3 lively vegetarian sides that add color to the Thanksgiving table

Bring hearty flavor to the Thanksgiving table with, from left, glazed carrots with miso and sesame; warm kale salad with walnuts and pomegranate; and creamy chard with ricotta, parmesan and bread crumbs. / Christopher Simpson/The New York Times

Thanksgiving isn't exactly a colorful vegetable-forward occasion. The meal's palette is rather somber: There's a lot of brown, beige, camel and dull green, and a few nice autumnal colors thanks to cranberry sauce and candied yams.

Don't get me wrong -- I have no quarrel with Brussels sprouts, bread stuffing and mashed potatoes on my plate, and tawny giblet gravy, too. I'm all for creamed onions, and I love parsnips, turnips and squash. But we can make room on the table for more vibrant options, no?

Times, and tastes, change. There are significantly more people doing completely vegetarian Thanksgiving gatherings nowadays. Consider these three recipes as bright side dishes that can be served with whatever you're having. As a bonus, they can all be prepared in advance and served warmed or at room temperature. Traditions begin with you.

Glazed Carrots With Miso and Sesame

  photo  Glazed carrots with miso and sesame. / Christopher Simpson/The New York Times

Miso and sesame add a nutty warmth to this buttery dish of glazed carrots. Look for young, slender carrots for the best flavor. Bunched carrots with their tops still intact are always fresher than the 2-pound cello-packed type. (And we all know those cute, peeled, cork-shaped baby carrots are whittled down from "horse carrots.") Choose a mix of rainbow carrots if you wish, but orange or yellow carrots are fine.

It's a fairly simple side to put together: Parboil the carrots, then toss them with a tasty mixture of yellow miso, butter and sesame oil before they go in the oven to glaze. Finish with a sprinkle of gochugaru and toasted sesame seeds. They're a little sweet, a little salty and very aromatic.

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

Total time: 40 minutes

Salt and pepper

2 pounds medium carrots, preferably bunched

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

1/4 cup yellow or white miso

2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil

1 small lemon, zested and juiced

Pinch of gochugaru

2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds

Scallions, thinly sliced, for garnish

Heat oven to 400 degrees.

Bring a pot of well-salted water to a boil over high heat. Peel and trim carrots. Halve carrots lengthwise, if on the larger side, and cut into 4-inch lengths. Simmer over medium heat until tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain the carrots.

In a large bowl, combine butter, miso, sesame oil, lemon zest and juice, and stir well to make a soft paste; toss with carrots to coat. Add black pepper and gochugaru to taste. Transfer to a 9- by 13-inch baking dish in an even layer.

Sprinkle with sesame seeds, and bake until the carrots are golden brown and sizzling, about 20 minutes. Sprinkle with scallions, and serve warm or at room temperature.

-- By David Tanis

Creamy Chard With Ricotta, Parmesan and Breadcrumbs

  photo  Creamy chard with ricotta, parmesan and bread crumbs. / Christopher Simpson/The New York Times

A luscious vegetable casserole, this can be a green vegetable side dish or a substantial vegetarian main course. Make it with chard, spinach or any other hearty cooking green -- it is a layered crowd-pleaser.

The cooked chard is dabbed with fresh ricotta and Parmesan, then covered with a creamy béchamel sauce and topped with crunchy breadcrumbs. Lasagna-ish, but without the pasta.

Though it's a bit of a project to put together, it's not at all hard to make if you approach it in an organized fashion, and the finished product is well worth the time invested. You can imagine what heady aromas will be wafting about the kitchen as it bakes. This one is best served warm, but I guarantee you'll go back for more once it's cooled down.

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

Total time: 1 hour 15 minutes

3 pounds chard, any color (from about 6 bunches)

Salt and pepper

Extra-virgin olive oil, for greasing the baking dish and drizzling

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 cups half-and-half or milk, plus more as needed

Ground nutmeg, to taste

Ground cayenne, to taste

About 1 pound fresh ricotta

3/4 cup grated Parmesan

3/4 cup dry breadcrumbs, preferably homemade

Wash chard in a deep basin of cold tap water. Remove stems, and reserve for another purpose (chopped and added to vegetable soup, for instance). Chop or tear chard leaves into rough 2-inch pieces.

Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil over high heat. Submerge chard, turning it so it cooks evenly, and simmer over medium heat, 1 minute or so. Drain, and set aside to cool for 10 minutes.

Oil a 9- by 13-inch baking dish. Heat oven to 375 degrees.

Make a béchamel: Melt butter in a heavy 2-quart saucepan over medium heat. Add flour, stir well and let mixture cook for a minute or so, without browning. Slowly add 2 cups half-and-half, 1/4 cup at a time, whisking well as mixture thickens. Turn heat to low.

Season sauce with a good pinch of salt, a little bit of nutmeg and a speck of cayenne. Cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes. Taste and correct seasoning. Consistency should be gravylike and not too thick -- thin with more half-and-half as necessary.

While the sauce cooks, squeeze the cooled chard dry, and, using a large knife, cut it into 1/2-inch slices. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to the prepared baking dish. Top with blobs of ricotta, evenly spaced.

Pour or spoon warm béchamel over dish, covering everything evenly to the edges. Sprinkle with Parmesan and breadcrumbs. Drizzle with a little olive oil in a fine stream. Bake until bubbling and nicely browned, 40 minutes. Let cool slightly, then serve hot or warm.

Tip: This can be made up to 24 hours in advance, refrigerated, and reheated for 15 to 20 minutes in a 350-degree oven, until the casserole bubbles at the edges.

-- By David Tanis

Warm Kale Salad With Walnuts and Pomegranate

  photo  Warm kale salad with walnuts and pomegranate. / Christopher Simpson/The New York Times

Pomegranate molasses makes a sweet-tart contribution to this salad of cooked, not raw, kale. I like to boil the greens just a bit to soften the leaves, which yields a much more pleasant result. Then simply drain, blot and dress.

The tangy vinaigrette is a mixture of the pomegranate molasses, which is more tart than sweet, lemon juice and zest, good olive oil and a dab of Dijon mustard for sharpness. Dress the kale, which should be seasoned with salt and pepper, then adorn the salad with chopped toasted walnuts and pomegranate seeds.

While I treat it as a vegetable side dish, it could very well be a salad course on its own under other circumstances.

There's a morsel of warm kale, walnut and pomegranate in every bite, but, truth be told, it is just as tasty served at room temperature.

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

Total time: 30 minutes

Salt and pepper

2 pounds kale, stems removed

2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses

2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar, white-wine vinegar or sherry vinegar

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 cup toasted walnuts

1/2 cup pomegranate seeds, or more to taste

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil over high heat.

Wash kale in a deep basin of cold tap water. Cut or tear into 1-inch ribbons. Add kale to the boiling water, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 to 3 minutes. Drain, cool and blot dry.

Make dressing: Combine pomegranate molasses, vinegar, lemon juice and mustard; stir to dissolve. Whisk in olive oil, and season with salt and pepper.

To serve, place kale in an ovenproof serving dish. (A 9- by 13-inch pan, large cast-iron or small Dutch oven would all work.) Add dressing and mix to coat. Transfer dish to oven, and cook until kale is heated through, about 5 minutes. Top with walnuts, and shower with pomegranate seeds.

-- By David Tanis