26 November 2010

A Very Goofy Thanksgiving

This year, the family's unanimous love was bestowed upon these dishes alone:

Blue Cheese Autumn Salad (by Sarah)
Clover Leaf Rolls (by Julia)
Mushroom Gravy (by George)
Buttery Cornbread Stuffing (by Julia)
Pumpkin Pie (by Julia)

I had to make the Lima Bean Gravy twice because I added too much salt at the last minute: 1 1/2 Tbsp. instead of 1 1/2 teaspoons! (That's not the first time that's happened to this Goofaramus.) Luckily, my neighbor lent me her pressure cooker, and that, combined with Mark Bittman's Quick-Soak method for the dried lima beans, reduced preparation time from 10 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours. The Lima Bean Gravy paired genteely with the stuffing, but the Shiitake Mushroom Gravy stole the show. Lima bean gravy doesn't make the cut for next year. There goes the bean member of our Three Sisters!

Two people loved the cranberry molds, but two didn't. Its fate regarding next year is gravely in doubt. The canned stuff sure is easier…

The delicata squash remained undercooked, despite cooking twice as long as the recipe called for. The squashes don't get a second chance, but everyone agrees they were cute. As a possible savory squash substitution, the ever popular Kabocha Soup from the Stone Soup cookbook gets my vote. An nice flame-colored soup course after the salad course would lengthen and gentrify the meal. In a good way.

One person felt the turkey was missed.
One person felt the turkey-stuffed stuffing was missed.
One person felt the green beans were missed.
One person felt the vegan mashed potatoes were missed.

Mulled cider is just as good the day after, so today everyone wandered around in their slippers and pajamas, sipping steaming mugs and rubbing their distended bellies.

24 November 2010

Vegetarian Thanksgiving: Sides

Vegetarians don't think of sides the way meat-centric eaters think of sides. Meatties think a nice dinner means a fancy meat entrée with less-important vegetable bridesmaids decoratively clustered about. Novice vegetarians often try to swap some vegetarian casserole or something in place of the meat and keep eating this way. Eventually they realize this strategy doesn't work long-term. They also begin to realize how AWESOME and TASTY good n' fresh vegetables are; the produce ain't bridesmaids, they're the stars.

Vegetarians start eating in a more egalitarian way—a normal meal might have three to five dishes that play off each other. So if you don't want to have a Thanksgiving centered around meat or some "loaf," or even a stuffed squash, just prepare a dazzling feast out of a bunch of well-prepared sides.

Here are some of my favorite Thanksgiving sides:

Vegan Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Shiitake Mushroom Gravy (follows)—blissful
Lima Bean Gravy (from The Voluptuous Vegan)—yes, it's green!
Green Beans with Shallots
Cranberry Molds (follows)—a tiny jeweled mound
Clover Leaf Rolls (follows)—served piping hot
Cucumber Spears (follows)
Blue Cheese Autumn Salad (follows)
Mulled Cider

Shiitake Mushroom Gravy

1 small package dried porcini mushrooms, destemmed and minced until almost a powder
12 large fresh shiitake mushrooms
butter, unsalted, 3 Tablespoons
flour, 6 Tablespoons
red wine
canola oil
2 cubes of Knorr's vegetable boullion
oregano and thyme to taste

1. Put dried mushrooms in 4 Cups water.
2. Slice fresh mushrooms thinly.
3. Sauté shiitakes in wine and a little oil. Set aside.
4. Bring the dried mushroom water to boil with the boullion cubes.
5. Remove the shiitakes from the fry pan. Melt 3 Tablespoons butter into the unwashed fry pan.
6. Gradually mix in 6 Tablespoons flour.
7. Pour broth into the skillet. Mix and heat.
8. Add the shiitakes back in. Adjust with herbs to taste.
9. Let flavors meld overnight and reheat just before serving.

Cranberry Molds

Simmer 20 minutes uncovered until soft and juicy 2 or 3 of your favorite fruits (cubed small) with a 12 oz. bag of fresh cranberries, 1/2 Cup. freshly squeezed orange or Clementine juice, 1/4 Cup raisins or currants (optional), and 1/4 Cup maple syrup. Immediately spoon sauce into ramekins or small glass bowls. Let cool. Cover and refrigerate over night. Right before serving the meal, slide 1 of each mold out of the bowl and onto each person's plate. Serves 4 to 5 people. (You may need to bathe the bottom of each bowl in a little warm water to loosen the cranberry mold).

