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Who Needs Turkey? Vegetarian and Vegan Recipes for Thanksgiving

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If you feel more empathy than hunger for the turkey at Thanksgiving—or if you’d just like to replace those classic butter-laden classics with something a little more health-conscious—try these holiday dishes from area chefs and vegetarians. Not in the mood to cook? Look for one of the area’s animal-friendly Thanksgiving events. The Vegetarian Society of DC’s Life-Affirming Thanksgiving Celebration will feature a vegetarian Thanksgiving buffet (with vegan options) along with a talk by Washington Post columnist Colman McCarthy. And at Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary in Poolesville, the Thanksgiving with the Turkeys potluck lets you eat your vegan meal alongside real, live turkeys.

Cauliflower Soup

Serves 8

Vermilion chef Tony Chittum garnishes his vegetarian-friendly cauliflower soup with a nutty mixture of almonds and raisins spiced with curry powder. The ingredients for the soup can also be turned into a great salad: Caramelize the cauliflower, then stir in the rest of the ingredients listed; serve immediately or keep refrigerated before bringing to room temperature to serve.

2 heads cauliflower
1 small sweet onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
1 quart vegetable stock
1 quart milk
½ cup cream
1⁄8 cup golden raisins
1⁄8 cup almonds, toasted
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon curry powder
Salt and pepper to taste

Remove the cauliflower florets from the stem and peel the stems. Chop the stems and florets and place in a medium soup pot. Add the onion along with the garlic, stock, milk, and cream. Turn heat to high and bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to low. Simmer the soup until the vegetables are very tender. Purée and strain the soup, then pour it back in the pot to keep warm.

Mix the raisins, almonds, parsley, olive oil, curry powder, salt, and pepper in a mixing bowl and set aside. Garnish soup with the raisin mixture just before serving.

Vanilla-Glazed Soft Pumpkin Cookies

Makes 2 dozen

This recipe was developed by DC Vegan contributor Amber McDonald from a more traditional holiday cookie. Eggs and butter have been replaced with vegetable oil and soy milk, and the cookies get natural sweetness and moisture from mashed bananas. “I’ve found that since becoming vegan, I’ve never felt deprived because it’s just so easy to update old favorites,” says McDonald. To make these treats company-ready, she suggests adding more soy milk and drizzling the glaze instead of spreading it—or, skip the glaze and stir in a cup of dairy-free chocolate chips to the batter at the last step before baking.
For the cookies:

2½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon salt
1½ cups sugar
½ cup vegetable oil
1 cup Libby’s 100-percent pure pumpkin
¼ cup mashed bananas
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the glaze:

2 cups sifted powdered sugar
3 tablespoons soy milk
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt in a medium bowl. In a large bowl, beat the sugar and oil until well blended. Beat in pumpkin, mashed banana, and vanilla until smooth. Slowly beat the flour mixture into pumpkin mixture.

Drop the dough in rounded spoonfuls onto greased baking sheets, and bake for 15 to 18 minutes or until edges are firm. Place cookies on wire racks and allow to cool completely.

For the glaze, stir sugar, soy milk, oil, and vanilla in a small bowl until smooth; spread over cooled cookies.
Butternut-Squash Soup with Gorgonzola Cheese

Serves 4

The butter and cheese means this holiday starter dish isn’t vegan, but they’re easy to substitute for: Just sauté the onion in olive oil or a vegan margarine such as Earth Balance, and nix the Gorgonzola altogether. The recipe comes from Tina Robinson, chef at the veggie-friendly Science Club in downtown DC.

½ large sweet onion, chopped
2 teaspoons butter
5 to 6 cups water
4 medium russet potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 large butternut squash, peeled, cleaned, and chopped
1 Granny Smith apple, cored and chopped
¼ cup sweet white wine
1 teaspoon brown sugar
¼ cup Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
Salt and pepper to taste

In a small pan set over medium-high heat, sauté the onion in butter until soft and translucent. Meanwhile, bring the water to a boil and add the potatoes. Add the butternut squash and apple, season to taste, and cook for about 30 minutes or until the potatoes and squash are tender. Stir in the onions, white wine, and sugar. Remove from heat and purée in a food processor. Garnish with Gorgonzola and serve.

Broccoli Poriyal

Serves 8

This Indian-spiced dish, both vegan- and vegetarian-safe, is a great way to put a new spin on Thanksgiving sides. Vikram Sunderam, chef at Rasika in DC’s Penn Quarter, adds coconut, ginger, and green chilies to a veggie that doesn’t often see much more than a hollandaise bath. The ingredients might require a trip to an Indian market, but they recur in the cuisine often; if you cook Indian food regularly, they’re probably worth it. Bengal gram, known in India as chana dal, is a type of husked yellow lentil smaller than chickpeas; urad dal are lentils that have had their black husks removed, revealing the white interior. Both of these lentils may be available at larger grocery stores such as Giant, Sunderam says. Asafetida, or hing, is a seasoning that has a pungent, singular flavor and can be tracked down at an Indian market. Get the curry leaves while you’re there—don’t substitute curry powder, which usually doesn’t include the actual leaves.

