The Vegetarian Thanksgiving — it’s a topic that’s coming up more often now. Years ago, if a vegetarian came to Thanksgiving dinner, all he or she could hope for was to enjoy some of the meatless side dishes, salads and of course pumpkin pie. In more recent years, folks are becoming more health-conscious and in general adopting a meat-free lifestyle. A happy consequence: dinner hosts are also becoming more conscientious and planning for more meatless options for the Thanksgiving Table.
I originally developed this for my sister, Alex. I wanted to make something unforgettably special for her that was filling, delicious and healthy… something that would be so special, she wouldn’t miss having turkey at all.
As I heartily encourage you to make this recipe, I am obligated to warn you: it’s not something that can be quickly thrown together. This recipe is for a very special occasion, so please take the necessary time and steps to prepare. Cook and season each component before it gets mixed together as the filling – by doing so, each component has its own flavor. The whole thing will become greater than the sum of its parts! (and consequently, that’s why it’s so darn complicated to make this dish).
Stuffed Thanksgiving Pumpkin
4 sugar pumpkins, about 6 to 8-inches in diameter
Freshly ground black pepper
2 cups cooked Israeli couscous (or wild rice)
1 cup cooked quinoa (red looks better)
1 cup dried cranberries, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
Sautéed Brussels Sprouts with shallots and garlic (thinly slice the shallots and garlic)
Roast the pumpkins by first cutting their tops off and scooping out their seeds and strings. Prick all over the inside of the pumpkins with a fork and brush with olive oil. Season the insides with salt and pepper. Place the pumpkins cut-side down on a foil-lined baking sheet and roast in the oven for 35 min at 350. Remove and set aside to cool.
Prepare the filling: In a large bowl mix together the cooked couscous, quinoa, cranberries, nuts, parsley and any of the prepared sub-recipe components (mix 1 – 1 ½ cups of each component). Season with salt and pepper and moisten with vegetable stock.
Stuff each pumpkin with the filling – making sure you’ve firmly (but not compressed) packed it in. Make sure it comes over the top. Return the stuffed pumpkins to the foil-lined baking sheet and bake until heated through, about 45 minutes. You can roast the tops of the pumpkins, too and place on top for presentation. Bake any leftover filling in a baking dish to serve along side.
Serve hot with lots of onion gravy and cranberry sauce.
Makes 2 ½ cups
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
One large yellow onion, diced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups water
2 tablespoons Tamari sauce (or low-sodium soy sauce)
1 vegetable boullion cube
2 teaspoons cornstarch, mixed w cold water to create a slurry
In a medium-sized saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium-high flame and sauté the onions until soft, about 7 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add the water, tamari, and boullion cube. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to simmer and simmer for 25 minutes, or until the onion is clear. Mix together the cornstarch slurry and pour in. Bring to a boil, stir a few times until the gravy thickens and turn off the heat. Set aside for a few minutes to cool slightly, then puree with a stick blender. If you are using a traditional blender, cool the gravy down completely before blending (you’ll have to heat the gravy back up). Strain the gravy into a clean saucepan, taste and season with salt and pepper if needed and keep warm until ready to use.