Sweet, sweet night

On Thanksgiving, as on all Thanksgivings, we ate and ate and ate. Thanks to a menu that leaned generally towards the healthy side, I actually didn’t get that traditional, but painful, groaningly stuffed feeling. I felt just right – like I had feasted but not overindulged. However, there was still an entire dessert course waiting to be conquered – or would it conquer us?

Vegan Chocolate Mousse with Whipped Cream and Fruit Preserves

Vegan Chocolate Mousse with Whipped Cream and Fruit Preserves

We decided to go for a walk. After much bundling up and changing of shoes, we all trooped out to Golden Gate Park. The whole neighborhood was nearly deserted, even usually-bustling Haight Street was dark and silent. We moved in and out of happy, chatting pairings between old friends and new acquaintances. I led us in a big loop through the park and the Panhandle, but it didn’t really matter where we were going. This wasn’t actually about the fresh air or the exercise or the sightseeing. This was about making room for dessert!

Poached Pears in Spiced Red Wine

Poached Pears in Spiced Red Wine Syrup

We returned home having found a few crevices and crannies in our bellies where just a bite of something sweet might possibly find a home. Duck and I had planned the dessert course with even more military precision than the rest of the meal, attending to the balance between chocolate, spices and fruit, making sure to include a complement of traditional holiday flavors, and supplying beverage choices ranging from tea and coffee to a honeyed, floral dessert wine.

Dessert:
Chocolate Mousse with Whipped Cream and Fruit Preserves (recipe follows)
Pumpkin Pie from Crave Bakery (review follows) *not vegan
Poached Pears in Spiced Red Wine Syrup (recipe follows)
Chewy Ginger Cookies (recipe follows) *not GF
Muscat de Beaumes de Venise
Coffee & tea selection

More on each dish follows… Continue reading

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Banana Pomegranate

As committed as I am to thorough documentation of the ultimate vegan, gluten-free Thanksgiving, I’ve been dragging my feet on writing up the final few posts. Why? Because the pictures I have from that night are just AWFUL. I really do my best to have this blog be a pleasant place to visit with some wordy but entertaining writing and pictures that at the very least look like stuff you would want to eat. And I do not regret for a moment that I sacrificed good lighting and composition in favor of atmosphere and conviviality for the beloved people who were actually at the Thanksgiving table with me, but I am having a hard time dealing with the consequences nonetheless.

Banana Pomegranate Casserole, Green Salad, Pumpkin Soup with Coconut Cream, Shitake Mushroom Gravy

Banana Pomegranate Casserole, Green Salad, Pumpkin Soup with Coconut Cream, Shitake Mushroom Gravy, Cranberry Chutney

But I’m going to have to get over it. Because I have a photo here, a flash-lit, snapshotted, slightly blurry photo, that illustrates what was possibly the number one best-loved dish of the entire meal. Duck and I are exceptionally lucky in that all of our parents care about food and are great cooks. We had intended to ask Duck’s dad to bring salad and stuffing until we tasted the trial-run of the Celery Root & Butternut Squash Gratin and we realized that stuffing was the last thing we needed. So he offered to make one of his signature Thanksgiving dishes, a Banana Pomegranate Casserole. Bananas and pomegranates and casserole – huh?

A slightly better shot from a more recent Thanksgiving meal. We've continued to make this one every year and it's always the favorite!

There was just no way that my mouth could imagine what tastes this title might imply. Then the dish came around at the table and I saw it was like a loose bake of sweet potatoes, pomegranate seeds and large pieces of banana. That seemed a little more graspable, but then I actually put it in my mouth and it tasted nothing like I had imagined either time. It was sublime! This was the dish that everyone looked for forlornly at the end of the night when we packed up their leftovers goodie-bags (there was no more to be had, we had eaten it all!). This was the dish that made each person’s list of favorites when Duck and I made all our loved ones obsessively go over all the details of the evening. I still can’t quite explain how it tastes but just trust me that it is AWESOME.

