Mediterranean, Far Eastern Seasonings Add Spice to Thanksgiving Sides: 3 Recipes

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Thanksgiving sides, from left: Miso mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes with tahini and harissa, and brussels sprouts with chestnuts in coconut milk.
Credit: Vered Guttman

Thanksgiving sides are, in my opinion, the highlight of American cuisine. Especially when they rely on a variety of seasonal produce like Brussels sprouts, winter squash, green beans, kale and apples. While the vegetables and fruit give the key flavors, what makes these side dishes so decadent is the unapologetic addition of butter, cream, cheese and bacon.

What is a kosher-keeping Jew to do? You don’t want to skip the turkey, but you feel deprived by not being able to enjoy the dairy sides.

I turned to some other flavor enhancers to make some parve, and vegan, side dishes. Using miso paste, tahini, coconut milk and oil helps make dishes that are not only tasty, but healthy too. And that in itself is another reason to be thankful.

Roasted sweet potato with tahini and pine nut gremolata

Harissa is a hot pepper and chili paste that’s available at health food supermarkets as well as Middle Eastern and some Kosher stores.

Serves 6


4 large sweet potatoes or yams

Oil spray

Kosher salt

1 teaspoon sumac

1/2 cup tahini

1/4 cup lemon juice

1-2 teaspoons harissa

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 cup pine nuts

Pinch cumin seeds

2 tablespoons fresh oregano or thyme

1 small garlic clove, minced

Zest of one lemon


Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit (220 degrees Celsius). Spray one or two baking sheets with oil. Peel sweet potatoes, slice into 1/4-inch slices and arrange on baking sheets in one layer. Spray sweet potatoes with oil, sprinkle with sumac and kosher salt and roast in the oven for 12-15 minutes until tender. Remove from the oven and set aside. You can serve the sweet potatoes at room temperature or warm.

To make the tahini sauce: In a medium bowl whisk raw tahini, 3/4 cup cold water, lemon juice and a pinch of salt. Set aside.

In a small bowl, mix 1 teaspoon harissa with 2 tablespoons oil. Taste and add more harissa if desired.

To make the gremolata: Put pine nuts and cumin seeds in a skillet on medium-high heat and toast until the pine nuts are dark golden; shake skillet frequently. With a mortar and pestle, lightly crush the pine nuts, cumin seeds, oregano, garlic and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Add grated lemon zest and mix.

When ready to serve, arrange sweet potatoes on a platter, drizzle with some of the tahini and the harissa, sprinkle with gremolata and serve with more tahini on the side.

Miso mashed potatoes with sauteed wild mushrooms

No need for butter here: Miso adds a sweet taste and deep umami to mashed potatoes.

White miso is available at health food supermarkets, Asian markets  and some kosher markets.

Serves 6


3 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes

Kosher salt

2 tablespoons white miso

3 tablespoon olive oil

2 garlic cloves, sliced

1/2 pound wild mushroom mix (or any fresh mushrooms)


Bring 3 quarts water to a boil over high heat. Add 2 tablespoons kosher salt. While water is boiling, peel and quarter potatoes. Add to water, bring to boil then lower heat and cover. Cook for about 20 minutes, until potatoes are soft. Drain in a colander and transfer to a large bowl.

Add miso, 2 tablespoons olive oil and 1 teaspoon kosher salt to potatoes and mash with potato masher. Mix vigorously with a large slotted spoon until miso is mixed into mashed potatoes. Cover bowl and keep warm.

For the sautéed mushrooms, put 1 tablespoon olive oil in a non-stick pan over medium-high heat. Add garlic and sauté until golden, then add mushrooms and sautée for three minutes longer, mixing occasionally. Spoon over mashed potatoes and serve.

Roasted Brussels sprouts with chestnuts and coconut milk

Pre-roasted, peeled chestnuts are available in many supermarkets during the holiday season.

Serves 6


2 cups pre-roasted, peeled chestnuts

1 cup coconut milk

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

Kosher salt

1 lb. Brussels sprouts

2 tablespoons olive oil


Put chestnuts, coconut milk, turmeric and 1 teaspoon kosher salt in a medium saucepan and heat until almost boiling over medium-high heat.

Lower heat, cover and cook for 15 minutes, or until chestnuts are tender.

Transfer chestnuts to a small bowl and keep coconut milk in a separate bowl.
Shred Brussels sprouts either in a food processor with the slicing disk or by hand: cut each Brussels sprout in half, put the flat part on a cutting board and slice thinly with a knife.

Roast Brussels sprouts in two batches. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a non-stick pan over medium-high heat. When pan is very hot, add half the shredded Brussels sprouts. Do not stir for one and a half minutes while letting sprouts brown well on the bottom, then stir and continue to cook for about one minute longer. Transfer to a large bowl and repeat with the rest of the sprouts. Sprinkle with a little salt and mix.

When ready to serve, arrange Brussels sprouts in a large bowl. Spoon chestnuts on top and drizzle some of the coconut milk all over.

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