An Alternative Menu
Vegetarian and non-alcoholic choices worth celebrating on Thanksgiving
Even in the most enlightened of families, you’re bound to find that one curmudgeon who loudly denounces any change to the traditional Thanksgiving menu. You’d think anyone who requests a vegetarian main course or at least a side dish upgrade was committing a selfish act of disrespect. Seriously, what’s the threat?
No matter how you slice it, Thanksgiving is about more than turkey. Let the tradition be about taking a moment away from work and personal routine to share gratitude for life’s many gifts with your family. There is room in the ritual for an exchange of ideas. The Pilgrims and Indians certainly weren’t above trying something new.
Whether you’re looking to accommodate the dietary restrictions of specific guests or just add a little alternative pizzazz to your holiday menu, you’ll find a cornucopia of ideas online.
There are at least 14 different Pinterest boards titled “vegetarian Thanksgiving.” And the individual pins are if not infinite, growing in number daily as the holiday approaches.
Oddly enough, the least inspiring ideas we saw this year came from what was once the only go to — Vegetarian Times. Although if you like the sound of vegetable pot pie, you’re in luck.
Saveur’s vegetarian Thanksgiving menu did not knock us out either. On the plus side, we found the choices at Eating Well refreshingly creative. And it probably comes as no surprise that The New York Times Well blog is brimming over with tasty suggestions.
“The key to successful vegan cooking is not to try to replicate meat and cheese dishes with fake no-meat products. Instead, the goal is to develop dishes with rich, satisfying flavors and textures that will make you forget you’re eating vegan food,” celebrity vegan chef Chloe Coscarelli offers in an article earlier this month.
NYT has been adding to its collection of alternative holiday recipes annually. Among our top picks are: Spicy Pumpkin Hummus, Chocolate-Pumpkin Bread Pudding, Apple Slaw, Gluten-Free Pumpkin Dumplings with Radicchio, Cranberry chutney, Carrot-Parsnip Soup with Parsnip Chips, Couscous Salad with Dried Cranberries and Pecans and Pecan Pie Truffles.
Cut your research time in half with these leads from our recent scouting expedition:
- Go global. One of the best main dish suggestions we noted was for Spanakopita. The Greek spinach-cheese pie can be tweaked with dairy free ingredients for vegans without losing its appeal. Along this line are a couple of recipes from EatingWell we’ll be trying in the future, if not this Thanksgiving including Crispy Phyllo Spinach Tartlets, boasting a sundried tomato kick and Savory Bread Pudding with Spinach & Mushrooms. If the mushroom appeals to you but not the spinach, they’ve also got an appetizing recipe for a rustic mushroom tart sure to make mushroom-loving vegetarians love you for at least another year. Want to bring something to the party to impress but don’t want to cook? Sweet potato tempura sushi roll is on the menu of several local Japanese restaurants. If you’ve never tried it, you don’t know what you’re missing.
- Brassica oleracea. Roasted cabbage slices and Brussels sprouts are big on Pinterest this fall. Even The Sierra Club is offering a recipe for Sauteed Brussels Sprouts with Roasted Walnuts as part of its Holiday Survival Guide. Slice and brown the sprouts in butter before simmering in chicken or vegetable stock then just before done, add the walnuts and a splash of lemon juice. Likewise cauliflower seems to everywhere this year. Roasted cauliflower with red chili, cilantro and lime sound good? Coscarelli’s menu includes a Southern Skillet of Black-Eyed Peas and Cauliflower With Quick Biscuits.
- The squash conundrum. Squash is one of those things that sounds like a good idea in theory but doesn’t always coming out tasting like something you actually want to eat. Italian cooking is very squash friendly – from ravioli to risotto, there are a lot of recipes incorporating the plant that people will thank you for preparing. One we’re itching to try is Food & Wine’s Baked Butternut Squash and Cheese Polenta. Served with sautéed mushrooms, braised greens or tomato sauce it will fit right into the Thanksgiving palate. On Coscarelli’s menu is a Roasted Apple, Butternut Squash and Caramelized Onion Pizza that uses a Garlic White Bean Purée in lieu of red tomato sauce.
- Stuff it real good. Vegetarians want to eat stuffing too. By all means make your giblet studded mix that simmers inside the bird of honor but consider a second side dish that’s animal free and served with a mushroom gravy. We found a very promising mushroom stuffing recipe at Fresh Mushrooms. Martha Stewart also offers a vegetarian mushroom gravy recipe online.
