The Plentiful Pumpkin

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).

I serve this pumpkin with onion gravy (it looks and tastes like turkey gravy but it’s vegan) and a side of cranberry sauce!

* Be sure to click on the blue links to see all the helpful videos we’ve prepared to guide you along!  Subscribe to our YouTube Channel!  

Stuffed Thanksgiving Pumpkin

Serves 4

4 sugar pumpkins, about 6 to 8-inches in diameter

Olive oil

Kosher salt

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

1 cup hazelnuts, toasted and skinned

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

Sub-recipes:

Sautéed Dino Kale w chopped garlic and red pepper flakes

Sautéed Brussels Sprouts with shallots and garlic (thinly slice the shallots and garlic)

Sautéed chickpeas with diced carrots, minced garlic and olive oil (optional)

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.

Onion gravy:

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.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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In Defense of Brussels Sprouts

In Defense of Brussels Sprouts

There comes a time in one’s life when a singular event makes such an impact, there is time BEFORE, and time AFTER.  And, every human adult’s life in Western Civilization begins with intense dislike for Brussels sprouts.  At some point, either in early adulthood or even much later on in life, one might be fortunate enough to be reintroduced to the Brussels sprout and find he comes to like the pleasant delicious vegetable after all.

I can honestly say I’ve never known another fruit or vegetable that remains so divisive — there is the WE LOVE camp and the WE HATE camp.  And why hate?  There is nothing this humble mini-cabbage has ever done to make one hate it so much.

Tips for cooking Brussels sprouts for maximum potential:

  1. Buy them fresh, still attached to the stalk.  They stay fresher for up to a week and a half when still attached to their stem.  If you buy them loose in a bag or from the bulk bin, chances are they’ve been trimmed a week ago.  They start getting bitter soon after they are cut from the stalk.
  2. How can you tell a good sprout from a not-so-good one?  Squeeze the head between your thumb and forefinger.  The tighter the sprout, the fresher and tastier it will be.  If you feel something spongy with a lot of give and take, it’s lost its mojo.  Too much air between the leafy layers can only mean bitterness and sadness.
  3. Try different methods for cooking:  steaming, braising, roasting, sautéing, frying… and see which method works better for your palate.
  4. Add yummy aromatics like garlic, shallots, celery or caraway seeds, balsamic vinegar, red pepper flakes or BACON to the recipe.  Their complexity complements many different flavor profiles.  Find one that fits your palate.
  5. As a leafy green, they are downright fluffy and easy to digest.  Slice them in thin ribbon-like strips for a quick sauté. They cook so fast this way!
  6. Just don’t EVER buy them frozen. EVER.

The recipe below is Chef Mia’s, which was inspired by a photoshoot we did one afternoon (pictured above).  We liked the look and texture of both halved and sliced that we decided to keep them together in this dish.  I actually made this for dinner tonight — and added julienned carrots.  Delicious!

*Be sure to hit the blue links to see the helpful videos we’ve made to guide you through the recipe.  As always, subscribe to our YouTube channel!

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon

Serves 4 to 6

RT @DearMartini “Dear @Brussels_sprouts_haters, This is a life changer.  You’re welcome.  Love, us.  #Baconmakeseverythingbetter”

2 pounds Brussels sprouts, ends trimmed and sliced in half

4 slices thick cut bacon, cut into ½-inch dice

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 shallots, peeled and thinly sliced horizontally

3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

¼  teaspoon dried red pepper flakes (to taste!)

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

Take half of the Brussels sprouts and thinly slice them horizontally.  Keep the remaining halves in tact.  Keep them separate and set aside.

In a large sauté pan over medium heat, cook the bacon until brown and crispy.  With a slotted spoon, remove the bacon from the pan and set aside.  Pour off the bacon grease in a disposable container and discard.

In the same pan, heat the olive oil and sauté the halved sprouts.  keep tossing the sprouts until their outsides are brown and crispy, about 7-8 minutes.  Add the shallots and garlic and sauté 2 minutes more.  Stir in the sliced Brussels sprouts, and red pepper flakes and season with salt and pepper. Continue to sauté until the sprouts turn bright green, about 5 minutes more.

Stir in the balsamic vinegar and return the bacon to the pan.  Taste and adjust the salt and pepper as needed and serve hot.

Happy Thanksgiving!