Thanksgiving is for vegetarians, too
There’s no other holiday so intimately connected with a single food as Thanksgiving. That food is turkey. It’s estimated that more than 49 million turkeys will be on Thanksgiving tables this year.
But what about vegetarians, especially when they’re celebrating the holiday with omnivores like me? Since they usually can’t make it home for a short weekend, my vegetarian daughter, Anne, and son-in-law, Ben, frequently host Thanksgiving dinners in their NYC apartment for east coast friends and family. While there’s always turkey (prepared by my son, Robb, down from Boston), Anne serves a couple delectable dishes equally appropriate as sides or vegetarian entrées. They’ve become part of their own special Thanksgiving tradition. And they’re wonderful entrees even for non-vegetarians or when it’s not Thanksgiving!
Contact Julianne Glatz at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pumpkin mac and cheese
Originally from the famed Nashville, Tenn., Loveless Café, this decadent mac and cheese recipe has evolved through several adaptations. The pumpkin doesn’t overwhelm the cheeses; rather it adds a slightly sweet mellowness that may have you wondering if you’ll ever be satisfied with regular mac and cheese again. Though I generally eschew processed cheese products such as Velveeta (my mom’s choice for her killer mac and cheese) or the Cheez Whiz used here, there’s something about them that works exceptionally well for mac and cheese.
Don’t use pre-shredded cheese; it’s coated with a substance that keeps the shreds separate and prevents them from completely melting into a sauce.
An unusual Loveless Café Cookbook recommendation is to “Overcook your pasta. That way it absorbs more moisture before you put it in the sauce. Otherwise it will turn stiff and dry.”
- 2 lbs. cavitappi, elbow macaroni or other tubular pasta
- 1/2 c. scallions, finely chopped
- 1 1/2 tsp. minced garlic, or more or less to taste
- 4 T. butter
- 3 T. flour
- 2 c. heavy cream
- 2 c. whole milk
- Freshly ground pepper
- 1/2 to 1 tsp. cayenne pepper, or to taste
- 3 c. pumpkin puree, either canned or roasted from fresh pumpkins
- 1/4 lb. shredded Monterey Jack
- 1 lb. shredded extra sharp Cheddar cheese
- 1/2 lb. shredded Swiss cheese, such as (natural) Gruyere or Emmentaler
- 1 15 oz. jar Cheez Whiz
- 1 c. grated Parmesan
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Cook the pasta until just PAST al dente. Drain and set aside.
Saute onions and garlic in the butter in a large saucepan, over medium heat. Cook for about 3 minutes or until onions and garlic are softened but not browned. Stir in the flour and cook for a couple minutes.
Heat the milk and cream in the microwave or another pan until warm, and whisk into the onion mixture. When the milk/cream is incorporated, add the cayenne and white pepper and mix well. Simmer over medium-high heat, whisking constantly until thickened, 5-10 minutes or until it coats a spoon. Add the pumpkin, combine thoroughly, and bring to a simmer.
Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the grated cheeses (except the Parmesan) a handful at a time, until the cheeses are melted. You may need to return the pan to the stove briefly to heat the mixture up. Stir in the Cheez Whiz and check for seasoning.
Pour into a large mixing bowl, add the cooked pasta and mix well.
Transfer to a large baking dish, cover and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until it’s bubbling. Uncover, sprinkle with the Parmesan, and return to the oven until the Parmesan is lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Serves 8 or more.
This tart is sophisticated and gorgeous – a perfect substitute for vegetarians at Thanksgiving tables who’ll eschew dressings made with sausage, oysters, etc.; and/or stuffed inside the turkey. And it’s so delicious it’ll seduce the most outspoken non-vegetarians. Farro and spelt are ancient grains related to wheat. Spelt is available at Food Fantasies and in some groceries. The place to find farro locally is at Angela’s Taste of Italy, 1535 MacArthur Blvd., 217-787-7922. Puff pastry can be found in the freezer section of most groceries, though it’s usually made with flavorless vegetable shortening. All-butter puff pastry is widely available online
- 3/4 c. farro, spelt, or pearl barley
- 3 c. water or vegetable stock
- 2 T. unsalted butter, divided
- 2 T. olive oil, divided
- 2 garlic cloves, minced, or more or less to taste
- 1 1/3 cups scallions, divided
- 1lb. sliced cremini mushrooms (a.k.a. Baby Bellas)
- Kosher or sea salt
- 1/4 c. Madeira, or medium-dry Sherry
- 1 c. ricotta, preferably whole milk
- 1 lb. puff pastry, thawed if frozen, preferably made with butter
- 1 egg, beaten
- Freshly ground pepper to taste
To make the filling:
In a medium bowl, cover the farro, spelt or barley with cold water and soak for 45 minutes. Drain, discarding the soaking water.
In a medium-sized saucepan, bring the farro, 3 cups of water or vegetable stock, and a large pinch of salt to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, until tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Drain.
While the farro cooks, melt 1 T. each of the butter and oil in a very large heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and half the scallions, and cook until softened, but not browned, stirring frequently for 2-3 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
Return the skillet to the stove and raise the heat to high. Add the remaining butter and olive oil, and when they’re hot, but not smoking, add the mushrooms, stirring constantly. It’s important not to crowd the pan. If your skillet can’t hold all the mushrooms in a single layer, do this in batches. Sprinkle with 1 tsp. salt, and continue to cook, stirring constantly, until the mushrooms are browned and cooked through. When they’re ready, you’ll hear a squeaking sound as you stir them.
Add Madeira and simmer for a minute. Transfer to a bowl, stir in farro, then cool completely.
Stir in ricotta, remaining scallions, and season with salt and pepper to taste.
To roll out the puff pastry:
If pastry is in 1 piece, cut into 2 equal pieces.
Roll out each piece on a lightly floured surface into an 11-inch square. Place a piece of parchment paper on a rimless baking sheet, or an upside-down rimmed baking sheet. Put one of the pastry squares on the parchment, cover with another parchment sheet, top with the second pastry square, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate at least 30 minutes. The pastry and the filling can be prepared ahead to this point and kept, refrigerated separately for several hours and up to 3-4 days.
Assembling and baking the tart:
Put a large baking sheet on rack in middle of the oven and preheat oven to 400°F.
Remove the top pastry square and the sheet of parchment underneath it and set aside.
Spread cooled filling evenly over remaining pastry square that’s sitting on the parchment atop the baking sheet, leaving a 1-inch border on all sides.
Brush the border VERY lightly with the egg. Place the second pastry sheet evenly over the top, pressing down all around the inch border to seal.
Lightly brush the top with remaining egg, then crimp border with a fork or your fingers; trim with a pizza wheel or sharp knife. Cut a few small vents in top in a decorative pattern.
At this point the completely assembled tart can be tightly covered and frozen several weeks ahead. Remove the tart from the freezer several hours before baking until it is mostly thawed but still cold.
Slide a wide spatula or two narrow ones under the parchment beneath the tart and gently slide the tart and parchment onto preheated baking sheet in oven. Bake until puffed and deep golden brown, about 45 minutes.
Let cool for 15-30 minutes. Slice and serve warm.