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Vegetarian Thanksgiving: Vegetables, Etc.

[Kurt’s hands, December 2008.]

This is what I have done today:

Lugged cake and cookies in to work on the bus, most likely annoying fellow passengers because it was so crowded (sigh …).
Thought about tomorrow’s dinner party.
Made lists (oh, the lists! They are taking over my life lately.).
— Break for lunch at the Old Ship: veggie burger + cheddar + mushrooms; fries; shared plate onion rings. —
— Break for coworker’s baby shower; I made Guinness-chocolate cake and oatmeal-chocolate chip cookies and procured a little Giants onesie thing because … well, you know why. —

Obsessed about cooking meat a tiny bit.
Worked some more.
Went to the Ferry Building for sweet potatoes and a chicken for roasting and fresh rosemary and a few other things.
Filed away a few xmas present ideas.
Reminded self to VERY SOON start making the holiday cards.
Pondered the merits of Granny Smith apples against all others for pie.
Wondered where to get Maine maple syrup as I’m, err, not in Maine at the moment.
Remembered the year in college I made a lemon meringue pie and transported it up to Vermont balanced on my knees to contribute to the 19-pie Thanksgiving at my aunt’s house.
(Mmmm, lemon meringue pie ….)

Obviously right now all I can think about is cooking — I think I’m breathing it, if that makes sense. Not in a bad way, though — never, ever in a bad way. I’m exchanging giddy emails with my sister-in-law re menus, asking for advice about roasting a turkey and giving advice about gluten-free vegetarian options. My coworker and I just deconstructed our Thanksgiving plans and discussed the merits of dry versus wet brine. My mind is happily consumed with thoughts of sweet potato-chard-but-spinach-instead-of-chard gratin, maple-syrup sweetened butternut squash puree (i.e. will it be too sweet?), I’m trying to decide between salad or an apple-fennel (with carrots) slaw, I’m already hankering for a slice of pumpkin pie …

I’m also thinking about my brother today, as it’s his birthday — Happy birthday Kurt! Thirty-one years ago you were born into the world and though I had no idea at the time how profoundly my life would be impacted by your presence I certainly do now. How-ever without you, for example, would I have gone to Greece for two glorious weeks to feel as though I was not tourist but actually belonged there (and I think I do, after all)? How-ever would I have come to like — nay, love — red cabbage? Or chard? Or tomatoes in season? You have given me so much (most recently that aforementioned wonderful sister-in-law) but best of all you have given me yourself, and I am so glad to know you. Hope you have a wonderful day full of good food and cheer and love (and, also, that the darn Carhatt’s are the right size/fabric).

But back to the food. I’ve included here some of my tried-and-true recipes for vegetable sides and soups (as well as my trusty — and addictive — vegetarian gravy recipe) … there are so many, many more that I have tucked away but it would take far too long for you to wade through them all. Instead! A few of my favorites.

THANKSGIVING —> Soups and Sundries

Potage Jacqueline
, adapted from New Recipes from the Moosewood Cookbook

I’ve been making this soup for years and years, and it’s always clamored-for by my friends. It will definitely make it on my menu for this year. It’s also deceptively simple to make, so you can focus on the more elaborate (and important) parts of the meal, like dessert, while still serving a dreamy and delicious first course.

2 Tbs. olive oil
2 cups chopped onions
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 tsp. grated fresh gingerroot
3 medium-sized sweet potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
4 cups water
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp. salt
Black pepper to taste
1 cup milk
1/2 cup heavy cream (or milk; see notes)
4 or 6 thin slices lemon for garnish

1. Sauté onions in the olive oil until translucent, stirring occasionally. Add celery and ginger, and continue to cook until onions begin to brown. Add sweet potatoes, water, bay leaf, salt and pepper, and bring to a rapid boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer 15 to 20 minutes, until sweet potatoes are tender.

2. Remove and discard bay leaf. In blender or food processor, purée small batches of soup mixture with milk and heavy cream. Adjust salt and pepper to taste, and reheat gently, but do not boil.