Recipe follows… Continue reading

The elephant on the table

When you have a vegan Thanksgiving with people who aren’t all vegan or vegetarian, or even with current non-meat-eaters who weren’t raised in meat-free households, there’s going to be an elephant in the room. Or, should I say, on the table. Yes, our friend Tom. The big, shiny bird. The great source of all giblets. The turkey.

turkey

For some reason I found myself feeling a little righteous about not having a turkey this year as I prepared to host Thanksgiving for the first time. Not condemning of other people’s Thanksgiving turkeys, but definitely taking on the kind of non-apologetic attitude that can swerve easily into aggression without provocation. Although, bless our families’ hearts, certainly no one was being provoking. A vague idea was floated that someone might bring some turkey for the meat-eaters in order to carry on that tradition, but I could feel in my belly that this was something I wasn’t interested in being flexible about. This was a rare opportunity for Duck and me to respectfully ask others to join in our family’s food traditions, and also a chance to knock their socks off with such astounding food that by the end of the night Thanksgiving turkey would seem like one more “optional” item, like candied yams or pecan pie.

Read on for the rest of the story, and for two great vegan, gluten-free Thanksgiving main dishes, with recipes!… Continue reading

On a roll

In planning out the ultimate vegan, gluten-free Thanksgiving, part of my strategy was to make a list of the traditional foods I imagined people would associate strongly with being part of this holiday meal, and then find a way to include those, either in actuality or in essence. Things like green-bean casserole and sweet potatoes with marshmallows may be vital to particular family traditions, but I was aiming for more catch-all categories, like “stuffing,” “potatoes and gravy,” and, of course, I would eventually have to deal with the big one, “turkey.”

Blue Corn Muffins with Green Chiles

One thing I went back and forth about was the category of “bread” or “rolls.” Some kind of bread or roll is usually part of any big American holiday feast, but Thanksgiving is so carb-heavy that it seemed a little absurd to go to the trouble of making gluten-free vegan bread (which I’ve never done before) just so there would be one more plain starch on the table along with all the fancy ones.

Then I came across a recipe from Karina, the Gluten-Free Goddess for Blue Corn Muffins with Green Chiles and I knew a hot basket of these would get the meal started off right. Karina was even kind enough to tell me how to freeze and reheat them, so I was able to make them a week in advance, which was a great boon for streamlining the T-day preparations. (Scroll down to the bottom of the comments below Karina’s recipe for her freezing advice.)

I made the muffins exactly as directed, with the only difference being that, with the muffin papers about 2/3 full, I had enough batter for 16 rather than 12 muffins, which was perfect. This was my first foray into the type of gluten-free baking that uses GF flour combos and I was a little nervous, but thanks to Rainbow Grocery’s extremely well-stocked bulk section and Karina’s tried, tested, and true muffin expertise, everything went perfectly.

My one comment on the muffins is that, unless they were piping hot, the texture seemed oddly grainy and soft in the center. Once they were hot, though (I reheated them in the toaster oven right before we sat down to eat and then kept them warm in a basket wrapped in a towel) that softness seemed like melting goodness. There were a couple left over, and we ate these the next day with butter (er, Earth Balance) and those twice-toasted muffins were the best of the whole batch!

Let’s get this party started

Tonight was the first chance I’ve had to look over the photos from Thanksgiving. They bring back many delightful memories of an evening well spent in the company of those I love, but when it comes to the food photos it’s a different story. It was a very catch-as-catch-can situation – dim lighting, distracted camera-wielders who were for some reason more interested in eating than in taking pictures, and gorgeous food that did not show itself off at its best when piled helter-skelter onto well-laden plates full of gravy.

pate1

I wish I had better photos to do justice to this meal (it is time for a new camera, that much is painfully clear) but I’ll just use the best ones I have, since one purpose of these posts is to help folks find new vegan, gluten-free holiday meal options. Being able to anticipate the finished product goes a long way, for me at least, in helping me plan a menu.

