By Noah Kaufman
Usually, people get excited about seasonal ingredients during the warmer season, but winter in Southern Virginia offers its own set of produce at the peak of freshness. So head to one of your local farmers' markets and pick up some ingredients specific to the holiday season. All these appetizers and sides offer a nice change-up to all the traditional Christmas dinner recipes.
Beets and carrots get most of the love when it comes to root vegetables around the holidays, but this is the one time on the calendar the parsnip really has an opportunity to shine. Try these roasted parsnips with a powerful kick of fresh horseradish woven into the butter from Grace Parisi at Food & Wine. It’ll keep for up to two weeks, so if you have some left over you can spread it on your morning toast for a spicy, savory breakfast.
Most of the time, Brussels sprouts are roasted along with some bacon this time of year, and that’s delicious to be sure. But in this winter salad, both raw and sauteed Brussels are combined with blood oranges and fresh fromage blanc for a side that’s both hearty and fresh.
Ditch the traditional pies you usually have for dessert and serve a basket of bite-sized apple cider beignets. A note: beignets (and all donuts really) are best when eaten immediately after frying, you can make these a few hours ahead and reheat them if you don’t want to back in the kitchen after the main course.
A little more adventurous than your standard casserole or roasted variety, these twice baked sweet potatoes have all kinds of textures going on and the sweet and savory bacon brittle puts them over the top.
Lots of people stay far away from radicchio because it’s so bitter, but it transforms when you roast it. The nuttiness it takes on is complemented well here with the addition of walnuts. Serve this one alongside any big holiday roast you have planned.
Not your average appetizer dip and it will let you take advantage of all the winter greens that are in season right now like spinach, kale, chard. It might seem like the recipe calls for too many of them, but don’t worry, they’ll cook down quite a bit.
They aren’t like the rest of the produce featured on this list, but oysters are in season in December—Virginia’s oyster season runs from late fall through the middle of spring. Now, if you are one of those people who believe it is sacrilege to eat an oyster any way besides slurping it down raw, ignore this recipe at your peril. Bacon-wrapped fried oysters are perfect, crispy appetizers and this recipe from the legendary New Orleans restaurant Arnaud’s is a classic version.