Meatless Monday Recipe: Thanksgiving Specialties

Reader Contribution by Jessica Kellner and Editor

Thanksgiving is almost here, if you can believe it! Although I do love turkey, I don’t eat red meat, and I’m almost always partial to vegetarian meal options. Thanksgiving is a perfect time to try some non-meat versions of holiday classics. First, reducing the meatiness of our holidays helps lower our meal’s carbon footprint, especially if we opt for veggie dishes that star in-season classics such as Brussels sprouts, potatoes and cabbage. I also love bringing a veggie dish to a potluck holiday meal. It offers something else for those lonely vegetarians to eat, and often introduces meat-eaters to non-meat versions of their favorite dishes, showing you don’t need meat for flavor.

If you’re vegetarian, hosting vegetarians for the holidays, or simply want to reduce your Thanksgiving’s meat quotient, try these delicious vegetarian options. Brussels sprouts (a holiday MUST HAVE for me) made with apples and a maple vinaigrette, roasted squash and stuffing two vegetarian ways (plus bonus mushroom gravy and mushroom stock recipes). Enjoy!

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Apples, Dried Cranberries, Sage and Cider-Maple Vinaigrette
Serves 4 to 6

This hearty first course also can be served as a side dish with roasted chicken, turkey or pork chops.

3/4 pound brussels sprouts, stems trimmed, outer leaves removed
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1 cup boiling water
1 tablespoon butter
2 to 3 apples, cubed
1 tablespoon fresh sage, diced
Fresh sage, for garnish (optional)

Cider-maple vinaigrette
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar, or more to taste
1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
3/4 cup canola or safflower oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Cut brussels sprouts in half lengthwise. Rinse and drain thoroughly.
3. Pour olive oil into a 9-by-13-inch baking dish, then add sprouts, salt and pepper; toss to blend. Roast 20 to 30 minutes, tossing occasionally, until tender and golden brown. Meanwhile, pour boiling water over cranberries in a bowl. Let stand 10 minutes, then drain.
4. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add apples and sauté 5 to 10 minutes or until tender and lightly browned (but not mushy).
5. To make vinaigrette: Whisk mustard, vinegar and maple syrup until blended. Add oil slowly while whisking constantly. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
6. To serve: Combine brussels sprouts, apples, cranberries and sage, tossing gently. Divide mixture evenly among 4 to 6 plates. Drizzle with vinaigrette (1 to 2 tablespoons per serving), and serve warm.

Cremini Mushroom, Fennel and Arugula Stuffing

10-12 cups of cubed, dried French bread
8 ounces of crimini or button mushrooms, cleaned and quartered
1 bulb of fennel, sliced thin
1 onion, peeled, sliced thin
3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 cup of vegetable stock
2 tablespoons of fresh thyme
1 tablespoon of salt
1 tablespoon of pepper
Olive oil
*A couple handfuls arugula or to taste (use your instincts and keep in mind that arugula has a strong flavor, so you don’t want to overpower the rest of the stuffing)

1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
2. In a large skillet sauté the garlic and onion in a little bit of oil over medium heat. When they are translucent and getting soft, add the fennel, then the mushrooms, salt, pepper and thyme. You want the onions to be soft and the fennel tender, but not slimy; the mushrooms should be soft.
3. Place the bread cubes in a large bowl. Add the vegetable mixture and the stock and mix well. Pour into a medium baking dish and cook for 30 minutes until it is brown at the top and warm throughout.
4. Toss the arugula and serve warm.

Roasted Squash with Mushroom Stuffing and Mushroom Gravy

Exotic mushrooms, locally grown, lend this recipe protein and immune-boosting properties.  

2 medium acorn or delicata squash, cut vertically into four crescents, seed mass removed
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons canola or safflower oil
2 cups mixed exotic mushrooms such as shiitake, cremini and maitake, chopped into 1-inch pieces
1/2 cup onion, finely diced
1 tablespoon butter
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves 1 cup unseasoned bread cubes, cut into ½-inch dice ¼ cup organic mushroom stock (see homemade recipe below)
Fresh thyme leaves, for garnish (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place squash in a lightly oiled 9-by-13-inch roasting pan. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover tightly with aluminum foil. Cook 45 minutes to an hour, or until flesh is tender. Keep warm until ready to serve.
2. Meanwhile, make stuffing: Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes. Add mushrooms and onions; cook 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
3. Push mushrooms and onions to one side of skillet. Add butter, garlic and thyme in “empty” part of skillet and cook, stirring, just until garlic releases its fragrance and is pale golden, about 1 minute. Do not overcook or garlic will be bitter. Add bread cubes and mushroom stock, and mix in mushrooms and onions. Simmer gently until stock has been absorbed.

Mushroom Gravy 
Makes about 1 cup

This rich, hearty sauce satisfies vegetarians and carnivores alike. Leftovers can be reheated and served over grains, or with eggs and biscuits.

1 tablespoon butter or canola oil
1 cup raw mushrooms or mushroom scraps
1 cup organic mushroom stock (see homemade recipe below)
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 tablespoon cornstarch, to thicken (if necessary)
2 tablespoons cold mushroom stock to thicken (if necessary)

1. Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes or until softened.
2. Put cooked mushrooms, mushroom stock and cream in a food processor or blender and purée for 1 to 2 minutes or until very smooth.
3. Place a fine sieve over a medium saucepan and strain purée into saucepan, pressing to extract juices. Discard solids.
4. When ready to serve, reheat gravy to a simmer. If it seems thin, thicken as follows: Mix cornstarch and mushroom stock to make a paste. While gravy is simmering, add paste and whisk until thickened. Serve immediately.
5. To serve, divide stuffing into four equal portions. Place a heaping tablespoon of stuffing in the center of each plate. Place one piece of roasted squash on top of the stuffing, then fill the squash cavity with remaining stuffing. Repeat with the remaining three plates. Spoon the gravy around the squash, garnish with fresh thyme leaves if desired and serve immediately.

Mushroom Stock
Makes about 3 1/2 cups stock

This flavorful stock also can be used as a soup base, so you may want to double the recipe and freeze half. The stock will keep up to five days refrigerated or frozen for three months.

4 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 pounds (about 4 cups) raw mushroom stems and scraps, finely puréed
1/2 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
1/2 cup Madeira or Port wine
6 cups water

1. Melt butter in a 4-quart stock pot over medium heat. Add mushroom purée and dried mushrooms and cook, stirring frequently, until butter has been absorbed.
2. Add Madeira or Port and simmer until absorbed. Add water and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer uncovered for 45 minutes.
3. Place a large sieve over a bowl or pot and pour the stock over the sieve. Press on the solids to extract as much juice as possible. Discard solids. Let stock cool to room temperature, then cover and chill until fat rises to the top. Skim off fat and discard. Refrigerate until ready to use. 

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