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Suggestions for "make ahead" vegetable side dishes for Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve is my BIG deal--always has been. Often I've hosted my entire family, done "theme" dinners with many courses, etc. I love it, and don't mind the massive amount of planning and work.

This year, though, it's just the four of us (husband, and my home from college 22 yr old daughter and my 18 yr.old daughter. ) I still want to have a magical Christmas Eve--after all, everything still looks gorgeous, the house is till clean, anticipation sparkles in the air--but both daughters have expressed the desire to "not make a big deal" and "let's not just stuff ourselves all night."

Pooh. No fun.

Anyway, I'm scaling way down to No Cook or make head nibbles for a buffet: probably just pate, Scottish salmon and brown bread, plain old shrimp cocktail (boring but everyone loves it), a baked brie en croute, champagne, and cookies. BUT what to serve along with all this protein/starch that doesn't require that Ma be out in the kitchen, apparently "working" and "spoiling the fun"? A big salad's out, as we're having that with our prime rib for Christmas Dinner the next day.

I'm drawing a blank. Sliced pears and clementines; fine...but not a green vegetable, which I really crave. Given the Frenchified nature of much of the menu, I want to avoid a pasta salad thing...What can you suggest? What either require little prep time or can be made early in the day and still be palatable?


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  1. I don't see any reason why you cannot have a green salad both Christmas Eve & for dinner the next day -- just use different ingredients to vary the focus. Our Christmas Eve dinner always has a tri-color salad (radicchio, romaine, endive), with pomegranate seeds, served with a vinaigrette. The colors go with the hoiday and its easy to make.

    1 Reply
    1. re: masha

      I agree with masha...why not salad both times? OR, consider a crudite platter/relish tray with broccoli, celery, red pepper strips, etc. It appears that you have all finger-foods going on so if you want to keep with that idea, the crudite/relish tray would be the way to go, I think.

    2. I like this recipe for Green Beans with Lemon and Pine Nuts from Epicurious: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...
      It's just as good at room temperature, and quite easy to make.

      1. Roasted asparagus can be served at room temperature and might fit the bill.

        1. Someone on a recent post suggest pickled items for a similar spread How about pickled asparagus and garlicky dilly beans. You might be serving cornichon with the pate anyway.
          Maybe baby spinach or mache or a mix of baby greens, lightly tossed in a lemon vinaigrette, served in two-bite Parmesan fricos.

          1. Broccoli and Grape Tomato Salad from the Bon Appetit Y'All cookbook would be a nice addition to your menu and it's definitely a do-ahead recipe. Very easy to prepare and the combination of red & green is definitely in season. Here's the link to my report (with paraphrased instructions):

            Another possibility would be a simple sautee of green beans and red peppers with sliced onion or shallots. Can be served at room temp.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Gio

              I'd go with something like this as well. There's a very nice broccoli salad in Deborah Madison's Greens book which also has roasted red pepper, iirc.

              Xmas Eve is my favourite too.

            2. How about lightly steamed brussels sprouts marinated in a lemony vinaigrette, then sprinkled w/paprika and chopped parsley? They can be served cold or at room temp?

              1. I have sucessfully made this


                and I've done them ahead. Very french bistro and though not "green" gives you something salady that should be different enough from what you'll serve the next day

                1. What about a Ratatouille? It benefits from being made ahead, as the flavors meld more. Goes great with bread nibbles, and a sprinkling and broiling with parmesan.

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: Emme

                    Thanks for all the suggestions! As we may have brussels sprouts for Christmas Day, they won't work....and the ratatouille would be lovely except that we just had a wonderful Julia version recently. I can't believe I didn't think of room temperature green beans dressed in various guises...the recipe listed sounds wonderful. And roasted asparagus is delicious beyond belief, especially when seared in my cast iron skillet.

