During the holidays—as in all things—we seek balance...which can be a challenge at this time of year (more pie, anyone?). We've partnered with Whole Foods Market to bring you inspiration for lighter eating during the holidays—starting with this casually vegan side dish from entertaining pro Alison Roman.
The holidays are notoriously rich, where even the greenest of vegetables tend to be drowned in heavy cream and slathered with butter. And please, do not get me wrong: I very much love both those things. VERY much. But to be honest, my main goal during the holidays is to cook as much as possible, eat as much as possible, and drink as much wine as possible. Do you know what gets in the way of me achieving my goals? All that heavy cream and butter. How am I supposed to sample everything on the table when I’ve overdosed on mashed potatoes? Let’s just say I’ve learned the hard way that you can’t try all the different pies when you went too hard in the first quarter with all that stuffing.
This is why for any holiday or holiday-related gathering, I like to keep at least a few side dishes on the table that are free of CBB (cream, butter, and bacon). If you think about it, there are already vegetables on the table...now just imagine them with a squeeze of lemon instead of sour cream, fresh herbs instead of butter (stay with me here), crunchy seeds and nuts instead of bacon.
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I call this style of cooking “casually vegan,” meaning I’m not holding anything back—no soy cheese or mock meat here—just delicious plates of food that happen to be free of meat, dairy, and other animal products. And with grocery stores like Whole Foods Market selling more and more seasonal produce and vegan products, it's easy to get inspired and to shop for vegetable-centric recipes. What luck! These are the dishes I can eat the most of, which is a good thing, but they also allow me to eat more of everything else: a great thing.
While these turmeric roasted carrots with seeds and spicy greens (adapted from my new cookbook, Dining In) are a great example of being “casually vegan,” most vegetable side dishes can be as well, with no love lost. Think of crispy charred cauliflower with roasted dates and toasted pine nuts (also in the book!), or sautéed Brussels sprouts with spicy chili flakes and slices of whole lemon, or slow-roasted fennel with shallots and vinegar and lots of herbs. Those three dishes would make a fine holiday meal unto themselves!
Which brings me to my final point: holiday dining is often obsessed with a centerpiece entree, when truthfully I'd be just as happy (if not more pleased) by eating a million side dishes instead. A meal of side dishes, if you will. I will.
Alison Roman is a cook, writer and author of the bestselling cookbook "Dining In," published by Clarkson Potter in Fall 2017. Her second cookbook "Nothing Fancy," is now available. She is a bi-weekly columnist for the New York Times Cooking section, as well as a monthly contributor to Bon Appétit Magazine. Originally from Los Angeles, she lives in Brooklyn until she decides to move upstate like everyone else.