Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Celebrating Thanksgiving 2014...

My Plate

I hope everyone had a nice Thanksgiving Weekend, full of delicious vegan food and good company. Thanksgiving as you probably know by now is my favorite of all holidays, and so I look super forward to it every year. This year was no exception, and I had my menu planned out weeks in advance, I just get so excited around this time of year. Fall produce is abundant, the weather is generally good, the wind is blowing, the autumn colors are resplendent, what’s not to like? Add a big elaborate meal on top of that and it’s magical.

The Dinner Table 

As usual I had a really hard time deciding what to make, obviously the obligatory pumpkin pie but what else? I did a seitan roast last year which turned out amazing but I didn’t feel like doing that again this year. Instead I decided to go with something slightly more simple, and yet completely elegant. Stuffed pumpkins! But now, I’m getting ahead of myself, we should start with appetizers right?

Top - Creamed Onions and Root Vegetable Puree
Bottom - Marinated Beets and Shaved Brussels Sprouts 

Since I have more then 100 cook books in my arsenal finding recipes - especially for special occasions - can be something of a challenge. Now that I’ve been vegan a while I’ve made most of the ‘fancy’ recipes in my ‘go-to’ books and so for varieties sake I needed something a little different. I wasn’t initially sure what that might be until I started digging around in the book shelf and found the copy of The Millennium Cookbook that I bought several months ago and never used. For those of you who don’t know Millennium is a very famous vegan restaurant in San Francisco, I’ve never been there myself but would love to go some day, and so I bought the book second hand so that I might ‘treat myself’ to a little Millennium at home. It seemed like the perfect book to break out for Thanksgiving, and so I started with the Smoked Pimento Pate, and Mushroom, Walnut, Rosemary Pate from the appetizer section.


First the Smoked Pimento Pate, it sounded really interesting, and how can you go wrong with pimento anything? The pate uses pimentos, cashews, liquid smoke, lemon juice, nutritional yeast and some other seasonings. This all gets blended with a bit of water in a food processor and then you have to boil some agar, add it in and let it firm up. I wasn’t initially sure how this would turn out. I have worked with agar in the past - primarily in desert recipes - and it’s always been fine but, one always wonders. I guess I needn’t have been concerned, the pate firmed up with no problems and was perfectly sliceable. It had a tangy, slightly sweet and smoky flavor that reminded me ever so slightly of cheese.

Smoked Pimento Pate 

Next up was the mushroom, walnut, rosemary pate. This was a blend of mushrooms, onion, walnuts, rosemary, red wine, sage, thyme, soy sauce, and balsamic vinegar. The recipe also called for the use of agar but I decided to skip that step for this pate as I prefer a more spreadable ‘meat’ pate versus one you can slice. I think this was the right call.

Mushroom, Walnut and Rosemary Pate 

I served both of these pates with Millennium’s Chickpea Flatbread, which is basically a socca dough - made with water, chickpea flour, salt, and spices - baked in the oven until firm. The contrast between the savory chickpea flatbread, the tart pimento pate, and the earthy mushroom pate was brilliant. I think overall I liked the mushroom pate the best, but I also loved both of the pates when paired together.

Chickpea Flatbread 

This year - unlike years previous - my appetizers did not require a lot of work or prep-time but they were delicious, and they really paired well with the overall meal.


Next we had a salad, because no holiday dinner can be complete without some sort of salad. I normally do a winter greens + fruit + nuts kind of salad at the holidays, think cranberries and pecans or pears and walnuts but I wanted to do something different this year. So instead I chose the Deviled Kale Salad from Terry Hope Romero’s newest book Salad Samurai. The salad is really simple, it’s basically kale, then you make some massaged red onions - in lime juice, salt and sugar - and some homemade croutons to top it. The dressing is a garlicy, tangy, roasted red pepper dressing, that uses cashews to achieve a creamy base. Pretty much every salad I’ve made from this book has been a win, and this one was no different. I loved the dressing and it paired really well with the heartiness of kale. The onions and croutons took it to another level.

Deviled Kale Salad 

For our main course I went back to The Millennium Cookbook by Eric Tucker and John Westerdahl, and made the Pumpkins Stuffed with Sage Polenta and Seitan Bourguignon. Pumpkin are so festive that it just seemed like the perfect thing to make, and who doesn’t like a good bourguignon? Not to mention my husband loves polenta. The presentation on this dish is awesome, and it’s not complicated to make, but it is rather involved. First you make the stew, then you roast the pumpkins then you make the polenta, then you layer the pumpkin and then it’s back into the oven for a little re-heat. It’s all worth it though when you take that first bite. This is a slightly less traditional bourguignon then I normally make - because this recipe calls for a lot of root vegetables - but it is highly delicious, and ranks among the best bourguignon’s I’ve ever made. The sage polenta was creamy and flavorful as well and was a great pairing to the stew.

Pumpkins Stuffed with Sage Polenta and Seitan Bourguignon

You can't see the polenta but I assure you it's there
under all that yummy, saucy stew!

For side dishes I made Millennium’s Root Vegetable Puree as an alternative to having yet another mashed potato dish. This dish uses the same basic concept of mashed potatoes but is made with a selection of other root vegetables - I choose parsnips, celery root, and turnip. - then you add in some white miso, and tahini to kick up the flavor and it was truly scrumptious and so creamy thanks to my food processor.

