Thanksgiving Without the Turkey (but with so much else!)

Platter of Fall Fruit (photo by Laurie Smith)

For years I’ve been asked by news folks of various stripes to comment about what vegetarians can eat at Thanksgiving, and for as many years I’ve replied, ”Everything but the turkey.” Even when turkey is on the table, there’s bound to be a host of other foods, mostly seasonal vegetable dishes, that are just right for the vegetarian and everyone else at the table, too. Traditionally those sides so numerous that plates are heaped with them while the turkey makes up but a small portion.

And if you’re planning to make a Thanksgiving meal without the bird, what then? Here are some of the thoughts on that.

The first is to skip the mock turkey, unless you just absolutely love it.

The second is to make something that’s special to you and those at your table, something that you don’t make often because it’s too expensive or too time consuming, or maybe too rich. Such as? A wild mushroom lasagna (or any kind of lasagna, especially when made with fresh pasta.) Homemade ravioli are always welcome. Or a winter vegetable stew that brings together black lentils, root vegetables, pureed potatoes and a red wine sauce. You know what you like.

While you might choose to make menu with that special dish as the star, another way is to honor the holiday is to go for the groaning board approach, a big table loved with seasonal dishes. Now is when we’re excited about winter squash and sweet potatoes, or the appearance of corn meal or dried beans at the farmers market, or you home grown cache of Jerusalem artichokes, so you might just decide to indulge and have some of everything.

You could have everyone sit down and start off with a bowl of warming soup, then invite people to get up and help themselves to the bounty. Or just keep passing all those platters with someone designated to set them somewhere when they’ve gone around once.

Whatever approach you take, do invite others to participate in making the meal. They may just want to bring a favorite dish of their own, or help out in your kitchen, or show up with an extra pie or a bottle of wine.

Here are a few dishes I’m likely to serve, all of them can be found in my cookbooks. VCFE can for the most part, be the old or The New Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. I have to admit, it was hard to choose just these.

 

Possible Appteizers

White Bean, Sage, and Roasted Garlic Spread, VCFE

Savory Wild Rice Crepe-Cakes, Vegetable Literacy

Gourgere (Cheese Puffs), The Savory Way

 

Two Special Soups

Roasted Jerusalem Artichoke Bisque with Sunflower Sprouts, Vegetable Soups from Deborah Madison’s Kitchen

My Really Good Mushroom Soup, from the soup book, above

 

Three or Four Main Dish Possbilities

Braised Root Vegetables with Black Lentils and Red Wine Sauce, Local Flavors

Winter Squash Galette, VCFE – or another vegetable galette -there are more!

Butternut Squash Ravioli with Sage, VCFE or Mushroom Lasagna, VCFE

 

Some Possible Sides

Quince Compote or Spiced Quince and Cranberry Compote, The Savory Way

Asian Sweet Potatoes with Coconut Butter, Vegetable Literacy

An Over-the-Top Holiday Sweet Potato Gratin with Red Chile, The New VCFE

Warm Red Cabbage Salad with Pecans, VCFE and a different one in Vegetable Literacy

Wilted Greens with Crisped Bread Crumbs, VCFE

Celery Root and Potato Puree with Truffle Salt, VCFE

Provencal Winter Squash Gratin or Delicata Squash Rings, VCFE

Buttermilk Skillet Corn Bread with Heirloom Flint Cornmeal, Vegetable Literacy

 

Salad

Endive with Walnuts and Blue Cheese, VCFE

Shredded Radicchio with Walnut Vinaigrette, Vegetable Literacy

 

Dessert Possibilities

Steamed Persimmon Pudding, Local Flavors

Sweet Potato Flan with Maple Yogurt and Caramel Pecans, Vegetable Literacy

Indian Pudding (if you have an oven free for a few hours), Seasonal Fruit Desserts

Tangelo-Tangerine Pudding, Seasonal Fruit Desserts (a very light dessert)

 

And you don’t need a recipe to build a platter of fall fruits, nuts, chocolates and the like for people to munch on long after the table is cleared.

Happy Thanksgiving To All

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