How to have a vegetable-forward Thanksgiving that doesn’t feel like you’re serving a bunch of side dishes

Hetty Lui McKinnon grew up in Australia with her Chinese parents. She recalls attempting a traditional feast her first two Thanksgivings in the U.S. Her husband roasted a turkey that got a lackluster reception but was more popular the next day as a pot pie.

With a father in the produce business, McKinnon has led a vegetable-forward life. She has served green beans and Brussels sprouts for the holiday and calls sweet potato casserole a “crime against food.”

“I’ve always looked at vegetables as mains,” says McKinnon. Her vegan hazelnut potato gratin is featured in her latest cookbook, Tenderheart: A Cookbook About Vegetables and Unbreakable Family Bonds. “Hazelnuts have an intensely earthy flavor,” she says. She uses them to make a cream that she layers with the sliced tubers. Alternatively, a butternut squash lasagna replaces pasta with vegetables for another hearty centerpiece dish.

Hetty Lui McKinnon confronts the loss of her father and her love of produce in “Tenderheart: A Cookbook About Vegetables and Unbreakable Family Bonds.” Photo courtesy of Knopf.

“I’m a big fan of stuffing vegetables and rolling leaves, as people will find,” says Nik Sharma. He shares a recipe for a roasted whole head of cauliflower and sugar pie pumpkins filled with chana masala. The chickpeas are cooked in a sauce made from onions, tomato paste, and spices. It’s a Thanksgiving surprise when cut open over a bed of black, forbidden rice.

Sugar pie pumpkins are stuffed and roasted with chana masala. Photo by Nik Sharma.

McKinnon suggests a salad with fruit to cut through the richness of the holiday meal. Sharma imagines a radish salad, with a floral dressing being the star of the dish.

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