Vegetables with Flair for the Thanksgiving Plate

Cookbook author Mollie Katzen i i

Self-proclaimed "Leaf Geek" Mollie Katzen's latest cookbook is The Vegetable Dishes I Can't Live Without. Robert MacKimmie hide caption

itoggle caption Robert MacKimmie
Cookbook author Mollie Katzen

Self-proclaimed "Leaf Geek" Mollie Katzen's latest cookbook is The Vegetable Dishes I Can't Live Without.

Robert MacKimmie
'The Vegetable Dishes I Can't Live Without' by Mollie Katzen i i

Like her previous cookbooks, The Vegetable Dishes I Can't Live Without features Katzen's own drawings. hide caption

itoggle caption
'The Vegetable Dishes I Can't Live Without' by Mollie Katzen

Like her previous cookbooks, The Vegetable Dishes I Can't Live Without features Katzen's own drawings.

Move over, turkey. For some Americans, Thanksgiving is all about the green or orange or red dishes on the table.

For vegetable inspiration, there's no one better to turn to than the self-proclaimed "Leaf Geek," Mollie Katzen. Her vegetarian bible, The Moosewood Cookbook, just turned 30.

Katzen's latest cookbook, The Vegetable Dishes I Can't Live Without, speaks for itself.

It features vegetarian fare with flair, such as the Dramatically Seared Green Beans, Vanilla Maple Sweet Potatoes or Mollie's Quite Surprising Mashed Parsnips.

"It's really important to me that these recipes be simple, that they not have too much dairy, or not be too masked in sauces," Katzen tells Melissa Block.

Katzen relies on "just a few, very simple and accessible touches," such as any kind of roasted nut oil, touches of fruit, nuts and herbs, and different uses of garlic.

"These recipes are really my attempt to attract as many people as I can to having a lot of vegetables on their plate and to really enjoy that."

From her kitchen in Northern California, Katzen shares a step-by-step cooking lesson on an easy way to prepare rainbow chard.

She says she likes to roast just about any kind of vegetable, but in particular, the Brussels sprout. She says roasted Brussels sprouts are a "revelation" for people who don't think they could ever love them.

Ruby Chard Decorated with Itself

Rainbow chard i i

Rainbow chard is a fine substitute for ruby chard in this recipe. Julia Mitric for NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Julia Mitric for NPR
Rainbow chard

Rainbow chard is a fine substitute for ruby chard in this recipe.

Julia Mitric for NPR
Drawing of chard

Chard, as depicted by Mollie Katzen in The Vegetable Dishes I Can't Live Without. hide caption

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We normally think of the leaves as the edible parts of this plant, but ruby chard's deep red stems cook up as a tender, delicious little vegetable all on their own. This recipe celebrates it all! You remove the stems from the leaves and cook everything separately (enabling the stems to retain their glorious color), then recombine all the components for a visually stunning side dish.

NOTE: Chard can carry a lot of silt — and then retain a lot of water on the wavy surfaces of its leaves. So wash and dry it thoroughly before you begin.

1 pound ruby chard, washed in several changes of water and thoroughly dried

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 cup minced red onion

Salt, to taste (optional)

1/3 cup balsamic vinegar

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1/2 cup lightly toasted pine nuts (optional)

1) Use a very sharp knife to remove the stems from the chard leaves. Coarsely chop the leaves and set them aside. Trim and discard the very tips of the stems (as well as any dinged-up edges), and mince the rest.

2) Place a medium-sized skillet over medium heat. After about a minute, add about 2 teaspoons of the olive oil and swirl to coat the pan. Toss in the chard stems and the onion, turn the heat up to medium-high, and stir-fry for about 5 minutes. Sprinkle lightly with salt, if desired, then transfer the mixture to a medium-sized bowl, and set aside.

3) Without cleaning it, return from the pan to the stove over medium heat. Pour in the vinegar and bring it to a boil. (Open your windows!) Turn the heat to very low and simmer for 10 minutes. Pour this slightly reduced vinegar over the stem-onion mixture in the bowl.

