The season is hectic, there's no getting around it. One increasingly popular way to ease the stress is to organize a holiday dinner as a potluck. This is particularly useful at Thanksgiving -- coming as it always does in the midst of a work week. Envision this scenario: The hosts stuff and roast the turkey, the culinarily maladroit bring the wine, and the cooks contribute any of the following side dishes.
This wonderful vegetable torte traveled 500 miles to a Thanksgiving dinner -- and was a great success.
Potato and sweet potato torte
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 large leeks, trimmed, cleaned and sliced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 pound sweet potatoes (about 2 small), peeled and cut into 1/8 -inch-thick slices
1 pound all-purpose potatoes, preferably Yukon Gold (2-3 medium), peeled and cut into 1/8 -inch-thick slices
Set oven rack at the lowest level; heat to 450 degrees. Lightly oil a 9-inch, deep-dish pie plate or coat it with nonstick cooking spray. Line the bottom with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Lightly coat the paper or foil with oil or nonstick spray. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add leeks and thyme and saute until tender, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat.
Arrange half the sweet potato slices, slightly overlapping, in the bottom of the prepared pie plate and season with salt and pepper. Spread 1/3 of the leek mixture over the top. Arrange 1/2 of the all-purpose potato slices over the leek mixture and season with salt and pepper. Top with another 1/3 of the sauteed leeks. Layer the remaining sweet potatoes, leeks and all-purpose potatoes in the same manner.
Cover the pie plate tightly with aluminum foil and bake for about 45 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender. Run a knife around the edge of the torte to loosen it. Invert onto a serving plate and serve.
195 calories per serving; 3 grams protein; 3 grams fat (0 grams saturated fat); 41 grams carbohydrates; 20 milligrams sodium; 0 milligrams cholesterol.
A sophisticated alternative to a brown-sugar glaze, pesto flavored with pungent sage makes a delicious topping for winter squash. The pesto can also be swirled into mashed squash or served as an accompaniment to poultry.
Acorn squash with parsley, sage and walnut pesto
3 acorn squash (1 to 1 1/4 pounds each)
1 teaspoon olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons walnut pieces
1 clove garlic, peeled
1 cup fresh parsley leaves
3 tablespoons torn fresh sage leaves
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
3 tablespoons defatted reduced-sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth
2 tablespoons olive oil
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly oil a baking sheet or spray it with nonstick cooking spray. Cut squash in half lengthwise and scoop out seeds. Brush cut sides of the squash with oil and season with salt and pepper. Place the squash, cut-side down, on the prepared baking sheet, and roast for 35 to 45 minutes, or until tender.
To make pesto: Toast walnuts in a small dry skillet over medium heat, shaking the pan almost constantly, until the nuts are fragrant, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove the walnuts from the pan and set aside to cool slightly.
With the motor running, drop garlic into a food processor or blender; process until finely chopped. Add parsley, sage, salt, pepper and the reserved nuts; process until the herbs are finely chopped. Once again with the motor running, drizzle in broth and olive oil; process until the pesto has a creamy consistency, scraping down the sides of the work bowl once or twice. (The pesto can be prepared ahead and stored, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.)
When the squash is tender, spoon a teaspoon of the pesto into each squash half and serve. Pass the remaining pesto separately.
215 calories per serving; 4 grams protein; 7 grams fat (1 gram saturated fat); 40 grams carbohydrate; 105 milligrams sodium; 0 milligrams cholesterol
Cinnamon and allspice infuse this pilaf with a subtle Middle Eastern fragrance. Serve this pilaf as a side dish or use it to stuff a large roasting chicken or capon.
Bulgur pilaf with dried fruits
Makes about 5 cups, serves 6
1/3 cup dried apricots, chopped
3 tablespoons currants
2 1/2 cups defatted reduced-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups chopped onions
1 1/2 cups bulgur
1 cinnamon stick or 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 bay leaf
pinch of ground allspice
3 tablespoons pine nuts
1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley or mint
salt and pepper to taste
Place apricots and currants in a bowl and cover with boiling water; set aside to plump. Bring broth to a simmer and set aside.
In a large heavy saucepan or Dutch oven, heat oil over medium heat. Add onions and cook, stirring, until softened, 2 to 4 minutes. Add bulgur and stir for 1 minute. Stir in the hot broth, cinnamon, bay leaf and allspice. Bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer until the bulgur is tender and the liquid has been absorbed, about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, toast pine nuts in a small dry skillet over medium heat, shaking the pan almost constantly, until golden, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat.
When the bulgur is tender, discard the cinnamon stick, if using, and the bay leaf. Drain the dried fruits and add to the pilaf, along with parsley or mint and the toasted pine nuts. Fluff the pilaf with a fork and season with salt and pepper. (The pilaf can be prepared ahead and stored, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. Reheat in a covered casserole in a moderate oven, or microwave.)
225 calories per serving; 8 grams protein; 6 grams fat (0 grams saturated saturated fat); 41 grams carbohydrate; 37 milligrams sodium; 0 milligrams cholesterol