Thanksgiving is such a straightforward holiday. It’s pretty much all about the food. No gifts, no costumes, no parades or coloring eggs. While it’s true that if you have guests it’s also about clean sheets for the guest room and at the very least a decluttering and quick cleaning of the house, the Thanksgiving menu can be simple or elaborate — you choose. I’ve had it both ways. When we were all in school at the same time, I shopped the day before the feast and still ended up with the essentials. Given more time, we’ve had the mini-crabcake apps, the from-scratch Parkerhouse rolls, the homemade cranberry sauce (though we have a strong canned jellied cranberry sauce lobby in our house), the pumpkin cheesecake and apple tarts. It’s all fine, but these days we aim for a happy medium. We do some planning and early shopping, and keep the menu a bit pared down, but made up of the best our garden’s bounty has to offer.

One development that has changed Thanksgiving for many is the need to include both vegetarian and/or gluten-free items on the menu. Rather than make extra dishes, we try to make most of our offerings something both traditional diners and those with dietary preferences will enjoy. If you want a gluten-free stuffing for the bird, you can make a cornbread-based one or use grains, such as quinoa or a blend of brown and wild rices. Combine them with chopped dried fruits or sauteed fresh fruits, such as apples or pears, toasted walnuts, pecans or hazelnuts, sauteed celery and onions, of course, or sauteed mushrooms or oysters.

When it comes to the all-important gravy, there’s no need to make two kinds. If you usually use flour as a thickener, cornstarch is probably the most readily available ingredient to sub in. Once you’ve deglazed your roasting pan and added stock, transfer about one cup stock mixture to a medium bowl. Whisk in cornstarch until smooth, using a ratio of one heaping tablespoon of cornstarch for every cup of gravy base in the pan, then return this slurry to the roasting pan and whisk over medium-low heat until thickened and smooth. This is actually the way my mother always made gravy and we once turned up our noses at this method, but now believe she was just ahead of her time.

For the vegetarians at your table, include a pretty non-meat option. This root vegetable gratin could be a main dish for vegetarians and a side for the turkey eaters. It can be made several hours ahead of serving and reheated in a medium oven while the turkey rests before carving.

R O O T   V E G E T A B L E   G R A T I N

112  pounds turnips, kohlrabi, rutabaga, large parsnips or a combination, peeled and sliced thin
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
12 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
34 cup grated Gruyère cheese
112 cups low-fat milk
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Butter a 2-quart gratin or baking dish. Place sliced vegetables in a large bowl and toss with salt and pepper and thyme. Arrange the vegetables in the gratin dish, add milk, then bake 45 minutes; every 15 minutes, press the vegetables down into the milk with the back of a spoon. Add the cheese, and stir in to incorporate. Return to the oven, and bake another 30 to 45 minutes, stirring or pressing the vegetables down with the back of your spoon every 10 minutes until the gratin is nicely browned and most of the liquid is absorbed. Remove from the heat and serve, or allow to cool slightly and serve warm.

Cornmeal is also an ingredient in a gluten-free festive cranberry cake that easily rivals the traditional pumpkin pie for dessert honors.

C R A N B E R R Y   C O R N M E A L   U P S I D E   D O W N   C A K E

12 Tbsp. softened butter
234 cups fresh or defrosted frozen cranberries
12 cup maple syrup
12 tsp. cinnamon
34 cup gluten-free flour, plus more for pan
1 tsp. baking powder
14 tsp. salt
13 cup coarse yellow cornmeal
14 cup almond paste
34 cup, plus two Tbsp. sugar
3 large eggs, separated
14 tsp. each vanilla  and almond extracts
12 cup milk
Preheat oven to 350 degrees with rack in center. Butter an 8-by-2-inch round cake pan. Line with a parchment circle cut to fit bottom, and butter the parchment. Note: do not skip this step because you want the cranberries to stick to the cake, not the bottom of the pan. Coat with flour, tapping out excess; set aside. In a large skillet, heat 6 tablespoons butter over medium heat until sizzling. Add cranberries and toss to coat, about 1 minute. Add maple syrup and cinnamon to skillet. Cook, stirring gently, just until cranberries begin to burst, about 1 minute. Using a slotted spoon, transfer cranberries to the prepared pan. Return skillet with syrup to medium heat, and simmer until thickened, about 2 minutes. Pour syrup over cranberries; set aside. Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Mix in cornmeal with a fork. Set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt; set aside. Place remaining six tablespoons butter in the bowl of an electric mixer, crumble in almond paste, and beat on medium speed until smooth and combined. With mixer running, gradually add 34 cup sugar to butter mixture; beat until creamy. Add yolks, beat until combined. Beat in extracts. Add flour mixture in two batches, alternating with milk. Set batter aside. In a clean bowl, beat egg whites until foamy. Gradually add remaining two tablespoons sugar, and beat until soft peaks form. Whisk 13 of the egg whites into batter, and then fold in the remaining whites. Spread batter over cranberries in pan and bake until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 50 to 60 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool, about 20 minutes. Invert cake onto a serving plate and serve at room temperature.