not mushy), about 5 minutes. Stir in the balsamic vinegar.

Add salt to the boiling water. Add the green beans and cook until tender crisp, about 12 to 15 minutes. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the cooking water. Return the pasta and water to the pot.

Add the bacon-mushroom vinaigrette and the 1/2 cup each of grated cheese and toss over moderate heat until the green beans are coated. Season with salt and pepper.

Garnish with additional cheese and olive oil if desired.



Ciara Semack is the owner of The Blonde Bistro in Bellefonte. She is the mother of one and a lifelong resident of Centre County. Her column appears every other week in the Gazette. Questions, suggestions and comments can be directed to [email protected]
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