So let’s start where all good parties start, with the appetizers. Our Thanksgiving starters this year were mushroom-walnut pate, home-pickled turnips and zucchini, and assorted olives.

turnipsThe turnips were an unqualified hit, which was gratifying for me as I’m just beginning my foray into hardcore homemaking (which for me means making my own stock and pickles and such). They were just my usual recipe for Middle-Eastern-style turnip pickles, only I left out the beet that usually turns them bright pink because these turnips were so lovely, slender white roots with lavender tops. The sweet-and-spicy zucchini pickles were an experiment that turned out okay but I still want to tweak the recipe before I share it.

The mushroom pate was fantastic, and got even better over the next few days. I had quite a few post T-day meals that consisted entirely of pate and crackers! I started with a recipe from Cooking Debauchery (check out her post for a much better photo of the pate!) but when Duck had whipped it all up in the food processor and we’d each had a bite we turned to each other, a little panicked. It was just… blah.

After a fair amount of experimentation we determined that the missing elements were salt and onions. We sauteed a diced onion until it was fairly brown and threw it into the food processor with the pate and that was perfection! Reading over the Cooking Debauchery post I see that the author can’t stand onions in any form, and notes that the recipe is adapted from a Passover cookbook (yes! perfect vegan chopped liver!) so I wonder if her adaptation was to remove the onions…?

We doubled the original recipe, and while only half of the pate was eaten that night, the bowl was scraped clean and we were too busy to refill it, so who knows how much could have been put away by our kitchen full of guests if we had let them eat their fill? I would say that for a dozen guests it would be best to make the double recipe, just to be safe, plus, as mentioned above, the leftovers are AWESOME. The only other change I made was to use Shaoxing cooking wine instead of sherry or cognac. I often see that you can use sherry as a substitute for Shaoxing wine, and so I figured the substitution would work in the other direction as well.
Continue reading

We did it! The ultimate vegan, gluten-free Thanksgiving

A month of planning. A notebook’s worth of lists and schedules. Disbelief, nervous chuckles, and a bit of wholehearted support from family and friends. Lots and lots of web surfing. The food co-op, the farmer’s market, and an all-out raid on our parent’s linen closets and china cabinets. All culminating in one enormous meal.

That’s right. The world said it couldn’t be done. The relatives plaintively asked, “What, no turkey?” The friends feared we would feed them scary meat substitutes. But in spite of all these things we persevered. Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you… The ultimate vegan, gluten-free Thanksgiving.

table

The menu:

Appetizers:
Mushroom-walnut pate with Mary’s GF onion crackers
Homemade turnip pickles and sweet-and-spicy zucchini pickles
Assorted olives

The meal:
Blue corn muffins with green chiles
Pumpkin soup with coconut cream
Butternut squash and celeriac gratin with walnut-thyme streusel
Tempeh Marbella
Chard with pine nuts and raisins
Banana, sweet potato, and pomegranate casserole
Impressionist cauliflower
Mashed potatoes with shallots and shitake mushroom gravy
Green salad
Cranberry chutney
Canned cranberry sauce (gotta have it!)
Mushroom strudel *not GF

Dessert:
Poached pears in spiced red wine syrup
Chocolate mousse with whipped cream and fruit preserves
Ginger cookies
*not GF
Pumpkin pie from Crave baking *not vegan
Muscat de Beaumes de Venise

The ultimate vegan, gluten-free Thanksgiving deserves lots of documentation, so I’ll be writing a series of posts about what we made, how we made it, and what we thought of each dish. I know there are people out there who, like me, desperately want some main dish other than the same old stuffed squash to serve at their vegan, gluten-free holiday meal, so hopefully I can add to the growing body of inspiration out there on the web. It’s tricky with holiday recipes, especially main dishes, and especially things that are “taking the place” of something traditional, like turkey or stuffing. I feel like there’s less wiggle room for making anything less than a showstopper under these circumstances, so it’s good to have as much information as possible before choosing and preparing your dish. So keep your eyes on this space for more updates to come!

Other sources of inspiration: