So, I am working on a series of recipes for Thanksgiving…
Yeah, I know. And I'm not even going to pretend to be posting Thanksgiving recipes ten months early; I admit that I'm months late. I didn't actually get the idea for the series until the week before the holiday, and while at first I thought of postponing the series until next year, I decided to go ahead and work on the recipes now. For one thing, I'm motivated now. Also, the weather stays hot here right up until about the week before Thanksgiving and I still want to make food that most of you would consider summery then - dishes with vegetables like eggplant and fresh tomatoes and lots of spice. The desire for fall comfort food comes late for me, so I'm afraid I might never test my ideas out next fall in time for Thanksgiving.
This series is to solve a couple of conflicts I have with vegetarian main dishes on the holiday table. Conflict one happens when visiting extended family. No matter how much we protest that we're fine with all the side dishes, the hostesses in my family always try to graciously provide a vegetarian main dish for the three of us. However, I don't want them to have the extra work, and usually no one else will eat what they made for us because it's "special." In addition to extra work for the hostess, this means we feel obligated to eat more than we really want to. I don't want to bring my own vegetarian main dish either if no one else will eat it.
The solution is to make something that can be a main dish for us vegetarians, but can be served as a side dish to everyone else. Also it needs to be something that can be prepared in advance and will travel well. A casserole fills the bill, and not just any casserole, but one that's filling and has a protein component and some healthy fat.
A dish like this is also a great solution for conflict two, which happens when we eat our holiday meal at home, just me and my guys. You see, they just want two things: pie, and before that, mashed potatoes. Lots and lots of mashed potatoes. Acres of them. If I make lots of other dishes to round out the meal, they go uneaten, no matter how welcome they'd be at other times. So I usually just go to the Asian market and get some veggie chicken to slice and heat up. This makes me unhappy, because I want foodie food - something with lots of vegetables and great warm flavors and spices. Once again, a casserole comes to the rescue.
Over the next few weeks expect to see lots of casseroles like this one. Next year, I'll do a round up of them, along with a new one or two. I imagine that I can't be the only one who could use a few dishes like these to solve holiday meal problems. In the meantime, these make for great weekend suppers along with soup or a salad. (This one, for example, was accompanied by Leek and Potato Soup.)
This is a deconstructed stuffed acorn squash recipe and at the end, I've included instructions to make it in its original form. I wish I could take credit for this one, as I think it's absolutely brilliant, but alas, it's not original to me. I found this in the early 00's in the Village Voice. The recipe was from Moby, which he offered to show that you don't need to eat turkey at Thanksgiving.
This version calls for roasted butternut squash. Usually, recipes with roasted butternut squash call for peeling and cubing it raw, but that can be time consuming. However, it's possible to roast it with the peel on and remove the peel after it's cooked, which is much easier. The trick is to cut the squash into pieces of the same thickness so that they all cook at the same rate.
First, preheat the oven to 400 F and oil a baking pan. Cut across the middle of the butternut squash where the neck meets the rounder bottom section. Then cut the bottom section in half to expose the cavity with the seeds. Scoop out the seeds and surrounding stringy portion. Now cut the stem off the neck and cut the neck lengthwise into two pieces. Cut each of these pieces lengthwise into 2 or 3 wedges. Your squash will look something like the one below.
Brush the cut or scooped sides of the squash with olive oil. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until you can insert a fork easily through the squash. Let cool enough to handle and then trim the peel off with a paring knife. Cube.
Butternut Quinoa Casserole
1 butternut squash, about 2-1/2 pounds
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium red onion, minced, about 1 cup
1 fennel bulb, trimmed and finely diced, about 1 cup
1 stick celery, minced, about 1/3 cup
1 large Granny Smith apple, cored, peeled and chopped
1/4 cup golden raisins
1-1/2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 cup vegetable broth
1/4 cup uncooked quinoa
2 teaspoons cumin
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup chopped pecans
Roast squash according to the directions above. Turn oven temperature down to 375 F. Oil a casserole.
Heat olive oil in a large skillet. Sauté onion, fennel, and celery until tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in apple, raisins and maple syrup. Add the vegetable broth, quinoa, cumin, cinnamon and salt and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook, uncovered, for 10 minutes.
Stir in the butternut squash cubes and transfer the mixture to the casserole. Top with the pecans and bake, uncovered for 15 minutes.
Serves 6 as a main dish or 12 as a side.
Stuffed acorn squash version (original version): Replace the butternut squash with three acorn squashes. Cut them open lengthwise and scoop out the seeds and stringy bits. Brush with olive oil and roast in a 400 F oven for 30-35 minutes until fork-tender. Turn the heat down to 375 F.
Before adding oil to the skillet and sautéing the vegetables, toast the pecans for about 3 minutes until fragrant and set aside.
Cook the onion, fennel, celery, apple, raisins, maple syrup, vegetable broth, quinoa, cumin, cinnamon and salt as above. Stir in the pecans and mound the filling into the acorn squash halves. Bake for 15 minutes for 6 servings.