I know it’s a cliche, but seriously…what are you thankful for? Whenever I’m feeling particularly sad or angry I always remember that my life is so good compared to so many people in the world, and no problems of mine are ever going to rival hunger, poverty, illness or oppression. So, yes, it’s a cliche, but gratitude – and perspective – are indispensable to a happy life.
My Thanksgiving holiday was awesome, and my two vegetarian contributions to my non-veg family were really delicious, if I do say so myself. What did I make? Farro-stuffed acorn squash and herb-mushroom stuffing. Sweet and spicy on the one hand, rich and savory on the other. And the best part is they were both my original creations. Who needs turkey??
Farro-Stuffed Acorn Squash
- 1 small-medium acorn squash
- 3/4 cup farro
- 2 cups vegetable broth
- 1 apple (on the sweeter side, such as a gala)
- 1/2 onion
- 1/4 cup dried sweetened cranberries
- 2 1/2 ounces baby spinach (about half a 5 oz. container)
- 1 clove garlic
- olive oil
- maple syrup
- 1- 1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
- scant 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
- cinnamon, salt and pepper to taste
Start by preheating the oven to 400 degrees. Carefully cut your acorn squash in half lengthwise, and scrape the inside with a spoon. Save the seeds for later use and rub the inside flesh with olive oil and maple syrup (many people let the syrup pool in the center, but this is too sweet for me – I just use my fingers to make sure it’s coated.)
Then place the squash cut-side up in a glass baking dish with about a half inch of water in the bottom to prevent the skins from scorching. Bake for about 45-55 minutes, until soft when poked with a fork.
For the seeds, put them in a bowl of cold water and remove all the stringy fleshy bits, then dry thoroughly. Toss the seeds with about a teaspoon of butter, a pinch of salt and a tablespoon of maple syrup, then spread on foil on a baking sheet – DO NOT forget the foil! Bake until golden-brown, about 15 minutes, stirring once or twice.
In the meantime, bring your two cups of vegetable broth to a boil in a pot. Once the broth is boiling, add the 3/4 cup of farro and simmer, covered, on low heat for 25-35 minutes, or until the broth is absorbed and the farro is chewy but not hard.
While the farro is cooking (multitasking is a Thanksgiving necessity, right?), chop your half onion and apple and finely mince the clove of garlic. Sautee the onion with olive oil, and when it begins to soften add the garlic and apple. When the onions become translucent, add the spinach and cranberries and fold the ingredients to wilt the spinach. When the spinach is just wilted, remove the pan from heat.
Ideally your farro and acorn squash would also be done at this time, but it’s not really a perfect world we live in. When the farro is done, stir in the veggies along with the liquid collected in the acorn squash and a tiny drizzle more of maple syrup, if you’d like. Mix with the curry, chili powder, pinch of cinnamon, and generous dash of salt and pepper.
Let the flavors marry for a bit, then stuff the squash with the farro mixture and garnish with the roasted seeds. If you’re not serving these immediately or if they need to travel, simply wrap them in tin foil and warm in the oven before serving!
So that takes care of the sweet/spicy main course, chock full of veggies and protein. But for me, nothing quite says Thanksgiving like the savory, rich, earthy taste of mushrooms – a vegetarian’s best friend in place of meat!
Herb Mushroom Stuffing
- 6 ounces (about a half a small round loaf) rustic wheat bread
- 2 tablespoons butter, melted
- 1/2 pound each white and crimini mushrooms*
- 1 small onion
- 2 stalks celery
- heaping 1/3 cup walnuts
- 2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1-1 1/2 tablespoons fresh sage (about a dozen whole leaves), chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
- heaping 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- salt and pepper
- 1 cup vegetable broth
- 1 egg
- olive oil
*I must confess I didn’t actually pay attention to the weight of the mushrooms when I bought them, but each type filled a 4-cup pyrex bowl when whole.
Your oven might already be on from previous baking, but if not, turn it to 400 degrees. Chop your bread in 1-inch cubes, then toss with the melted butter and spread on a baking sheet. Toast for about 15 minutes, stirring once, until the bread is golden brown.
While the bread is toasting, you can toast your walnuts in either the oven or toaster oven. Either way, keep a VERY close eye on them – walnuts are high in oil and will burn quickly. It should only take a few minutes for them to turn goldenbrown on top, then remove them from the heat and set aside. Next start sauteeing the onion and celery with olive oil. Add the garlic and chopped mushrooms when the onion and celery begin to soften, and cook until all ingredients are soft and the mushrooms begin to release their juices. To stop them from burning, I added a splash of vegetable broth to the pan as well. When almost done, stir in the sage, rosemary, thyme, salt and pepper.
When the veggies are done, remove them from the heat and toss well with the toasted bread and walnuts (I did this in the pan so I wouldn’t dirty another dish). Transfer the mixture into a greased/oiled 9×9 glass baking dish. Whisk together the vegetable broth and egg, and pour over the stuffing mixture.
I actually made the stuffing before the stuffed squash, so I covered the mixture in foil and let it rest in the fridge for about an hour while I roasted my squash and seeds. When I was done with my needs at 400 degrees, I turned the oven down to 350 and baked the mushroom stuffing for 25 minutes (covered for about 20 minutes, uncovered for about 5). When the egg mixture was set and the top was golden, remove it from the oven and let rest, covered, until time to serve.
And there you have it: two amazing vegetarian Thanksgiving recipes. Or whenever recipes – they’ll be good all winter, I promise! My meat-eating family didn’t get to try the squash, but they really loved the stuffing – you could probably add some veggie sausage too and no one would be the wiser. And for the record, this was my Thanksgiving plate before…
(Not pictured: pumpkin pie. Mmmm…) Happy holidays!