Vegan Thanksgiving Feast
by Ali Seiter
As mentioned in my previous Thanksgiving post, the November feast has proved infinitely more enjoyable for the past two years than the painstaking family meals of my childhood, rife with racist jokes, dry turkey, and more than likely a couple of tears. Why? Instead of “celebrating” in Milwaukee with my kooky maternal relatives, my mother and I spend the day leisurely cooking. She moves the television to the kitchen to keep track of her beloved Packers; my father howls of touchdowns and red flags from the living room, rushing every so often into our culinary domain to consult my mother about a certain play; I contentedly chop and roast vegetables, simmer wild rice, and blend up creamy patés and spreads. We pause mid-afternoon to stroll through the neighborhood, basking in the glory of autumn’s ochre leaves and crisp air. I also attended yoga in the morning after picking up two 16-oz juices from the Willy Street Coop for breakfast (one of apples, kale, and parsley; the other of carrots, celery, spinach, lemon, and parsley), both of which never fail to put me in a good mood, and returned home to discover a fully composed appetizer platter of crackers, spreads, olives, and fruit for lunch. Thanks, Mom.
Maple Spice’s Baked Almond Feta, creamy on the inside and crusty on the outside, showcased every ingredient in the recipe in perfect harmony—the almonds added nutty richness cut by the acidic lemon juice, complemented by the garlic and dill. The original recipe called for a warmed dill oil to pour on top after baking, but I simply blended fresh dill straight into the almond mixture. Maple Spice also includes draining the “cheese” overnight, but I ended up with no liquid in the bowl the next morning. Maybe I just started with dry almonds…?
Photo featured on Finding Vegan.
The Walnut-Mushroom Paté from Veganomicon has become a holiday favorite in my family thanks to its earthy flavor and smooth texture—a perfect complement to crackers. The only change I make to the original recipe is reducing the oil from 3 tbsp to 1 tsp: I saute the onions and mushrooms in a teaspoon and don’t find that an extra tablespoon blended into the mixture adds any discernable flavor. I also ended up not needing any vegetable broth to invoke proper blending.
Rounding out the appetizers, Including Cake’s Speedy Seedy Crackers served as the perfect vehicle for our lovely spreads. My changes: substituting arrowroot for tapioca flour, omitting the garlic powder (I never have any on hand) and salt, and substituting chia seeds for poppy seeds (my mother has an aversion to the latter). I didn’t mention to my skeptical father of the crackers’ gluten-free nature, but he enjoyed their satisfying crunch and slight nuttiness.
Meal Checklist: Protein—cannellini beans and walnuts in Walnut-Mushroom Pate, almonds in Almond Feta. Whole Grain—mixed grains in crackers. Vegetables—mushrooms and onions in Walnut-Mushroom Pate, olives, marinated artichokes and mushrooms, pickles. Leafy Greens—mixed salad greens (I filled my usual giant salad bowl with greens and piled all the appetizer components on top).
After our antipasto platter, I flocked straight to the kitchen to start preparing the real vegan feast while my mother focused on butchering duck for the omnivorous entree. The cracking of bones and squelching of innards disconcerted my poor ears, but I enjoyed my mother’s company, nonetheless, while singlehandedly preparing all of the “side dishes” (really, they’re so much more) to compose our lovely (almost…that darn duck) vegan Thanksgiving.
Vanilla & Spice’s Rosemary Sweet Potato Cornbread looked lovely in our gluten-free bread basket, adorably garnished with a sprig of rosemary. I added an extra banana to the batter after discovering a film of mold inside my jar of applesauce and of course substituted my own gluten-free flour mix of amaranth, brown rice, quinoa, and buckwheat flours with arrowroot as the binder (thanks to Gluten-Free Girl’s guide to creating a personalized blend) for the whole wheat. The bread turned out incredibly moist, satisfyingly dense, and well-balanced between savory and sweet, though I wish I could have discerned more flavor from the rosemary.
Photo featured on Health Freak Food.
A hearty wild rice pilaf from What Would Cathy Eat? invoked memories of stuffing from my mother’s childhood Thanksgivings with somewhat of an Indian twist thanks to the hint of cardamom and cumin in the vinaigrette. I halved the recipe, replaced the squash with sweet potatoes (my father detests any form of squash, don’t ask me how on earth that’s even possible), substituted currants for the cranberries (dried cranberries are almost always sweetened with refined sugar), reduced the oil to 2 tbsp (one for roasting the potatoes and the other for the vinaigrette). Roasting the potatoes with the garlic and onions instead of sauteing the latter two veggies on their own helped to lower the amount of oil. All three of us adored this gorgeous pilaf thanks to the toothsome wild rice, succulent sweet potatoes, crunchy pecans, tart currants, and tangy vinaigrette.
Satisfying my need for leafy greens, The Stone Soup’s Burnt Carrot Salad (minus the feta cheese) both looked and tasted wonderfully elegant. Because I prefer my salad greens evenly coated rather than sporadically drizzled with dressing as called for in the recipe, I tossed the mixed greens in a vinaigrette of 1 tbsp olive oil, 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar, and 1 tbsp tamari before laying the burnt carrots on top. The carrots retained a bit of their bite while still achieving a pleasing tenderness and harbored a complex flavor from their char, the smoky sweetness of which beautifully complemented the rather assertively dressed greens.
We had originally planned on serving a veganized version of Anita Lo’s Glazed Hakurei Turnips, featured in the November issue of Bon Appetit magazine, but did not have enough foresight to pick up a bunch of baby turnips at the farmers market this prior Saturday. Alas, Whole Foods did not carry the somewhat specialty turnips, defeating the poor little root’s hopes of attaining a spot at our Thanksgiving table. However, I had picked up two bags of brussels sprouts at the last farmers market, so we decided to roast up a big batch as a guaranteed crowd-pleaser. Is my family addicted to roasted brussels sprouts? Perhaps. Is that a bad thing? Absolutely not.
Finally, Ricki’s Raw Apricot Swirl Cheesecake Mini Pies sent our already wildly successful dinner above and beyond the boundaries of amazing food. My mother raved about the crust of pecans, almonds, and coconut, while my father devoured his tart without a demeaning word toward vegan or raw desserts. My changes: used date syrup instead of agave nectar and yacon syrup, omitted all stevia, replaced coconut oil with olive oil, replaced apricots with persimmons (we couldn’t find fresh apricots at Whole Foods as they are usually a summer fruit, but snatched up the more seasonal persimmons). Creamy, fruity, nutty, and utterly decadent, these tarts make me want to open my own raw un-bake shop.
Meal Checklist: Protein—pecans, cashews, almonds. Whole Grain—mixed flours in cornbread, wild rice. Vegetables—sweet potatoes, onions, garlic, carrots. Leafy Greens—mixed salad greens, brussels sprouts.
I can honestly attest that this year’s November feast ranks as the uncontested winner of Best Thanksgiving Ever. Additionally, unlike the vast majority of other Americans, I didn’t feel overly stuffed, bloated, gross, or exhausted after this meal. On the contrary! Wholesome, nourishing, compassionate, and animal-friendly (mostly…that darn duck again!), our Thanksgiving celebrated the bounty of Wisconsin fall produce in an incredibly healthy manner.
Comment Provoking Questions: What was the best dish you made this Thanksgiving? Did you try out some new recipes or stick to traditions? Who did you celebrate with? Was there football-watching involved?
I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving.
Until next time, Ali.