By Marsha Fottler -
We said it last year at Flavors & More and we say it again this year, Thanksgiving Day is the best holiday of the year for vegetarian eaters. It’s the day when vegetarians eat well, eat varied and celebrate the tremendous bounty of America’s fruits, grains and vegetables that routine appear on Thanksgiving Day dinner tables all across the United States.
Think about it, once you get past that big brown bird crouching in the middle of the table, the rest of the meal consists of great side dishes – soups, vegetable casseroles, stuffing, potatoes, terrines and tartares, cakes, pies, on and on. Because Thanksgiving is such a special food holiday, home cooks (and guests who bring a dish to share) generally go all out to prepare something seasonal but out of the ordinary. Vegetarian eaters are in luck because there’s likely to lots more than a portobello mushroom for them at this harvest table. Just take a pass when the turkey platter comes around and dig in.
Since Thanksgiving is all about the dinner, don’t rush the experience. Schedule time for a half hour to an hour of cocktails and nuts or just socializing with a beverage such as local apple cider. Organize your meal in courses and always begin with an appetizer before moving to the soup, salad and then the entree. Dessert could be set up as a buffet with several options.
If you’re hosting a Thanksgiving Day dinner and you know vegetarians will be at your table, don’t bother with one of those phony tofu-turkey things. Fake food isn’t enticing. Instead go for the authentic and use common sense when preparing your side dishes. For example, when you’re making stuffing or a casserole that calls for chicken or beef stock or broth, just use vegetable stock. It’s an easy substitution and the taste of your finished dish will be just as wonderful. If a salad or soup calls for a garnish of bacon bits or lardon, put the topping in a separate bowl and pass it around for those who want it.
Make sure your menu includes a nice big platter of seasonal roasted vegetables. Cut them up, toss in a little olive oil and seasoning and roast in a 400-degree over until the veggies are fork tender, but not mushy. It’s the easiest side you can make for Thanksgiving Day dinner and you’ll earn the gratitude of all the vegetarians at your festive table. Here are a few more recipes bound to tempt and delight vegetarian eaters on Turkey Day.
(Chef Larry Barrett, Simply Gourmet Caterers, Sarasota, Florida) Serves 6.
1 small purple onion, diced
1/2 hot house seeded cucumber, diced
½ yellow pepper, seeded and diced
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
6 tablespoons crumbled feta cheese. (Vegetarians use the cheese,Vegans, leave it out)
½ teaspoon Tabasco
½ teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon dried basil
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
6 pitted Kalamata olives, diced
2 smashed ripe Hass avocados
4 tablespoons store bought or homemade basil pesto thinned with a drop of olive oil
Put all ingredients, except the avocado, in bowl and toss. Mix in avocado and toss lightly (the avocado will help bind the mixture). Coat 6 small round bowls or teacups with oil spray and press saran wrap in and line the mold. Press several spoonfuls of the mixture in bowls and press down with the back of the spoon to pack the mixture into the molds. Flip molds over onto a small plate. you will have a lovely little appetizer course for Thanksgiving Day dinner. Garnish plate with pesto jus. Great looking presentation. You’ll look like professional chef.
Tomato and Sweet Pepper Soup
(The Culinary Institute of America Book of Soups) Serves 8.
1 onion, finely diced (about 1 ¼ cups)
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped ( about 3 cups)
2 sweet red bell peppers, seeds and ribs removed, cut into strips (about 2 cups)
2 celery stalks, thinly diced (about 1 cup)
6 cups vegetable broth
½ cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon poppy seeds, lightly crushed
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon fresh ground white pepper
Heat the oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and stir to coat evenly with oil. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pot and cook 6-8 minutes. Add the tomatoes, pepper and celery to the pot, replace the cover and continue to cook until the vegetables are tender and heated through, 6-8 minutes. Add the broth. Bring to a simmer and cook 20 minutes. Skim as needed. Season the soup with salt and pepper. Meanwhile, whip the cream until it form soft peaks. Fold in the poppy seeds. Serve soup in heated bowls, topped with the poppy-seed whipped cream. A great first course for Turkey Day dinner and it looks so pretty!
Jalapeno Corn Mashed Potatoes
(Grant Corner Inn Cookbook) Serves 6.
4 3-ounce packages cream cheese
¼ c up milk
5 tablespoons butter
5 cups mashed potatoes
4 jalapenos, chopped and seeded
1 ½ cups cooked corn, drained
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons white pepper
Preheat oven to 350-degrees. Cook cream cheese, milk and butter over low heat until butter and cream cheese melt. Stir this mixture into mashed potatoes. Add jalapenos, corn, salt and pepper. Mix Well and bake in a 9×12 greased glass baking dish. Bake about 3 minutes. You’ll never again say that mashed potatoes are bland!
Nonna’s Lemon Ricotta Biscuits
(Giada De Laurentiis in Food Network Favorites Cookbook) Yields 12.
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup granulated sugar, plus more for sprinkling
½ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest (from 2 lemons)
1 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese
1 large egg
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
½ teaspoon almond extract
1/2 cup thinly sliced almonds
Line 12 muffin cups with paper liners. Preheat over to 350-degrees. Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bow to blend. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat 1 cup sugar, butter and lemon zest until light and fluffy. Beat in the ricotta. Beat in the egg, lemon juice and almond extract. Add the dry ingredients and stir until blended. The batter will be thick and fluffy. Divide the batter among the muffin cups. Sprinkle almonds and sugar over the muffins. Bake until the muffins are pale golden on top, about 20 minutes. Cool slightly and serve warm or at room temperature. Put a basket of these muffins on the table with your traditional breads for the Thanksgiving meal or put these muffins on the dessert buffet. Either way, they will disappear.