Root Vegetable Puree 

Next I dug out the secondhand copy of Vedge by Rich Landau and Kate Jacoby, that I just bought last month and hadn’t had the privilege to use yet. For those of you who don’t know Vedge is also a famous vegan restaurant in Philadelphia. I’ve never been there either which is why I bought the book after reading the high praises it received upon release.  I went with two side dishes from Vedge, the first was the Shaved Brussels Sprouts with Warm Mustard Sauce. I love, love, love Brussels Sprouts and no Thanksgiving table can be complete without them so I knew this was a must the minute I saw it. The warm mustard sauce was just a bonus because in my opinion B. Sprouts and Mustard were meant to be together. This recipe really did not disappoint, and even my husband - who’s not normally a fan of the sprout - loved it and ate it up!

Shaved Brussels Sprouts with Warm Mustard Sauce 

Next I decided to try the Chioggia Beets and their Greens with Nigella Seeds and Sherry, also from the Vedge cookbook. It sounded very interesting and since I have Nigella seeds and almost never use beet greens I felt compelled to try it. Unfortunately my local market did not have Chioggia beets - or candy striped beets as they’re sometimes called - and so I settled for regular beets, but the dish was still good, just less of a visual presentation. Probably this dish could have used a tiny bit of sugar since sherry vinegar is quite potent, but I loved the nigella seeds. I never would have thought to pair them with beets, and they actually work really well together.

Beets and Their Greens with Nigella Seeds and Sherry

Next, you can’t have Thanksgiving without stuffing, and since I’ve made many a stuffing over the years and wanted to try something new I decided to go with the Green Apple and Cashew Sourdough Stuffing recipe from Spork-Fed by Jenny Engel and Heather Goldberg. I’ve been wanting to make this recipe ever since I first bought the book but for some reason or another I never get around to it. I was so happy to finally be able to try it and it didn’t disappoint at all. It was a super delicious stuffing, tangy - from the apple cider vinegar and sourdough - and full of flavor with a bit of roasted goodness from the cashews and sweetness from the apples. This may just be up there among my favorite stuffing recipes.

Green Apple and Cashew Sourdough Stuffing 

Lastly, as our final side dish I decided to try the Creamed Onions with Whole Wheat Bread Crumb Topping also from Spork-Fed. I have always found this recipe intriguing but never had any real cause to make it before. I’d never heard of creamed onions before but apparently it’s ‘a thing’ in America. Since I love onions, and had a ton of them on hand I thought ‘why not?’ and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by this dish, it was creamy, and oniony, and just plain good.

Creamed Onions with Whole Wheat Bread Crumb Topping 

That brings us up to dessert, and the obligatory Pumpkin Pie. Since I’ve made many vegan pumpkin pies over the past few years I wanted to try a pumpkin pie that I hadn’t already made, and so I went with the recipe in Chloe Coscarelli’s book Chloe’s Vegan Desserts I’ll admit that at first I was a bit nervous about this because it’s the first vegan pumpkin pie I’ve ever made that hasn’t called for tofu. All her pie is, is pumpkin, coconut milk, spices, and cornstarch and I just thought there was no way it would actually work and firm up. Boy was I wrong, I don’t know what kind of magic Chloe is working but this was probably one of the most perfect pumpkin pies I’ve ever made, and totally no fuss! I made the crust gluten free using a mixture of Chickpea Flour, Almond Meal, Quinoa Flour and Brown Rice Flour because I plan to give some of the leftovers to a gluten-free friend of mine, and I’d have to say that my crust combination really worked out. It was moist, and flavorful, and held together very well. Originally I was going to make my own homemade coconut whipped cream but after so much work I got lazy and decided to buy rice whip to top it instead. So what.

Pumpkin Pie 

Of course no elaborate dinner can be complete with only one dessert and so I went back to the Millennium Cook Book yet again in order to make their Pumpkin Cake with Chocolate Hazelnut Ganache and Cinnamon Coffee Sauce. That sounded too good to pass up and so I was quite excited to try it out. The cake was overall pretty good although perhaps a little heavy on some of the spice. The coffee syrup was amazing, though something about pouring liquid onto a cake - Tiramisu style- always makes the texture feel weird to me. Lastly the ganache had a wonderful flavor only I think this would have been better if made in my vitamix rather then the food processor as the recipe suggested. It wasn’t as smooth as it could have been. Oh well.

Pumpkin Cake
With Chocolate Hazelnut Ganache
and Cinnamon Coffee Syrup 

Also from Millennium I made the Warm Caramelized Apple Galettes which are a bit involved because there are several steps, however they’re not particularly hard. The dough is actually really easy to make - probably one of the easier dough’s I’ve worked with. Then you make your own homemade apple butter which is fun, and then caramelize some apples to top it off. A lot of maple syrup is used for this recipe but it’s the only sweetener, and trust me when I tell you that all the effort is worth it in the end. This was probably my favorite of all the desserts I made. We served it with some coconut milk ice cream which was also a nice pairing.

Caramelized Apple Galettes 

Finally from Millennium I made the Fig Tarts with Red Wine and Pear Cream, only as it turned out my local market was all out of figs. In fact everyone was out of figs. Since I’d already made the pear cream and tart shells before going shopping for figs I didn’t have the option of simply not making the tarts so now they’re just pear tarts with red wine and pear cream. Oh well, they wee amazing even without the figs, and surprisingly easy to put together. I chose to serve these with the suggested Blackberry Coulis which was a really delicious pairing, and super simple to make. All it is is blackberries blended with sugar and black pepper but it was so good! I’ve still got plenty of it left over and I think I’ll drizzle it over my morning breakfast, yum!

Fig Tarts with Red Wine and Pear Cream
and Blackberry Coulis 

So, as my Oma - who passed away at this time last year - would say “If that was dinner then we had it.” and we did. Afterwards I could barely move and fell promptly into a food coma, but it was a wonderful holiday!

1 comment:

  1. WOW!!! Your dinner looked amazing!!! I especially Liked the desserts!!!