Clover Leaf Rolls

1 to 1 1/2 Cups mashed potatoes
1 package yeast
1/4 Cup warm water
2 eggs plus enough scalded and cooled milk to make 2 Cups liquid
1/2 Cup melted butter
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 Cup sugar
6 Cups bread flour

1. In a large bowl dissolve yeast in water. Add mashed potatoes, eggs, milk, butter, salt, and sugar. Stir well.
2. Stir in 3 Cups of flour, beating until smooth after each cup. Add the fourth cup. Beat until dough is smooth and elastic. Stir in the fifth cup to make a stiff dough. Measure the sixth cup and sprinkle of half of it on a large wooden board.
3. Turn the dough out onto the floured board. With well-floured hands knead the dough 5 to 7 minutes until smooth and elastic. Use the remaining flour as needed.
4. Put the dough in a buttered bowl and lightly butter the top of the dough. Cover and let rise in a warm place until almost doubled (1 1/2 to 2 hours).
5. Punch down. Divide into 6 parts, wrap each part in plastic wrap, and refrigerate.
6. Grease 2 to 3 muffin tins. When the dough is chilled, take 1 piece of dough at a time. Each piece makes 5 rolls, or 15 spheres. A roll is 3 spheres put together in one cup of a muffin tin. Make 30 rolls total.
7. Cover and let rise in a warm place until almost doubled in size. (At this point, if you need to wait for the oven, put them in a cold place, like outside).
8. Brush the tops of the rolls with melted butter.
9. Bake at 425 degrees for 10-13 minutes or until light golden brown on top.
10. Serve piping hot in a basket, wrapped in a clean cloth napkin to keep warm. Provide pats of decadent salted butter.

UPDATE: We've had amazing success doing these things: Merely ricing a boiled russet potato rather than making mashed potatoes. Allowing the dough to sit in the refrigerator for 2 days after Step 5. Not sticking the clover leaf rolls in the oven right after something hotter was cooking.

Cucumber Spears

Use an English cucumber or small pickling or Persian cucumbers. Peel, slice in half lengthwise. With a spoon scoop out and discard the seeds. Cut into finger-sized sticks. Toss with a little fresh-squeezed lime juice and a bit of freshly chopped cilantro. Serve within an hour.

Blue Cheese Autumn Salad

Nota Bene: I'm making this tomorrow, but I've never made it before! I do make an extremely fancy salad every year as a symbol of the Harvest Bounty. Since you will probably have leftovers, and greens go bad quickly if already dressed, the most practical thing to do is store the greens separately from the toppings and serve the dressing on the side. Myra Kornfeld's Voluptuous Vegan features a salad which combines marinated vegetables with fresh lettuce, no dressing required. I made it at a large Thanksgiving a few years ago. That was extremely convenient, as the vegetables just kept getting better and better, and I easily combined them with lettuce last minute. But that salad took me 3 hours to make so I'm trying a blue cheese one this year as a substitute for cheese and crackers.

For beautiful greens (I learned this trick in New York City's Little Italy): Mix your favorite green greens with bits of red raddichio and white, crispy endive.

For the topping: handfuls of crumbled blue cheese, toasted chopped hazelnuts, and slivers of unpeeled, crunchy Asian pear (any variety). If the toasted nuts are still warm, they will make the blue cheese melt and ooze in a lovely way all over the greens.

For blue cheese dressing: Mix 1/2 Cup crumbled blue cheese with 1 Cup hand-beaten whole-milk yogurt, an increasingly rare commodity. Add juice of 1 lemon or more, to taste. Grind on fresh black pepper.

Serve in a large fancy bowl at the center of the table with dressing on the side. (Everyone always wants a different amount of dressing.)

21 November 2010

Vegetarian Thanksgiving: Stuffing

Here are four excellent vegetarian stuffing recipes to gorge on. After preparing them you can stuff them into a squash (see previous post) and reheat for sweet moistness, or crisp them up in a baking pan right before serving. Or do both, half each method.