4) Return the still uncleaned pan to the stove over medium heat, and wait for another minute. Add the remaining olive oil and swirl to coat the pan. Turn up the heat to medium-high and toss in the chard leaves. Cook quickly, turning with tongs as you go, until the leaves are wilted. This will only take a couple of minutes. You can salt the leaves lightly while they cook, if you wish.

5) When the leaves are done to your liking, transfer them to a serving plate or bowl and taste to adjust the salt. Add black pepper to taste, then spoon the stem mixture over the top, being sure to include all the juices. Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature, topped with pine nuts, if desired.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Excerpted from The Vegetable Dishes I Can't Live Without by Mollie Katzen. Copyright 2007 Tante Malka Inc. Published by Hyperion. All Rights Reserved.

Crispy-Edged Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Crispy-Edged Roasted Brussels Sprouts i i

Crispy-edged roasted Brussels sprouts. Robert MacKimmie hide caption

itoggle caption Robert MacKimmie
Crispy-Edged Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Crispy-edged roasted Brussels sprouts.

Robert MacKimmie
Drawing on Brussels sprout

A Brussels sprout drawing by Katzen from The Vegetable Dishes I Can't Live Without. hide caption

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If you think you dislike Brussels sprouts, think again. Or don't think at all — just go get some and roast and eat them. By then, everything will likely have changed. Pleasantly crusty on the outside and soft and savory on the inside, roasted Brussels sprouts are a revelation. Added bonus: The outer leaves that invariably fall off during the baking process will crispen into little "chips."

NOTE: These will keep for up to 5 days in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator.

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil (possibly more)

4 cups (1 pound) Brussels sprouts, halved or quartered lengthwise (or left whole, if small)

Salt

1) Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line a baking tray with foil and coat it with oil.

2) Place the Brussels sprouts cut-side down on the prepared tray, moving them around so that all the cut surfaces touch some of the oil.

3) Place the tray in the center of the oven for 10 minutes. At this point, shake the tray and/or use tongs to redistribute the sprouts so that more surfaces can come into contact with the hot oil.

4) Roast for another 5 minutes, or until a taste test tells you the sprouts are done to your liking. (They will cook a little further from their own heat after they come out of the oven.)

5) Remove the tray from the oven and let the sprouts cool for about 10 minutes on the baking tray. You can salt them lightly during this time, if you wish. Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature.

Yield: 4 servings

Excerpted from The Vegetable Dishes I Can't Live Without by Mollie Katzen. Copyright 2007 Tante Malka Inc. Published by Hyperion. All Rights Reserved.

Vanilla Maple Sweet Potatoes

NOTE: A high-grade maple syrup (one with very subtle flavor) works best for this.

5 pounds sweet potatoes (about 10 medium-sized ones)

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 tablespoons real maple syrup

1 teaspoon fresh lemon or lime juice

Nonstick cooking spray (optional, if reheating)

1) Peel the sweet potatoes and cut into chunks. Cook in boiling water until soft (about 15 to 20 minutes). Drain well and transfer to a large bowl.

2) Add the salt, vanilla, maple syrup, and lemon or lime juice, and stir and mash until smooth. (A handheld electric mixer at medium speed does this very well.)

3) Serve right away or let stand at room temperature (or in the refrigerator, covered very tightly) until serving time.

4) To reheat, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and spray a 9 x 13-inch baking pan with nonstick spray. Spread the sweet potato mixture evenly into place, cover tightly with foil, and place in the center of the oven for as long as needed to come to the desired temperature. (The length of the reheating time depends on how cold the sweet potatoes were to begin with. Just keep checking as they reheat.)

Yields: 6 or more servings

Excerpted from The Vegetable Dishes I Can't Live Without by Mollie Katzen. Copyright 2007 Tante Malka Inc. Published by Hyperion. All Rights Reserved.

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The Vegetable Dishes I Can't Live Without
The Vegetable Dishes I Can't Live Without

by Mollie Katzen

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