Thursday, November 21, 2013

On the Side

Wow, Thanksgiving is a week away. I'm not sure how that happened. This year is evaporating! I'm getting a little overwhelmed thinking about all that has to get done between now and the end of the year, but I'm certainly looking forward to next week. It has perhaps two of my favorite events:
1) Thanksgiving at my grandmother's 
2) The Iron Bowl [Roll Tide Roll!]

I'd be hard pressed to rank them so please don't make me, but I am not shy about ranking my list of favorite side dishes that typically accompany the Thanksgiving turkey. Dressing is at the top. If you are not from the South, you're probably like, "What the hell is dressing?" It's what you call stuffing. But at our house (and all over the South and perhaps in other geographies), no stuffing makes it into the turkey before cooking. Because of course you'd get salmonella and die if you ate that. Instead, you make the stuffing and cook it in a baking dish, which we refer to as dressing. How it got that name, I have no idea, but man do I love it. Probably because I love bread and that's basically what dressing is. On the other end of the spectrum lays the fruit and jello salad. Why it's made and served every year is a mystery (because there is always plenty left over), but I suppose it's just one of those Thanksgiving traditions you keep because if you didn't, someone—who never even eats the jello salad—would complain that it was missing. 

Second to the bottom of the list is the green bean casserole. I'm not much of a "casserole girl" anyway, but I tend to steer away from "creamy" vegetable dishes. I love green beans though. I just don't understand why they have to be swimming in cream of mushroom soup and topped with French's fried onions. If you want cream of mushroom soup, just make it. Why do you have to mix in the green beans with it? 

Anyway, my friends always host a Thanksgiving dinner for friends a week before the big day. This year it was 2 weeks ahead. It's always a great excuse to do a "dry run" and get your stomach ready for the main event, but it's also really special to be able to give thanks for your friends (or the "family you choose" as my mom says). The hosts provide the turkey and everyone brings a side. This year, I decided to spare the green beans from the soupy catastrophe and I made citrus green beans. 

It's a winning dish for several reasons:
1) You don't need the oven which has no available real estate on Thanksgiving
2) You can make this ahead of time and just stick it in a ziploc bag in your refrigerator
3) It's healthy but, more importantly, tastes good

I also love that it calls for cane syrup, which is the maple syrup of the South. If you haven't had cane syrup before, you're missing out. I can't find any in California so my parents are nice enough to haul it 3000 miles when they come and visit me. [Thanks, Mom!!] It adds just the right sweetness (and Southern hint) to the salad. The green beans are cooked crisp tender and should maintain their vibrant green color if you plunge them into an ice bath after you cook them. The citrus provides a fresh zinginess you'll crave and the pecans add a little crunch. Campbell's cream of mushroom soup need not apply. 

Happy Thanksgiving, y'all!  

Green Beans with Citrus and Pecans

1 shallot
3/4 cup olive oil
zest from 1 orange
1/3 cup fresh orange juice
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup cane syrup (you can substitute maple, it just won't be as sweet so you may want to add a little honey)
2 lb haricot verts (thin green beans)
3 oranges, sectioned
1/2 cup chopped toasted pecans

1. Steam green beans in the microwave until crisp tender (3-5 minutes). Plunge the green beans in an ice bath to stop the cooking process and drain. 
2. Whisk together the first 6 ingredients. Add salt and pepper to taste. I made my dressing a little saltier than normal because I didn't salt the green beans. 
3. Pat the green beans with paper towels to dry and place in a zip-loc bag. Add orange segments and vinaigrette. Seal and chill for at least 2 hours. Sprinkle with pecans before serving. Serves 8