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3 Crowd-Pleasing, All-Vegetarian Thanksgiving Sides to Please Everyone at Your Holiday Table

3 Crowd-Pleasing, All-Vegetarian Thanksgiving Sides to Please Everyone at Your Holiday Table

Words Heather Ramsdell

Each year at least one Thanksgiving guest at my table has a special diet. What to feed my vegetarian best friend, vegan niece and gluten-free cousin, while still satisfying the more traditional folks?

This is the perennial question. These recipes do double-duty: they serve as a main dish for the vegetarians and vegans, and spare you the effort of crafting a faux turkey tofu concoction.

In fact, there’s no tofu in any of these colorful,  substantial dishes. They pair so well with traditional potatoes and cranberry sauce even the carnivores will be asking for seconds. Are these gluten-free, veggie-packed dishes healthy? You bet. But that’s beside the point.

vegetarian thanksgiving
vegetarian thanksgiving

Whole Cauliflower Roast with Walnut Pesto

Recipe courtesy of Heather Ramsdell : Makes 4 to 6 servings This destination cauliflower is as show-stopping as any roast, yet it’s incredibly simple to make. The tips of the florets are sweet and deep-golden brown and the center is soft and tender. The leaves crisp and their ruffled edges become crunchy and toasted. Cut the dome into four or six hefty wedges and serve it with a healthy dollop of the bright green walnut arugula pesto:

Ingredients

1 head cauliflower, about 2 pounds

Kosher salt

3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 clove garlic

1/2 cup walnuts

Zest of one lemon

1 tablespoon lemon juice

5 cups loosely packed baby arugula leaves, about 3 ounces

1 cup loosely packed flat parsley leaves

2 ounces shredded Parmesan cheese or 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil on high heat.
  2. Trim any dry ends from the leaves and, keeping the leaves attached. Trim the bottom of the cauliflower to help it sit flat. Lower the cauliflower into the water stem-side up, and boil until it is just tender enough to pierce with the tip of a paring knife, about 10 minutes.
  3. Remove the cauliflower from the water with a large slotted spoon, being gentle enough to keep the surface unmarked. Set it stem side down and let it drain and dry in the air, about 5 minutes.
  4. Season all over with salt and set it stem-side-down in a cast iron skillet. Drizzle with ¼ cup of the olive oil letting it seep in between the florets. Roast until the top and most of the sides are a deep golden-brown and the center is tender enough to easily pierce with a paring knife, about 50 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, make the walnut pesto. In a skillet, toast the walnuts on medium high heat, tossing frequently until aromatic and toasted in spots, about 4 minutes. Transfer to a bowl to cool. Chop garlic in the bowl of a food processor. Add the nuts and lemon zest and crank until crumbs. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the arugula and parsley and crank until finely chopped. Add in the cheese or nutritional yeast and a pinch of salt. Add the rest of the olive oil and the lemon juice. Thin with a tablespoon of water if a thinner consistency desired.
  6. Set the hot cauliflower surrounded by its leaves on a platter. Cut into thick wedges and serve with walnut pesto on the side.
vegetarian thanksgiving
vegetarian thanksgiving

Nutty Stuffed Delicata Squash

Recipe courtesy of Heather Ramsdell: Makes 12 servings These striped stuffed squash towers earn their place at the center of the plate with their rugged good looks and savory filling. This recipe is easy to customize for the tastes at your table. Add a few ounces of vegan sausage to the onions as they cook, use dried apricots instead of cranberries, or chewy farro or earthy barley instead of quinoa:

Ingredients

3 delicata squash, about 7- x 3-inches each

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 medium yellow onion, minced

2 cups cooked tri-color quinoa

1 cup raw cashews, chopped

3 cups packed chopped kale leaves

½ teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

⅓ cup dried cranberries

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar, plus more for sprinkling

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Scrub the outside of the squash; the skin is edible. Trim the round ends from each squash and slice the squash crosswise into 1 ½-inch-tall cylinders. Use a spoon to scrape out the seeds and fibers and to hollow out the centers.
  3. Brush the squash inside and out with some of the olive oil. Season all over with salt and pepper. Arrange the cylinders on a lined baking sheet. Cover loosely with foil and roast, flipping halfway through, until beginning to brown in spots and tender when pierced with the tip of a knife, but not slumping, about 45 minutes. Brush squash with the vinegar.
  4. While the squash roasts make the filling. Heat the remaining oil in a large skillet on medium high heat. Add the onions and sprinkle with salt and black pepper, and cook, stirring frequently, until translucent and golden brown, about 8 minutes. Add the cashews and stir to coat with the oil onions and oil. Add the kale and thyme and season with salt. Turn with tongs until coated with oil and cashews and just wilted, about 2 minutes. Gently mix in the quinoa and cranberries and transfer to a bowl.
  5. Remove the squash from the oven and let rest until cool enough to handle, about 5 minutes.
  6. Use a spoon to pack each squash with the kale and quinoa filling. Then return to the oven and continue roasting uncovered until the leaves and nuts begin to toast, about 15 minutes. Use a spatula to transfer the disks to a platter, sprinkle each one with a few drops of vinegar and an extra drizzle of oil and serve.
CabbageSalad-1

Red Cabbage, Goat Cheese, Fig Salad

Recipe courtesy of Heather Ramsdell: Serves 6 to 8 A purple and green salad with a substantial crunch. This slaw has it all: sweet and chewy fig slices, tangy, creamy goat cheese, bright herbs, and crunchy pistachios. If you would like to make this salad vegan, remove the goat cheese, and add more lime:

Ingredients

½ head red cabbage (about 1 lb)

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Juice from one lime

Kosher salt and coarsely ground black pepper

¾ cup dried figs, (about 10) cut into thin slices

1 1/2 cups flat-leaf parsley

½ cup fresh mint leaves, torn

1/3 cup fresh dill fronds

½ cup shelled pistachios, crushed

2 teaspoons thinly sliced fresno or jalapeno pepper, optional

4 ounces chilled fresh goat cheese, sliced

Instructions

  1. Thinly slice the cabbage (or use a spiralizer or mandoline for quick work). In a big bowl, toss the cabbage with olive oil and lime juice and season it with big pinches salt and black pepper. Taste the cabbage. It should taste good on its own. If it needs more flavor, add more salt and black pepper.
  2. Add two-thirds each of the parsley leaves, mint leaves, dill, pistachios and fresno, and toss everything together with your hands until all the ingredients are evenly distributed. Gently toss in two thirds of the cold goat cheese taking care not to squash it. Mound the salad the center of a platter. Sprinkle with the remaining herbs, nuts and cheese. Enjoy!

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