Saturday, November 28, 2009

Tuesday, November 24th

We did this night as a special vegetarian Thanksgiving event, and I was committed to having something a bit out of the ordinary, something that didn’t make me feel bloated at the end of the meal, something that was not all about the Tofurkey. And on all fronts, the meal did not disappoint, and I actually think that I liked it a bit better than I liked the real Thanksgiving a few days later, at least as far as the menu was concerned. Here’s what we made:

Pumpkin Soup—I really think that soup should be part of all Thanksgiving meals. It’s the cold time of the year, the Thanksgiving meal ingredients lend themselves to soup, and it just seems that if Passover has a soup in a leading role, so should Thanksgiving. So that’s the long way of saying that we made a soup, and even though it wasn’t great, I do think soup should be a mainstay. This pumpkin soup was not bad, but was far from great. It was one of those soups that restaurants serve to prepare the palate, not to be remembered, and this one I’ve forgotten already. I’m a big fan of my pumpkin soup done in a Mexican style, and I’ll share that recipe at some point soon, so this one just didn’t stack up. Again, not bad, but only merits a score of 4 bucks.

Veggie Loaf with Mushroom Sauce—for some reason, I tend to make veggie loaves with my Thanksgiving meal to help add some protein to the whole equation, and they’re invariably disappointing. This one was different. It was mostly lentils and was decently seasoned. Only problem is that it didn’t stick together very well so it was more of a veggie pile than a meatloaf. Perhaps blending some of the lentils or throwing a few eggs and flour in would have helped bind it, but the flavor was still nice, and the mushroom sauce had a wonderful taste. The consistency was also off on that—much too watery—but that’s easily adjustable by adding less water or using more arrowroot powder thus turning it into a nice, thick gravy. Anyway, put the two together and you get a score of 5.5 bucks, with potential for significantly more.

Shepherd’s Pie—life lesson to live by from this point forward is if you ever have to choose between a veggie loaf and a veggie Shepherd’s Pie for Thanksgiving, pick the pie. This particular version had a wonderful veggie medley and was topped by nearly perfect mashed potatoes (replete with butter and cream cheese). Let all that get brown and bubbly and you’ve got something really good. I’m torn between a 6.5 and a 7 so I’ll go with the latter since this group did such a nice job of cutting and cooking the vegetables. 7 bucks it is!

Cranberry Tart—this was a new one for me. I always think of cranberries as an accompaniment, not the main dish, and while I love cranberries in their many forms, I was a bit skeptical about a dessert that was all about the cranberries. But I’m a skeptic no more as this was quite good. Now if you’re looking for a really sweet dish at the end of a starch-filled meal to really put you to sleep, this is not the dish for you. This tart, was, well, tart, and quite refreshing in that regard. I had to add some honey over the top to sweeten up a bit, but it had a really nice taste and I would definitely make it again. The crust left something to be desired, and it might be because we were trying to make a vegan and gluten-free version, but that’s easy enough to correct the next time around. As is, I give it a score of 6 bucks.

Overall—so not only did I not feel bloated, but I think that we all had a very nice meal. The total score was 22.5 bucks, and there’s room for improvement on top of that for the next time that the meal is cooked. Here are the recipes…

Pumpkin Soup

Adapted from

1½ pounds pumpkin (weighed before trimming)
1 leek, washed, trimmed, and sliced into rings
2 potatoes, peeled and diced
2 T olive oil
1 Q vegetable stock
½ t salt
1 t pepper
½ - 1 t cayenne pepper
1 T lemon juice
½ c sour cream or crème fraîche, optional

1. Cut the top off the pumpkin, scoop out the seeds and strings, peel the shell, and dice the flesh.
2. Sauté the pumpkin, leek, and potatoes in olive oil for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Cover and boil the soup for 15 minutes, until potatoes are soft.
3. Purée the soup and add spices and lemon juice.
4. Ladle into bowls, top with optional sour cream or crème fraîche, and serve.

Serves 6

Veggie Loaf

Adapted from

1 c dry lentils, well rinsed
2½ c water
½ t salt
1 T olive oil
½ medium onion, diced
1 medium carrot, diced
½ t pepper
1 t soy sauce, optional
¾ c rolled oats, finely ground
¾ c bread crumbs

1. Place the lentils, water, and salt in saucepan, bring to a boil, lower heat, cover, and simmer for about 45 minutes, until water is nearly gone and lentils are very soft, with splitting skins.
2. Meanwhile, sauté the onion and carrot in oil until soft, about 5 minutes.
3. Mix the lentils, onions, carrots, pepper, and optional soy sauce in the large bowl, then mix in the ground oats and bread crumbs.
4. Pour into a greased bread pan and bake at 400 degrees for 35-40 minutes.

Serves 6

Mushroom Sauce

Adapted from

3 c vegetable stock
2 T arrowroot powder or flour
1 T olive oil
1 small onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 c crimini mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 t dried thyme
1 t salt
black pepper
½ c dry white wine
3 T soy sauce
¼ c nutritional yeast
¼ c soy milk

1. Whisk together vegetable stock and arrowroot powder until dissolved, and set aside.
2. Heat oil, add onions and garlic, and sauté for 3 minutes. Add mushrooms, thyme, salt, and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Add soy sauce and vegetable broth, bring to a boil, lower heat, and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes. Whisk in nutritional yeast until it dissolves, then whisk in soy milk for a minute. Let cool slightly before serving.
3. To make this into a gravy, continue to thicken with flour or arrowroot powder.

Makes 4 Cups

Shepherd's Pie

Adapted from

2 to 2½ c potatoes
2-4 T butter
Milk or cream cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
2½ T olive or vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ c onion, minced
1 large tomato, chopped
6 c mixed vegetables, finely chopped. Some possibilities:
- bell peppers
- carrots
- celery
- corn
- green beans
- leeks
- mushrooms
- peas
- spinach
- zucchini
1 c vegetable stock or water
1 t soy sauce
Pepper to taste
Garnish ideas: paprika, minced parsley, sesame seeds

1. Make mashed potatoes by boiling potatoes until tender and mashing while hot along with butter and milk or cream cheese. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
2. Meanwhile, heat 2 T oil over medium heat, add garlic, and sauté for 2 minutes. Add onion and continue sautéing until soft, about 5 minutes. Add tomato and cook for two more minutes, stirring frequently. Add stock and vegetables, bring to boil, cover, lower heat, and cook until vegetables are tender, about 5-10 minutes. Add soy sauce and pepper, taste, and adjust seasonings as necessary.
3. Preheat oven to 350. Use remaining ½ t oil to grease pie plate. Arrange vegetables in it, then cover with a layer of mashed potatoes. Garnish.
4. Bake until bubbly, about 30 minutes. Serve hot.

Serves 6

Cranberry Tart

Adapted from

1 batch pie crust dough
7 c fresh cranberries, washed and drained
2¼ c sugar
Zest of one orange, finely grated
Dash cinnamon
Dash salt
1 c flour
5 oz butter

1. Make the pie crust dough, form into slightly flattened ball, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate 30 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, combine cranberries, ¾ c sugar, orange zest, cinnamon, and salt.
3. Combine flour, remaining 1½ c sugar, and butter in food processor and process until clumpy.
4. Preheat oven to 375. Shape the pie crust dough into a pie pan. Pour cranberries into pie crust so that they form a slight mound in the center. Drop slightly squished handfuls of topping on top.
5. Bake until golden brown and bubbly, about 40-45 minutes.
6. Allow to cool slightly. Serve warm.

Serves 10-12

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