Thanksgiving traditionally brings friends and extended family around the table — when it's safe to do so — which often means accommodating a variety of dietary needs.
If turkey is your main, anyone who eats primarily plant-based may wind up settling just for the sides. A meal of potatoes, stuffing, veggies and cranberries can be substantial in itself, but you kind of miss out on the ta-da moment — the oohs and aahs over a platter of something dramatic you might not make very often.
There are plenty of ways to make plants more celebratory, and become the focal point of a festive meal. Try a big rustic roasted vegetable tart, or a mushroom and lentil Wellington — puff pastry always looks fancy, and is easy to work with.
Or take advantage of the gourds overflowing farmers' markets and use a pumpkin or large winter squash as your vessel for a cheesy fondue or grainy, roasted vegetable pilaf.
Just about any vegetable can be roasted along with the whole squash, then chopped into the filling.
If you're a cheese fan, you could crumble some goat cheese or grate some extra-old cheddar, Gouda or Parmesan into the grain mixture.
I attempted a few vegetable versions of turducken (a chicken stuffed into a duck, stuffed inside a turkey) — they were experimental, but turned out well! Since the quantity of veg you use will depend on the size of the squash, I'll walk you through how I did each one.
Acorn Squash Stuffed with Chard, Rutabaga and a Beet
For the acorn squash stuffed with chard, rutabaga and a beet (squardabagabeet), I halved a large acorn squash and scooped out the seeds.
I drizzled it with oil, seasoned with salt and pepper and roasted on a baking sheet at about 400F for 20-30 minutes, until soft and turning golden on the edges.
Meanwhile, I thinly sliced a rutabaga, oiled and salted the slices and grilled them to make them even more pliable, and give them some flavour by charring the edges.
I used one long, roasted beet, wrapped it in grilled rutabaga, then in chard leaves, and tucked it inside the squash, put it back together, tied it with some twine (which wasn't really necessary, but looked cool), turned the oven down to 350˚F and baked it for about half an hour.
I sliced it in half to serve (you could serve individual ones if you have smaller squash) and topped it with a quick gremolata made with parsley, garlic, lemon zest, olive oil and chopped walnuts.
Delicate Squash with Mushroom Risotto, Roasted Carrots and Brussels Sprouts
For the Delicate squash with mushroom risotto and roasted carrots and Brussels sprouts (squashroomBrussarrot?) I did the same to the squash — halved, seeded, oiled, salt and peppered, and roasted it.
I roasted some carrots and Brussels sprouts (you can put them on the same pan), and I had some leftover mushroom risotto on the fridge — I stuffed that inside with a couple of small carrots and a few sprouts, closed the lid, tied it and baked it alongside the acorn squash at 350˚F for about 20-30 minutes.
Ratatouille-like stuffed zucchini
For the ratatouille-like stuffed zucchini (zucchitouille?) I had a massive zucchini that I cut lengthwise and scooped the seeds out of. I grilled three whole red-orange bell peppers until charred and blistered all over, cooled them in a bowl with a plate on top (to steam as they cool) and rubbed off the skins and pulled out the stem and seeds, tearing down one side and opening each up like a book.
I then wrapped the peppers around roasted Roma tomato halves and tiny roasted onions (I roasted them along with the veg for the other squash!), crumbled in some goat cheese, put the zucchini back together, tied it and baked at 350˚F for about 30 minutes — until the zucchini was tender all the way through.
I sliced it and served it drizzled with good olive oil and some reduced balsamic vinegar.
With files from the Calgary Eyeopener.