Raise your hand if you're as excited about Thanksgiving as I am! As much as I love all of the Thanksgiving eats, I love even how it makes everyone s-l-o-w down and make time to gather around a table and share a meal. When it's not a holiday, it's easy to give into our hectic schedules and short attention spans; we eat dinner in a hurry, on-the-go, or even in front of a television. But something magical happens on Thanksgiving (and even Christmas); the pause button is pressed and family dinner, if even for just a meal, becomes a reality again.
In my family, we have a tradition of going around and saying what we're thankful for. I always get a little emotional in this part because it makes me pause, look around, and see how lucky I am to have a family as loving and supportive as I do. While I try to acknowledge this each day and show my gratitude for them throughout the year, something about giving thanks to them out loud, over an intimate meal that we all helped prepare together, makes me feel overwhelmed. Overwhelmed with happiness and pride. Then there's always that little bit of guilt that creeps in. My emotions remind me that I could do more for them, spend more time with them, call them more frequently, and let them know how much I appreciate them. I come away with new ambitions to do all of those things, but every year, I know I fall a little short.
We made the last-minute decision to head to Las Vegas this year to spend time with relatives we haven't seen in years, and I'm really looking forward to it. Normally, I spend weeks planning the menu for the feast, but this year, I'm taking it easy. I'm choosing to go with the flow, to recognize that as much as I would love to spend all day cooking in the kitchen with my sisters and Mom (really, I actually like doing that!), I'm using this Thanksgiving to soak up those precious moments with my Grandpa, aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, and siblings. I'll cook if I'm asked or if they need an extra pair of hands, but I'm showing up to be fully present and fully engaged.
It would be dishonest to say that I'm not going to miss preparing a feast. I feel in my element menu planning, grocery list making, shopping, and choreographing the Thanksgiving cooking flow. To get that fix in, we're still holding a mini Thanksgiving here in Philly with some friends, and I'm still making a few Thanksgiving favorites just for the two of us leading up to the big day. That's where this green bean dish comes into play. Green beans always make an appearance at our Thanksgiving table. Although usually in the form of the classic cream of mushroom soup green bean casserole, I've also done a homemade version with crispy onions. Last year, I did a riff on my Miso Mushroom Stroganoff Toast with green beans with rave reviews. This year, I decided to go simple, roasting greens beans and then tossing them with a roasted garlic vinaigrette that I'm pretty proud of. Creamy without the cream, it's a dish that I found is even better the next day. Therefore, it's perfect for those of you who are in charge of bringing that green bean dish to Grandma's house. ,
As much as I love the crisp of fresh vegetables, as the weather starts to cool, I crave their slow-roasted counterparts. Roasted root veggies are a staple around here, and if you've been reading for a while, you know that roasted cauliflower makes a frequent appearance. After 40 minutes in the oven, sprightly green beans become meltingly tender and garlic transforms into a subtly sweet, velvety paste. If you've never roasted garlic, it's surprisingly simple—and life-changing; you'll find you'll want to put it on everything—smear it on bread, throw some in a pureed soup, or mash with extra-virgin olive oil and salt for an addicting dip. Coming from North Carolina, I use toasted pecans for crunch because no holiday is complete without those buttery nuts, but walnuts work too.
Roasted Green Beans with Roasted Garlic Vinaigrette
2 pounds green beans, tough ends trimmed
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 tablespoons Roasted Garlic Vinaigrette (recipe below)
¼ cup pecans, toasted and finely chopped
Roast green beans. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss green beans with olive oil and a sprinkling of salt. Spread in a single layer on a baking sheet. Roast for 40 minutes or until brown in spots, tossing about halfway through. Remove from oven and toss with vinaigrette while still warm. Sprinkle with chopped pecans, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve warm or at room temperature. Serves 6
Roasted Garlic Vinaigrette
1 head garlic
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons maple syrup
½ lemon, zested
¼ cup white wine vinegar
⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus a little for drizzling
Salt and pepper, to taste
Roast garlic. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut about ¼ off the top of the garlic head to expose the cloves. Drizzle with a little oil, and wrap in aluminum foil. Place in oven and allow to roast 40-50 minutes or until garlic cloves are soft.
Remove cloves from head and mash into a paste (or use a mini food processor). Mix in Dijon mustard, maple syrup, and lemon zest. Stir in white wine vinegar and a generous pinch of salt until well blended. Slowly drizzle in olive oil until emulsified. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve. Can last for up to 1 week in the refrigerator. Shake well before using. Makes about 2/3 cup dressing.