Thanksgiving is a time of coming together by reaching across the table and sharing a meal. Whether you are entertaining for a large or small crowd, casual or gussied up, planning your Thanksgiving feast menu in advance is always helpful. Feast is an understatement during the holiday season, and Los Angeles chef and caterer Ella Freyinger provides you with healthy takes (and crowd pleasers) on side dishes this year.
Chef Ella Freyinger
Chef Ella Freyinger, Inc.
Confluence Food & Drink

Striving to uphold a business and personal philosophy of building communities over a nourishing meal, Chef Ella Freyinger makes a continuous impact in the lives of her clients and within the Los Angeles culinary scene. This Thanksgiving she is preparing seasonally grown whole ingredients including sweet potatoes, squash and figs and giving them center stage on holiday tables this season. Her catering business serves informal at-home gatherings, weddings, grand events. Chef Ella also creates menus for select restaurants.

(credit: Ella Freyinger)

Sweet Potato Chips with Thyme Salt

Chef Ella remembers these super simple and cost effective chips as have a part of my family’s Thanksgiving tradition. They are the perfect pre-meal appetizer that both adults and kids will enjoy. She prefers to buy longer and skinnier sweet potatoes to ensure they will fit on the mandolin for slicing. Have more of a sweet tooth? Top the chips with cinnamon sugar instead of the thyme salt.Ingredients for chips:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 – 4 sweet potatoes*
  • Ingredients for thyme salt:
  • ¼ cup sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves

Directions for salt:

  • Place all ingredients into a spice grinder and pulse 3-4 times or until thyme becomes fragrant.
  • Place in an airtight container and store.

Directions to bake chips:

  • Preheat the oven to 400 F.
  • Thinly slice the sweet potatoes on a mandolin.
  • Toss the sweet potato slices with the olive oil.
  • Lay on a rimmed baking sheet, lined with parchment paper, and bake for 20-25 minutes, turning over the sweet potato slices halfway through the cooking time.
  • Season with the thyme salt.
  • Place in a bowl and enjoy.

Related: Best Places For French Fries In Los Angeles

(credit: Ella Freyinger)

Roasted Tahitian Squash with Honey-Chili Agro Dolce
For Chef Ella, the Thanksgiving menu is not complete until there is a place for winter squash on the table. This recipe also works beautifully with pumpkin, butternut squash, delicata, acorn or kabocha so use whatever winter squash you have in your pantry or looks best at the market. You can roast the squash before the turkey goes in the oven and just throw it under the broiler before you serve so that you don’t take up too much precious time in the oven. Want to get “fancy”? Garnish with spoonfuls of honeycomb.Ingredients for squash:

  • 4 pounds Tahitian squash – peeled, seeded and cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • Kosher Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper


  • Preheat the oven to 400 F.
  • Place squash on a large, rimmed baking sheet.
  • Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
  • Roast for 30-35 minutes until browned and tender.
  • Drizzle the agro dolce (recipe below) over the squash and set aside until you are ready to
  • Preheat your broiler to HIGH.
  • Place squash under the broiler for 1-2 minutes or until the agro dolce starts to caramelize. Transfer to a platter and serve.

Ingredients for the agro dolce:

  • 1 Fresno chile, thinly sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, smashed
  • 1 sprig fresh oregano
  • ¾ cup sherry vinegar (use whatever vinegar you have in your pantry)
  • ¼ cup honey
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt


  • Place all ingredients into a sauce pot and bring to a simmer.
  • Cook for 8-10 minutes until reduced and syrupy.

(credit: Ella Freyinger)

Fig and Cranberry Bean Salad
This easy to assemble salad is colorful and makes a great healthy and vegetarian addition to the holiday table.Ingredients:

  • 6-8 fresh figs, Black Mission figs preferred for this recipe
  • 1 pound fresh cranberry beans (if you can’t find fresh cranberry beans, use one can of cannellini beans)
  • 1 head radicchio, cut into 2” pieces
  • 2 tablespoons fresh tarragon leaves
  • 4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon vinaigrette
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper


  • Place the balsamic vinegar, Dijon, olive oil, sea salt and black pepper in a medium
    size bowl and combine with a whisk.
  • Add the radicchio and toss to coat (this step can be done up to 2 hours before serving).
  • Add the quartered figs, ½ the tarragon and cranberry beans to the
    radicchio and toss to coat.
  • Transfer to a platter and garnish with the remaining tarragon leaves.
By Sheryl Craig