                    I'm afraid, though, that I may have trouble finding ANY fresh beans or asparagus. I live in a small town in a part of the country --rural Iowa--that doesn't 'believe" in eating vegetables (unless you consider pea salad or corn on the cob <g>), unlike my native South, which revels in them. IF I can, though, I'm in like Flynn.

                    If not, I may have to suffer through some good quality canned asparagus and...and....?

                    1. re: Beckyleach

                      I think I'd have to move out of Iowa......

                      String Beans and Asparagus are always what I recommend.....Haricot Vert with Red bliss Potatoes or Green Beans with Cherry/Grape Tomatoes....Roasted/Grilled Asparagus with Shaved Parmigiano Regianno

                      But since that is not available to you......nothing beats the simplicity of Spinach with butter or Garlic and Olive Oil........Frozen or Fresh.

                      1. re: Beckyleach

                        Please don't do canned asparagus...just don't; I don't think there is any "good quality" canned asparagus; if you must, do frozen..still not as good as fresh but definitely better than canned...why not do a sauteed broccoli with lemon butter or cream sauce or broccoli with bacon and crispy shallots?

                        1. re: Cherylptw

                          Once again, there's the problem of availability re: the frozen asparagus. I'm talking FARM TOWN, here. <eg>

                          Oh, hell! Maybe I'll just bring a big cooler and shop ahead, while we're in Omaha picking up my daughter at the airport. They even have a Whole Paycheck, there.

                          1. re: Beckyleach

                            perfect plan... i echo the sentiment 'please don't use asparagus from a can"... so not the same :-)

                    2. Ina's Spinach Gratin...Recipe Below...SO GOOD!

                      4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
                      4 cups chopped yellow onions (2 large)
                      1/4 cup flour
                      1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
                      1 cup heavy cream
                      2 cups milk
                      3 pounds frozen chopped spinach, defrosted (5 (10-ounce) packages)
                      1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
                      1 tablespoon kosher salt
                      1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
                      1/2 cup grated Gruyere cheese

                      Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

                      Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed saute pan over medium heat. Add the onions and saute until translucent, about 15 minutes. Add the flour and nutmeg and cook, stirring, for 2 more minutes. Add the cream and milk and cook until thickened. Squeeze as much liquid as possible from the spinach and add the spinach to the sauce. Add 1/2 cup of the Parmesan cheese and mix well. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper.

                      Transfer the spinach to a baking dish and sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup Parmesan and the Gruyere on top. Bake for 20 minutes until hot and bubbly. Serve hot.

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: care11

                        Just added that one to my Christmas menu - yum!

                        1. re: bayoucook

                          thanks for posting the recipe. That looks wonderful. I can understand craving something green. I actually require our meals to have something green. I was thinking about some kind of soup but as crunchy salad of green vegetables would be nice. My winter salad is basically romaine, swiss cheese, apples, pears, cashews, dried cranberries with a poppy seed dressing. But going back to the spinach gratin ... I think that would complement your meal very well.

                          1. re: dfrostnh

                            It's really delicious, everyone loves it and wonderful that you can make it ahead of time and then heat...or REheat....!

                            1. re: care11

                              This may be a dumb question but I assume you make ahead all steps except adding the topping?

                              Could you make this 24 hours in advance?

                        2. re: care11

                          That looks fantastic and it would look lovely in My Precious, the Ruffoni copper gratin dish I snagged for half price off of Ebay. :-D

                        3. Camille Glenn's Christmas cookbook has a recipe for a warm broccoli, red bell pepper, and roquefort salad that I've adapted. Basically, you cook spears of broccoli (i use the microwave) until crisp/tender and still bright green. Arrange on a platter with roasted red bell pepper. You can microwave it to just warm before serving, then you crumble blue cheese over it, serve with a dijon vinaigrette and scatter with pine nuts. Easy.

                          1. I know it isn't green but what about a bagna cauda with cauliflower and endive to dip. It certainly provides the vegetables and goes well with the casual nature of the buffet.