Thanksgiving Day Our Way: No Turkey, but Lots of Tasty Choices

By Christine Cupaiuolo — November 27, 2008

My partner and I don’t eat meat, so Thanksgiving usually involves bringing our own Tupperware-packed entrees to large family gatherings. This is necessary, since well-meaning cooks are known to encourage us to have more green beans (cooked with bacon bits) or marshmallow-covered yams.

This year we’re trying something different: cooking a mostly vegetarian meal for 12 (we’re breaking from all-vegetarian to serve fish). Most of the family members and friends due to arrive this afternoon are enthusiastic about the menu, but there are a few tough customers who will need more convincing (meet my niece, who keeps asking, “Seriously? No chicken?”).

Before I have to get back to chopping squash, I thought I’d mention a terrific recipe site that has provided us with numerous healthy dishes. We all have our go-to cookbooks or websites (mine incude The Amateur Gourmet, Deborah Madison and all of Mollie Katzen‘s books), but lately I keep returning to The New York Times to see what Martha Rose Shulman is making.

Shulman, a chef and cookbook writer who focuses on seasonal produce, writes the Recipes for Health series for the Times. The recipes revolve around a particular type of produce each week, and there’s an introduction that explains a bit about the food’s background and how to shop for it.

I first thought the series would last only through the summer — this summer squash gratin, by the way, was a major hit; we modified it by using a rice and soy milk blend instead of low-fat milk — but Shulman is still at it; recent recipes have been built around sweet potatoes and celery.

Here’s one of the dishes going on the table today: wild rice salad with celery and walnuts. I confess I re-made the dressing once last night after the first batch came out too garlicky (my bad), but still the red wine vinegar has more bite than I expected. I didn’t use walnut oil, so perhaps there’s the mistake. We’ll see how it meshes with the rice and other ingredients later today.

I’m also making sweet potato puree with apples and, for an appetizer, soft black bean tacos.

Mark Bittman is another terrific cookbook author; he’s been writing a NYT food column, The Minimalist, for more than a decade and now also blogs at Bitten. Over the summer we made his recipe for fish steamed over vegetables and fresh herbs; we found some wonderful eggplant at the farmers market and used cod in place of snapper. The results were amazing.

I’m trying the same dish again today, along with Bittman’s recipe for kale braised in red wine. I’m starting to get nervous that with maple-syrup glazed carrots and pumpkin soup that needs re-heating, too many dishes will be vying for space on the stovetop at the same time. Hopefully a glass of wine will keep the stress in check.

I’d like to believe that the joy of cooking what you love and sharing it with others trumps whatever kitchen complications await, but maybe that’s the wishful thinking of someone still four hours away from pulling off her first Thanksgiving. Let’s see if I win over my niece.

Happy Thanksgiving Day to everyone, and thank you for being part of our community here at OBOS.

4 responses to “Thanksgiving Day Our Way: No Turkey, but Lots of Tasty Choices”

  1. Happy Thanksgiving! We keep a vegetarian household (my son and I are vegetarians, and my husband very occasionally eats meat–mostly fish–away from home), and my students were quite concerned about how we manage to celebrate Thanksgiving without the compulsory turkey 🙂

    Do you know ? It’s great and is featuring Thanksgiving recipes at the moment.

  2. Hi Molly! Thanks so much for the suggestion — didn’t recognize that it’s Heidi Swanson’s site! Another website (forget who) had linked to Heidi’s Thai-spiced pumpkin soup. I bought all the ingredients but the recipe ended up in the “what-was-I-thinking-pile” when I looked closely at the overall dinner to-do list.

    We went with store-bought soup, but this week I’m going to cut up the pumpkins and give it a try. The rest of the site looks great — will definitely be using it a lot.

    Hope you and your family had a delicious meal!

  3. Oh, you should see my copy of Bittman’s “How to Cook Everything” – it’s flour crusted, liquid stained, and broken in pieces at the spine. This is not how librarians usually keep their books, but it does show how useful the book has been to this novice.

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