3. To serve, garnish with 1 thin lemon round on each serving.

Notes: I usually leave out the heavy cream, subbing in a 1/2-cup of milk, because I don’t like soups to be too heavy. If you’re going the vegan route, you could use (unflavored) soy milk instead of dairy, or if you don’t like soy, use about 2 cups of vegetable broth. The lemon slices may seem an unexpected addition, but please don’t leave them off — you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how their tartness cuts the creamy sweetness of the soup.

Pumpkin-leek soup

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 leeks (white and light green parts), sliced 1/4 inch thick and rinsed
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 medium pumpkin or 1 1/2 pounds butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
3 cups vegetable broth
3 cups water
salt and pepper
1 teaspoon herbs du Provence (if you have it — otherwise, a nice combo of dried basil, thyme, rosemary, oregano …)

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the leeks, onion, and garlic and cook, stirring often, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the herbs. Add the pumpkin cubes and the broth. Bring to a boil then add water and lower to a simmer. Simmer until the pumpkin is tender, about 25 minutes. Stir in 1 teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper.

2. Working in batches, or with a hand blender, ladle the soup into a blender and puree until smooth.

Vegan cornbread with sage and fresh corn

I actually like this vegan version better than many non-vegan versions; friends at my pre-Thanksgiving harvest dinner last year concurred. Some corn breads are a bit too eggy for my taste, so this one, obviously, is not.

2 cups cornmeal
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoon baking powder
1/3 cup canola oil
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 cups soymilk
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
corn kernels from two ears of corn
1/4 cup fresh sage, coarsely chopped

1. Preheat oven to 350 F and line a 9×13 baking pan with parchment paper or oil the bottom of the pan.

2. In a medium bowl, wisk together the soymilk and the vinegar and set aside.

3. In a large bowl, sift together the dry ingredients. Add the oil and maple syrup to the soymilk mixture. Wisk with a wire wisk until it is foamy and bubbly, about 2 minutes.

4. Pour the wet ingredient into the dry and mix together. Add the corn and the sage and stir to combine. Pour batter into the prepared baking pan and bake 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Slice into squares and serve warm or store in an airtight container.

Note:This if also fine to use in the forthcoming cornbread dressing recipe.

Vegetarian gravy, adapted from all-recipes.com

1/2 cup olive oil
1/3 cup chopped onion or shallots
5 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons light soy sauce
2 cups vegetable broth
1/2 teaspoon dried sage
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1. Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Saute onion and garlic until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in flour and soy sauce to form a smooth paste. Gradually whisk in the broth.

2. Season with sage, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer, stirring constantly, for 8 to 10 minutes, or until thickened.

Note: The gravy thickens up quite a bit, so keep some warm water or vegetable broth on hand to thin it out before serving, and for the next day’s leftovers.

Potato and celery root mash

I love mashed potatoes. Love. And last winter I discovered celery root — together, they are delicious and perfect for Thanksgiving.

3 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and quartered
1 pound celery root, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
kosher salt and black pepper
1 cup vegetable broth
1/4 cup half-and-half, whole milk, soy milk
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces, or 3 tablespoons olive oil

Place the potatoes and celery root in a large pot and add enough cold water to cover. Bring to a boil and add 2 teaspoons salt. Reduce heat and simmer until the vegetables are very tender, 18 to 20 minutes. Drain and return the vegetables to the pot.

Add the broth and butter and stir well to combine, mashing with a wooden spoon as you go. Add the half-and-half or milk, and salt and pepper tot taste.

Mashed sweet potatoes with sesame oil

3-4 medium sweet potatoes
4 Tb. sesame oil
1/4 cup or so of soy milk (or regular milk, or vegetable broth)

1. Peel and chop the sweet potatoes and put in a medium saucepan with enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until soft. When potatoes are tender, drain, reserving a little of the cooking liquid.

2. Return to pot and stir in the sesame oil, soy milk, and cooking water. Add a bit of sea salt to taste. Stir vigorously to combine.


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