Oh, the travails of a Thanksgiving guest who doesn't eat meat. One year, even the Thanksgiving green beans were laden with bacon. Another, Thanksgiving dinner had plenty of meatless vegetable dishes but during the clean-up, the host asked me to pick the turkey. Oh dear ...
These days, many cooks are sensitive to people's food choices, food allergies and prescribed diets. But is anything strikes fear into a cook's heart, it's the prospect of vegetarian guests for Thanksgiving. But don't despair, with just a little bit of forethought, it's easy to cook make-ahead dishes that vegetarians and vegans can eat and all your guests will enjoy.
Mashed potatoes and gravy means a meat-based gravy, right? Nope. This vegetarian apple gravy is a real stand-out. It's a simple make-ahead gravy, delicious for everyone but also a creative option for vegetarians or vegans. It's full of flavor but won't fight with turkey and stuffing.
TO PREP AHEAD
POTATOES: A couple of hours before serving, wash, peel and cut the potatoes into same-size pieces; cover with water so they don't turn brown; after cooking and mashing, if covered, mashed potatoes will hold a good half hour
GRAVY: Make a day ahead, rewarm just before serving
AND FOR THANKSGIVING MAIN DISHES for VEGETARIANS & VEGANS
It pays to have friends! I asked a few of my favorite vegetarian and vegan food bloggers for their favorite Thanksgiving-suitable recipes that can serve as "main dishes" for vegetarians and vegans and wonderful side dishes for others. It's a great collection:
- From Albion Cooks, an easy-to-make, make-ahead dish with great Thanksgiving color ... cheese & lentil gratin
- From One Hot Stove, an Indian sweet potato dish, simple and delicious ... ratala kees (grated sweet potato)
- From Fatfree Vegan, a must-visit treasure trove of recipes for vegans and anyone cooking for vegans, the evidence is the whole range of Thanksgiving options, tropical sweet potatoes for a main dish, creamy scalloped potatoes on the side, a vegan stuffing perhaps topped with a tofu and mushroom gravy and two pies for dessert, pumpkin and maple pecan pumpkin
- From Nava Atlas, the cookbook author whose Vegetarian Celebrations has inspired me for more than 15 years, a special collection of Thanksgiving favorites, 40 vegan recipes from Nava's cookbooks and blog ... it's downloadable here for $8, with a portion of the profits destined for an organization that fights hunger in the U.S. and worldwide
MASHED POTATOES with VEGETARIAN APPLE CIDER GINGER SAGE GRAVY
Hands-on time: 25 minutes
Time to table: 45 minutes
Serves 4 (standard supper servings) or 8 smaller large-meal servings
Salted water to cover (use 1 - 2 teaspoons of table salt, that's the Morton stuff with iodine, per four cups of water)
1 pound potatoes, preferably of roughly equal size so the cooking time is similar (I mashed German butterball potatoes, skins on, sooo smooth and sweet. But any firm unwrinkly potato, a Yukon Gold, say, is perfect for mashing)
Butter (I use a tablespoon or two but some cooks use far more; use olive oil or margarine for vegans)
Milk (some people warm the milk so it doesn't cool the potatoes down; use soy milk for vegans)
Kosher salt or sea salt to taste
Pepper to taste
Start the water to bring to a boil on MEDIUM HIGH. Scrub the potatoes well, use a paring knife to cut out any small imperfections. If peeling, do so. Add the potatoes to the water whenever they're prepped and cover. When the water comes to a boil, reduce the heat to MEDIUM, let simmer until the potatoes are cooked. (You can tell by slipping a thin knife into the middle. If it slips in easily, the potatoes are done.) Drain the potatoes and return to the hot pan. With a potato masher or hand mixer, mash the potatoes. (Don't use a food processor, the potatoes turn to glue.) Add the butter and milk, small amounts at first, adding more as needed to achieve the consistency you like. Once mashed, potatoes will hold, if covered, for a good half hour before serving.
1 tablespoon fat (butter is okay for vegetarians, use olive oil for vegans)
1/2 large onion, diced
1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger
1 cup apple cider (juice would be fine, too)
3 small tart apples, skins left on, quartered and cored, in thin slices
1 tablespoon flour
5 - 8 leaves of fresh sage, minced
While the potatoes cook, make the gravy. (Or make it a day ahead and then gently reheat before serving.) In a large skillet, heat the fat on MEDIUM til shimmery. Stir in the onion and fresh ginger, let cook til just beginning to turn gold. Stir in the apple cider and apples, bring the mixture to a boil, reducing heat to maintain a slow simmer. When the liquid is hot, spoon a few tablespoons of it into a small bowl, stir in the flour and mix until smooth, then slowly add back to the skillet. (Alternatively, you can also sprinkle the flour across the skillet and gently work into the gravy. There's some risk of lumps this way but it works for me.) Let cook for 2 - 3 minutes more, until floury taste is gone. Let cook, stirring every so often, until apples are soft. Stir in the fresh sage, stir a minute. To serve, pour gravy over top of a dollop of mashed potatoes. Garnish with additional fresh sage, if desired.
Four Servings, Per Serving: 215 Cal (38% from Fat, 5% from Protein, 57% from Carb); 3 g Protein; 9 g Tot Fat; 5 g Sat Fat; 31 g Carb; 3 g Fiber; NetCarb 28; 40 mg Calcium; 1 mg Iron; 35 mg Sodium; 19 mg Cholesterol; Weight Watchers 4 points
Eight Servings, Per Serving: 107 Cal (38% from Fat, 5% from Protein, 57% from Carb); 1 g Protein; 5 g Tot Fat; 3 g Sat Fat; 16 g Carb; 2 g Fiber; NetCarb14; 20 mg Calcium; 0 mg Iron; 17 mg Sodium; 9 mg Cholesterol; Weight Watchers 2 points