Coast Cooking

Last-minute Thanksgiving tips

Yellow squash is available all year and can be ready in minutes.
Yellow squash is available all year and can be ready in minutes. Special to the Sun Herald

So you’ve got that big turkey ready, you know how many people are coming, you’ve been to the wine shop and everything looks good.

Wait a minute.

Does your menu look a bit thin? Turkey, dressing, green beans and mashed potatoes? Check! That’s hardly a full table. Maybe you should add a few extra dishes this year.

Below you’ll find my list of simple side dishes worthy of consideration for last-minute additions to round out your Thanksgiving menu.

Squash

Yellow squash seems to be in season all year, and it is easy to cook. If you like, add a bit of ham, or even a cup of cooked shrimp. Nothing could be easier.

Peas and beans

Beans and peas of any sort can be made into a hearty side dish, too, with little prep time but big results. Combine peas and smoked ham, a little bacon, or even Canadian bacon and your guests will love it. Make field peas and okra, a Southern classic, and everyone will be happy.

Charcuterie

Most of the better grocery stores have a pretty good charcuterie (prepared meats) selection these days.

You can choose from several different types of salami, hams (and that can be a world unto itself, from smoked, cured, country style, Italian and Spanish), mortadella, coppa and soppressata, just to name a few.

If you want to pair a few cheeses with the meat selection, it’s pretty easy. If you go with Italian meats, also select Italian cheeses, they almost always go together.

If you buy prosciutto de Parma, pair it with Parmesan Reggiano (sliced in thin curls, not grated), but please use the real thing, imported from Italy. If you go with a Spanish ham, Jamón serrano, pair it with Manchego cheese.

A charcuterie platter can become a separate course, if you like.

Remember, multiple courses will extend you holiday meal. It’s not a time of the year you want to get everyone in and out quickly.

If you have taken the time to choose your guests wisely, all can linger just as long as they like.

Load your table up if you like, but remember to invite friends who might otherwise be alone for the holiday. An extra plate and chair at the table is a simple addition and will be much-appreciated by that single friend.

Sautéed Squash

2-3 cups thick sliced yellow squash

Optional 2/3 cup stewed tomatoes

3-6 cloves chopped garlic

Fresh rosemary, freshly ground black pepper, red pepper flakes and sea salt

Olive oil

Heat the oil in a sauté pan, then add the fresh rosemary to infuse the oil with that wonderful, bright flavor. Add the sliced squash, toss well and season aggressively. When the squash is almost tender, add the garlic and cook for just a minute or two more. Nothing ruins a dish faster than burned garlic, so be careful. Add the tomatoes if you choose. Toss, taste and re-season as necessary.

Field Peas and Okra

1-2 cups fresh or frozen field peas

2/3 cup chopped okra

Salt, pepper

Oil as needed

Add the filed peas to a sauté pan or large sauce pot, cover with water and simmer for about 15 minutes, add the okra and cook 5 minutes more. Remove the lid and boil the remaining water away. Add a little oil, season and cook until just tender. Always remember to taste and re-season as needed.

Fried eggplant

2-3 sliced eggplants ¼ inch

Parmigiano-Reggiano

Flour seasoned with Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning

Lightly beaten egg

Salt and pepper

Oil

Slice the eggplant, then wrap in a towel, add a weight to the top to force some of the moisture out. Add oil to a fry pan, about ½ inch deep, heat to simmering. Season the sliced eggplant with pepper, dip in the egg (add a little water if you think the egg wash is too thick), then dip in the flour and fry until golden brown and crisp. When done, place on paper towels to drain, then sprinkle with Parmigiano-Reggiano. Please serve this dish at once, as it will quickly become soggy.

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