Bhutanese Rice Stuffing—a crimson, fruity gluten-free stuffing
Buttery Cornbread Stuffing—the classic
Chestnut-Pecan Stuffing (follows)—vegan with a crunch
French bread Stuffing (follows)—extremely easy

Chestnut-Pecan Stuffing


1/2 Cup dried chestnuts, soaked overnight in 4 Cups of water
1/2 Cup pecans, chopped
4 cups stale cornbread, sliced into 1-inch cubes
2 onions, chopped finely
2 garlic cloves, smashed and chopped finely
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 Cup of carrots, finely chopped
1 Cup finely chopped celery
1 Tablespoon fresh sage, chopped
1 Tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
fresh ground black pepper


1. Bring chestnuts and their soaking liquid to a boil, adding more if necessary to keep the chestnuts covered. Remove any bits of skin that float to the surface. Simmer 45-60 minutes until chestnuts are soft. Reserve 1 1/2 Cups of the chestnut boiling water and drain the chestnuts. Break the chestnuts into quarters and discard any leftover bits of skin.
2. Put pecans in a dry fry pan and toast them, stirring to keep them from burning. When they're fragrant and taste cooked, remove them.
3. Toast the cornbread 20 minutes until the edges are crusty.
4. Spray a fry pan with oil. Slowly sauté onions and a little salt for 5 minutes until soft and transluscent. Add garlic, dried thyme, carrots, and celery. Cook until the vegetables soften, 8 to 10 minutes.
5. Add the cornbread. Gradually mix in the chestnut boiling water. Stir constantly until the liquid is almost absorbed. Add the chestnuts, pecans, and fresh herbs. Turn off the heat.
6. Mix in 1 teaspoon salt and fresh ground pepper. The stuffing should be moist with chestnutty goodness.

French bread Stuffing


spray oil
1 Cup finely chopped onion
1/2 lb. minced mushroom
1 clove garlic, smashed and finely chopped
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
lots of fresh black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme or several leaves fresh
2 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 Cup chopped nuts or a mixture of nuts and sunflower seeds
2 Cups of cubed bread from good crusty French bread

1. Spray a large frypan with oil. Sauté onion for 5 minutes.
2. Add mushroom, garlic, celery, salt, pepper, sage, thyme, and lemon juice. Sauté 10 minutes.
3. Stir in nuts/seeds and bread cubes.

Vegetarian Thanksgiving: Stuffed Squash

Many people ask me, a Notorious Vegetarian, what I like to have as a main Thanksgiving entrée instead of turkey. The first answer is almost anything. Whether I was living in Massachusetts, Connecticut, or California, I frequently saw rafters of adorable wild turkeys—sometimes with fuzzy chicks—poking along the fields and roads. Then BAM, I'm facing a large dead turkey on the table. Is it wrong to wish an animal well because it's so cute? Couldn't we eat vultures instead?

The second and final answer is Stuffed Squash. You can pull this off in two ways:
1) Cut a medium-size winter squash (preferable sweet and bright orange like kabocha or butterCup) in half, scoop out seeds and orange goop, bake it face down in 1/4 inch water for 50-70 minutes at 375, fill each half with a pre-made stuffing of your choice, and then reheat them at 350 degrees for 25 minutes or so right before serving.
2) Use whole miniature squashes like delicata or carnival squashes. Slice the stems off of each squash. Scoop out and discard the seeds. If the squash is too round, slice a bit off the bottom so it can stand firmly upright. Lightly oil the flesh and place them facedown in a baking dish. Add 1/2 inch of water and bake at 350 until tender, 30 to 40 minutes. Tightly pack them with premade stuffing, mounding the stuffing slightly in each. Place the stuffed squashes in a baking dish with a little water, cover them and bake 15 minutes until just heated through.

Now that you're serving dinner, every person gets a stuffed squash half or a whole mini squash on their plate. You can first ladle some gravy onto each plate, add the squash, and spoon cranberry sauce before the squash. Put mashed potatoes to one side and serve vegetables on a separate plate. The dinner will look quite impressive and taste like one of those heavens where people don't eat cute turkeys.

19 November 2010

Vegetarian Thanksgivings by the NYTimes/ How to Prepare Fresh Chestnuts

Oh my Goodness Gracious, there must be a vegetarian deity after all!

