COLORS OF THANKSGIVING: GREEN
The harmony of greens, in a key most verdant
Brussels sprouts sautéed with chestnuts and bacon, long-braised curly kale -- they're perfectly suited to the moment. Oh, pass the lima beans too, with their delicate strands of mint.
From left, curly kale, a stalk of Brussels sprouts, dinosaur kale and savoy cabbage so earthy and fresh. (Carlos Chavez / Los Angeles Times)
Kale and collards, mustard greens and chard and Brussels sprouts: These are vegetables with a hardy temperament, suited to slow cooking and strong flavors. This makes them a particularly good match to a day like this one, measured out in hours rather than minutes, in long oven roasts and endless football games.
Though greenery might seem an afterthought to a menu that traditionally showcases the turkey's bronzed flourish and the happy ceremony of pies, it provides a necessary balance -- of color, of temperament, of technique. Amid the litany of dishes, of bird and bread and the beautiful underground world of root vegetables, you need the reprieve of a simple bowl of minted lima beans or sautéed broccoli rape.
Winter greens are filling the farmers markets now, and they have a heft and fortitude that can stand up to the rest of the menu.
Low, deep flavor
GIVEN a quick wilt or an easy sauté, you can serve savoy cabbage or cavalo nero (or other kales) pretty much on their own. Just hit them with a few minutes in a pan, then splashes of great walnut or olive oil and balsamic or sherry vinegar.
Winter greens are also sturdy enough for a long braise, developing a low, deep flavor without losing their essential nature.
Brussels sprouts, green beans or limas bring a certain poise to the Thanksgiving table. After the burnishing hours of a turkey, the careful art of pastry, the knead and rise of bread, a colander of sprouts or green beans needs only a quick boil or sauté.
You can even blanch green vegetables ahead of time -- an hour, even a day or two before you need them -- then pull them out of the refrigerator and finish them right before the meal.
Blanch Brussels sprouts, then, just before the meal, give them a quick sauté and lace them with bacon and shallots and a lovely sauce of deglazed red wine vinegar.
Fresh lima beans -- which should just be hitting the market stalls -- can also be cooked beforehand, then tossed with a little butter or caramelized shallots and a cool chiffonade of mint.
Consider the green part of the Thanksgiving spectrum as you would the color wheel itself.
A few clicks north of the menu's bronze fields, urging toward the cooler latitudes, a nice respite before the antipodal reds -- maybe a cranberry tart for dessert -- and the conclusion of a most happy meal.