2 pounds broccoli florets
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1 teaspoon mustard seed
½ teaspoon Bengal gram
½ teaspoon urad dal, washed
Pinch asafetida (hing)
2 spring curry leaves
2-inch piece whole ginger, peeled and chopped
2 tablespoons green chilies
½ ounce shredded coconut
Salt to taste

Blanch the broccoli in boiling salted water for 1 to 2 minutes; remove and set aside.

In a sauté pan set over medium-high heat, heat the coconut oil. When hot, add the mustard seeds. Add both lentils and the asafetida; cook until the lentils are golden brown. Add the curry leaves, ginger, and chilies. Add the broccoli florets and shredded coconut and toss to coat. Season to taste.

Wild-Mushroom-and-Tofu “Meatloaf” With Cranberry-Tomato Jam

Serves 4 to 6

What turkey? This health-conscious comfort food—from Antonio Burrell of the newly opened Masa 14—delivers heartiness without the meat. “I serve this with a warm salad of green beans with toasted almonds, pickled onions, and Madras-curry vinaigrette,” he says. To ensure that the loaf cooks evenly and stays moist, Burrell recommends baking it in a water bath: Wrap the loaf plan with plastic wrap and foil and place in a shallower baking pan. Fill the large pan with hot water until the level is halfway up the loaf pan, and bake in the oven as directed.

1 teaspoon canola oil
4 ounces each chanterelle, shiitake, and cremini mushrooms
1 ounce garlic, sliced
1 yellow onion, diced
2 celery ribs, diced
½ cup dry sherry
½ cup soy sauce
1 package (16 ounces) tofu, drained and diced
1 cup pearl barley, cooked and cooled
2 cups wild rice, cooked and cooled
1 cup panko bread crumbs
2 eggs
¼ cup milk
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
¼ cup chopped parsley
Salt and pepper to taste

¼ cup cranberry-tomato jam for glaze, plus additional for serving on the side. (Recipe follows.)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Heat the canola oil in a large sauté pan set over high heat. When the oil is hot, add the mushrooms and sear until golden brown, seasoning with a dash of salt and pepper. Remove the mushrooms from the pan to cool. In the same sauté pan, add the garlic and toast slightly. Add the onion and celery, and season with salt and pepper. Reduce the heat and cook the vegetables until translucent. Remove from the pan and allow to cool.

In the same sauté pan, add the sherry and reduce until nearly the consistency of a glaze. Add the soy sauce and tofu and cook until it is absorbed. Remove from the pan and let cool.
Place the cooked barley, rice, panko, eggs, milk, and herbs in a food processor and process until all ingredients are blended, pulsing for 30-second intervals and scraping the bowl between pulses. Place the mixture in large mixing bowl.

Add the tofu, celery, onions, and chopped mushrooms to barley mixture and fold together. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Pat the mixture into a parchment-lined loaf pan and bake for 1 hour and 20 minutes.

Pour the cranberry/tomato jam over the loaf and bake for an additional 5 to 10 minutes, until the glaze becomes slightly caramelized. Remove from the oven and let rest for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.
Cranberry-Tomato Jam

Makes 2 cups

1 cup prepared cranberry sauce
¾ cup canned tomatoes
½ cup tomato paste
½ cup sugar
¼ cup orange juice
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon canned chipotles in adobo sauce

Combine all ingredients in a medium pot and simmer until thick and reduced to 2 cups. Cool and refrigerate until needed.

Roasted-Autumn-Vegetable Cannelloni

Serves 8
In Italy, cannelloni is a dish similar to manicotti, made by rolling pasta dough around a filling of meat and ricotta. Blake Schumpert of Redwood in Bethesda puts his own spin on the dish, using root vegetables for the filling and packaged phyllo dough for the pasta. It’s topped not with traditional tomato sauce but with sautéed mushrooms. But feel free to play around: “This dish is very simple, and infinitely variable,” says Schumpert.
1 cup diced rutabaga
1 cup diced celery root  
1 cup diced turnip
1 cup diced carrot
2 cups cipollini onions, peeled and quartered
4 cups black kale, stems removed and torn into 1-inch pieces
2 boxes (1 pound each) phyllo pastry dough
11⁄3 cup olive oil, canola oil, or melted butter
4 cups oyster or chanterelle mushrooms, cleaned and cut into bite-sized pieces
1 cup chopped Italian parsley
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Set a large sauté pan over medium-high heat and sauté the rutabaga, celery root, turnip, onion, and carrot in some of the butter or oil until softened and the onions are translucent. To ensure that the root vegetables cook through, place the pan in the oven for 10 minutes, stirring once or twice.

Add the kale to the root vegetables, toss, and return to the oven for 5 minutes. Remove the vegetables and cool on a cookie sheet.

Place one layer of dough on a flat surface and brush with oil or butter. Repeat with three more layers, stacking the dough.

At the short end of the pastry, place a 1-inch strip of vegetables. Roll the dough into long cannelloni. Repeat process to use all the filling.

Cut the cannelloni into desired lengths and arrange on sheet trays lined with parchment paper.  

Brush the cannelloni with oil or butter and place in oven for 15 minutes or until golden brown.