Check out the luscious gluten-free, vegetarian, and/or vegan Thanksgiving recipes at the New York Times. The Well blog posts a new recipe by a different chef every day, and the food appears several levels tastier than the usual vegetarian Thanksgiving fare you can find online. Of particular interest to me are:

Brioche stuffing with chestnuts and figs
Chestnuts, Onions and Prunes (by Jewish cooking empress Joan Nathan!)
Roasted Vegetable Galette with Olives
vegan Chocolate-Pumpkin Bread Pudding
Baked Kataifi-Wrapped Goat Cheese (I think I ate kataifi today in a Lebanese restaurant?! If so, it's exactly like shredded wheat.)
Skillet Macaroni and Cheese with Broccoli and Mushrooms (really? for Thanksgiving?)
Celery Root and Chestnut Soup
Tunisian Winter Squash Salad with Coriander and Harissa (Nathan again)

Joan Nathan suggests a very easy way of preparing fresh chestnuts, one I've never heard of:
To prepare fresh chestnuts, freeze them for 24 hours. Pour boiling water over them and let sit for 5 minutes. Using a sharp knife, shell and skin them.

17 November 2010

Green Eggs, Hold the Ham

Groggy dawns and hard days ahead cry out for eggs. When you crack them into a fry pan, they look like tiny happy suns, and they have a message: we're all a baby chick needs to escape its shell using only its nose—so don't worry, we've got your back.

I made eggs this morning, but this time I didn't have my usual garlic and tomato on hand to liven egg's subtle flavor. Curry powder before 8 a.m. is like an alarm clock ringing in my throat, so I skipped that too. Then I espied some leftover green enchilada sauce in the refrigerator—bingo!

Lately, I've been on a green enchilada sauce craze. I poured it on my spaghetti and used it to dress my bean tacos, but this morning I discovered the real reason the Creator created green enchilada sauce: for frying eggs. Instead of oil, I used green enchilada sauce. I completely bathed the surface of the fry pan in rich verdant goodness, and then I cracked two eggs in and fried them on both sides.

Each mouthful transported me to new heights of savory, comforting Deliciosity. Granted, the eggs developed a weird greyish-green luminescence that didn't exactly call for a photo op, but the taste was—like California Gurls—undeniable. Here is my recipe.

Green Eggs

some green enchilada sauce—canned is super duper
some eggs

Heat a fry pan. Cover the surface with green enchilada sauce. Break some eggs into the sauce. Fry on both sides. Eat hot.

06 November 2010

Gingersnap Cookies

Hello my rabid fans!

I know Hallowe'en is so long gone that it's like the distant dream of an old ghost watching Caspar cartoons and sadly shaking his head. Unfortunately my semester deadlines are marching determinedly toward me, and I've had to put more important things—like posting delicious cookie recipes for your voracious pleasure—to the side.

But the guilt really got to me. Here I was, sitting on a recipe of such universal popularity that a four-year old lion, a 6-yr old dead bride, a 9 yr. old witch, a 24-yr. old German emigré, a 31-yr. old pirate, a North Carolinian college freshman, and two professors in disparate fields couldn't wait to shove those cookies into their maws. What I'm trying to say is that this recipe is Pure Gold.

And you, my most loyal fans, deserve to have it for your Very Own. George adapted this recipe from the Joy of Cooking, an excellent cookie resource. I'm not a fan of their instructions on how to skin wild boar, but in the immortal words of Sesame Street's Cookie Monster, "C is for cookie. That's good enough for me."

Gingersnap Cookies

Note: It's good to make two batches. The batch according to the recipe will be softer, and children and soft-cookie fans will enjoy those. Then you turn off the oven and leave the other batch in to dry out until it looks like what one kid described as "earthquake cookies." Those will be harder and earn the "snap" part of the name.


3/4 Cup butter
2 Cup sugar
2 beaten eggs
1/2 Cup molasses
2 teaspoons white vinegar
3 3/4 Cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 2/3 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoons ground cloves

  1. Preheat the oven to 325.
  2. Cream together butter and sugar.
  3. Stir in eggs, molasses, and vinegar.
  4. Sift together the flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, and ground cloves. Add it to the batter.
  5. Mix all together.
  6. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  7. Form the dough into 3/4 inch balls spaced apart about three to four inches.
  8. Bake 12-15 minutes.
  9. Let half of the cookies cool. Turn off the oven and leave the other half inside to dry out and harden.
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