- Believe it or not, just because they don’t eat turkey doesn’t mean they’ll eat Tofurky. There are a lot of main dishes options that succeed precisely because they’re not trying to pretend they are meat. And tofu is tricky. Unless you’ve got a lot of experience preparing it to sincere acclaim, it’s best to try something more likely to succeed. Consider a Lentil Walnut Loaf like this one via cooking blog Oh She Glows: http://ohsheglows.com/2011/01/01/ultimate-vegan-lentil-walnut-loaf/. Among the particularly tempting main dishes at NYT’s Well are Tempeh and Wild Mushroom Fricassee and Seitan Roulade With Oyster Mushroom Stuffing.
- Cheers sans ethanol. The only person less popular than the picky eater at Thanksgiving may be the family member who’s sworn off alcohol. There are plenty of good reasons to abstain, not the least of which is a baby on board. Just because you’re pregnant doesn’t mean you have to sit at the kids table. Like a well-planned and prepared vegetarian dish, a creative non-alcoholic cocktail can help you fit in and forget you’re not getting buzzed. A relatively new line of unusual sodas by the DRY Soda Co. is touted as “the perfect non-alcoholic party drink.” A less sweet, all natural soda made with just four ingredients (purified carbonated water, cane sugar, natural extract, phosphoric acid), DRY comes in flavors including lavender, blood orange, juniper, and rhubarb. The website offers pairing recipes and cocktail recipes for those who do chose alcohol.
Also see the Rittenhouse Inn Wassail Punch at Epicurious.com or The Elixr by soft-mixologist Sam Lipp of Eleven Madison Park via thekitchn.com. The concoction combines ginger-lime syrup, lemon juice, mint and water in a shaker with ice and strained into a julep cup of crushed ice and garnished. Cheri Loughlin’s Caradmom and Anise Coffee (brewed with black cardamom pods and anise stars) is bound to be as good as any after-dinner brew spiked with Kaluha, Frangelico or Bailey’s. See also http://intoxicologist.net/category/holiday-cocktails-drink-recipes/fall-thanksgiving/.
— alicia grega
Move Over, Pumpkin!
Go ahead, try a new dessert on for size this Thanksgiving
Save room for dessert this Thanksgiving because even if you’re all “pumpkined” out, we’ve got some suggestions for how you can jazz up your dessert table on Thursday.
If you want to mix things up a bit, why not expand your dessert menu to include variations on the traditional favorites? In our family, it’s tradition to offer apple pie, chocolate cream pie and either cream puffs or butter cookies along with pumpkin pie. Chocolates usually make an appearance, too.
If you want to be unconventional this year, here are three of our favorite recipes for desserts beyond the pumpkin pie.
— julie imel
Pumpkin Chiffon Pie
1 Tablespoon unflavored gelatin
2/3 cup brown sugar, packed
½ teasp. Salt
½ tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. nutmeg
½ tsp. ginger
1¼ cups mashed, cooked or canned
3 egg yolks
½ cup milk
3 egg whites
¼ teasp. Cream of tartar
½ cup sugar
1, 9” inch baked pie shell
Blend gelatin, brown sugar, salt, spices, pumpkin, egg yolks and milk in saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until it boils. Place pan in cold water; cool until mixture mounds slightly when dropped from a spoon. Fold into a meringue of egg whites, cream of tartar and sugar. Pour into cooled crust. Chill until set (2 hours). Garnish with whipped cream.
Butterscotch Apple Pie
5 cups sliced parted tart apples
1 cup brown sugar, packed
¼ cup water
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
½ cup flour
2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
¾ teaspoon salt
3 Tablespoons vanilla
¾ teasp. Salt
3 Tablespoons butter
Pastry for 9” two-crust pie
Mix apples, brown sugar, water and lemon juice in saucepan. Cover; cook slowly until apples are just tender, 7 to 8 minutes. Blend flour and granulated sugar; add to apples. Cook uncovered, stirring, until syrup thickens (about 2 minutes). Remove from heat. Add vanilla, salt and butter. Cool. Heat oven to 425 degrees. Pour apples into a pastry-lined pie pan. Cover with top crust which has slits cut in it. Seal and flute. Back 40 to 45 minutes, or until crust is nicely browned.
Heat oven to 375 degrees. Wash and core apples. Either pare upper half of apples or slit around the center. Place in baking dish; fill center of each apple with with 1 to 2 Tablespoons granulated or brown sugar , 1 teaspoon butter and 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon. Cover bottom of pan with water about ¼” deep. Bake about 45 minutes or until tender when pierced with fork (time varies). Baste occasionally. Serve with vanilla ice cream for baked apples a la mode.
*Source: Betty Crocker’s New Picture Cookbook (Vintage edition, 1969)
Want to find even more great recipes? Here’s a few of our go-to websites:
ABC’s The Chew:
America’s Test Kitchen:
King Arthur Flour: