Feel free to jazz up your holiday table with side dishes. It's easier than you might think. Here is sage advice from the pros to give tradition a lift.
Ming Tsai, host of television's "Simply Ming": Play with flavors and temperatures. Don't be afraid to go spicy, sweet and sour. Think contrasts, like hot pie, cold ice cream.
Barbara Kafka, cookbook author: Add nuts and dried cherries to stuffing.
Marlena Spieler, cookbook author: Go global. Serve Vietnamese or Thai-flavored cabbage slaws, curried pumpkin, roasted poblano peppers stuffed with goat cheese.
Kara Brooks, chef, Still River Cafe, Eastford, Conn.: Choose interesting vegetables. Instead of plain mashed potatoes, use root vegetables. Braise watermelon radishes for a new twist.
Dorie Greenspan, cookbook author: Spice up traditional dishes with something unexpected. Add a pinch of Chinese five-spice powder to a chunky cranberry sauce, drizzle Brussels sprouts with hazelnut oil and sprinkle with chopped toasted nuts, stir nuggets of crispy bacon into sweet potatoes.
Brussels sprouts with ham and pecans
Prep: 40 minutes
Cook: 7 minutes
Makes: 8 servings
"Brussels sprouts are one of the most maligned winter vegetables, probably because they are often cooked so poorly," writes Diane Morgan in "The New Thanksgiving Table." Simply trimming, halving or shredding the Brussels sprouts brings out the flavor, she notes.
2 pounds Brussels sprouts, trimmed
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 clove garlic, minced
1 slice ( 1/8 -inch thick) smoked ham, coarsely chopped
2/3 cup homemade chicken stock or canned low-sodium chicken broth
Pinch each: sugar, coarse salt, pepper
½ cup coarsely chopped toasted pecans (see note below)
Cut the Brussels sprouts into thin slices; separate into shreds.
Melt the olive oil and butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic; cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add the Brussels sprouts; cook until bright green and crisp-tender, about 3 minutes.
Raise the heat to high; stir in the ham and stock. Cover; steam until the Brussels sprouts are crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Season with a little sugar and salt. Transfer to a serving bowl; top with pecans.
Note: To toast pecans, spread the pecans in a single layer on a baking sheet. Toast in a 350-degree oven until lightly browned, 7-10 minutes.
Per serving: 170 calories, 67% of calories from fat, 14 g fat, 3 g saturated fat, 8 mg cholesterol, 10 g carbohydrates, 5 g protein, 94 mg sodium, 4 g fiber.