Meanwhile, sauté the mushrooms in oil or butter in a medium/large sauté pan until slightly brown. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and parsley.

Serve the cannelloni garnished with warm mushrooms.
Organic-Butternut-Squash Purée with Sage and Dried Chilies

Serves 8 to 10

This vegan soup from chef Russell Svodoba of Clarksville’s Great Sage gets its creaminess from tofu and soy cream cheese. If you try it on Thanksgiving, serve it as a rich first-course soup or an appetizer dip with fresh bread—or get creative: “We’ve also used it as a gravy on mashed potatoes or to top off an open-face Tofurkey melt,” says manager Courtney Conklin.
For the purée:
2 pounds organic butternut squash, seeded and cubed
2 ounces olive oil, plus additional for roasting
¾ cup leeks, rinsed and chopped
1 cup carrot, chopped
¾ cup celery, chopped
2 tablespoons garlic, chopped
¾ cup red onion, chopped
2 tablespoons ancho-chile powder
1½ cups dry sherry
6 cups vegetable stock
2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground allspice
25 ounces (2 boxes) Mori-Nu Tofu
¼ cup Tofutti cream cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
Sage leaves and dried chiles, optional
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Peel and seed the squash, coat with olive oil, and roast for 25 minutes.

In a large pan set over medium-high heat, sauté the remaining vegetables and garlic in olive oil for 4 minutes

Add the chile powder and sherry to the pan; use the liquid to scrape the bottom of the pan clean.

Cook off the sherry, then add the squash, stock, and spices.

Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 40 minutes.

Add the tofu and Tofutti cream cheese and simmer for an additional 10 minutes

Purée until smooth. Garnish with sage and dried chiles, if desired.
Pumpkin Gnocchi and Brussels-Sprouts Ragù

Serves 4 to 6

It demands some time, but this side dish from Rustico chef Steve Mannino puts a veggie twist on an Italian comfort-food classic. Mannino’s version of the usually meat-based ragù features two of the Thanksgiving’s most iconic ingredients: Brussels sprouts and pumpkin. Enlist an aunt or brother to help you make the dough while you clean the sprouts—this is family time, after all.

For the pumpkin gnocchi:

5 medium Idaho potatoes
1 cup pumpkin purée
2 egg yolks, beaten
½ teaspoon ground allspice
1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 to 3 cups all-purpose flour

For the Brussels-sprouts ragù:

2 tablespoons canola oil
6 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon yellow onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 pound Brussels sprouts, stems removed and thinly sliced lengthwise
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 cup water or chicken broth
4 fresh sage leaves, chopped
2 tablespoons flat-leaf Italian parsley, chopped
½ cup grated Parmesan

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Bake the potatoes until fork-tender, approximately 45 minutes. Halve them and allow to cool. Spoon out the potatoes’ insides and discard the skins. Process the potatoes through a food mill into a large bowl; add pumpkin, egg yolks, spices, sugar, and 1 tablespoon salt to the potatoes until well mixed. Add flour until a dough forms and the mixture is not wet to the touch, but remains soft. Let dough rest for 10 minutes. Divide the dough into quarters. Dust with flour and roll them into coils, about 10 inches long and 1 inch wide. Cut into ½-inch pieces. Repeat with remaining dough.

In a 12-inch skillet, heat the oil and 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook over medium-low heat until the onions have wilted, about 6 minutes. Add the Brussels sprouts and season with ½ the salt. Raise the heat to high and sauté for 2 minutes. Add water or broth and simmer for 5 more minutes until the liquid is reduced by half and the sprouts are tender. Remove from heat and add the herbs. Keep in sauté pan over low heat until ready to add gnocchi.

In another 12-inch skillet, brown the remaining butter, then turn off the heat and reserve the butter. Bring 1 gallon of water to boil in a medium pot and add the gnocchi. Cook until the gnocchi floats, about 4 minutes. Remove the gnocchi from the water and cook in the pan of browned butter until well-coated, turning the heat to medium. Add the Brussels sprout mixture. Season with remaining salt. Garnish with Parmesan and serve.

Gingerbread Cookies

Makes 2 dozen

The vegan bakery Sticky Fingers is behind the recipe for these gingerbread cookies, at home after the Thanksgiving meal with coffee or on a tray of Christmas treats. Roll out the dough according to the texture you’d prefer, says owner Doron Petersan: ¼-inch will result in soft, chewy cookies, and 1⁄8-inch will make them crispier and thinner. Add ¼ teaspoon of baking soda for extra-crunchy cookies.

2¾ cups whole-wheat pastry flour
1½ teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon powdered ginger
½ teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
6 ounces Earth Balance buttery spread, softened
¾ cup molasses
1½ cups packed brown sugar
½ cup soy milk
½ teaspoon vanilla

Combine all the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl and set aside. In a large bowl, whisk the buttery spread, molasses, and brown sugar together until smooth. Add the soy milk and vanilla and whisk thoroughly. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix until a dough forms. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Roll out the dough on a floured board, either ¼-inch or 1⁄8-inch thickness. Cut the dough with cookie cutters and place on a greased or lined baking sheet. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, depending on thickness.

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