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Vegan Thanksgiving: A pro’s menu. November 15, 2012

Posted by ourfriendben in recipes, wit and wisdom.
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What does a vegan Thanksgiving menu look like? Silence Dogood here. I don’t know about you, but when someone says “Vegan Thanksgiving,” the image that always comes to mind is a revolting Tofurky with an edamame appetizer. (Mind you, I’ve never tried Tofurky, since I don’t do pseudomeat; maybe it’s delicious.)

So I was thrilled to read in our local paper, the Allentown, PA Morning Call, that Chef Wendy Landiak was providing a Thanksgiving feast for vegans and the parents/friends/etc. of vegans who had no clue what to cook them. Chef Wendy is locally renowned for her pop-up vegan restaurant, Balasia (www.balasia.net, www.thehoneyunderground.com). Since the article didn’t say what she’d be serving, I Googled the menu and here’s what I found:

Lucky vegans who chose to go with Chef Wendy’s pick-up dinner (or whose families had pity on them and ordered one) would be treated to their choice of homemade seitan with baby bella mushroom gravy (seitan is “wheat meat”), coriander mustard baked tofu, or seasonal vegetable-stuffed pumpkin. (No Tofurky!) The entree would be accompanied by homemade whole-grain bread with rosemary and garlic, parsley and garlic mashed potatoes, butternut squash soup with ginger, homemade cranberry sauce with orange zest, roasted sweet potatoes with caramelized walnuts, and roasted vegetables with soy butter and herbs. For dessert, you can choose from three pumpkin-themed specialties: pie, cake, or cheesecake.

At $45 a person, this is obviously not your all-you-can-eat-for-$16.99 Thanksgiving buffet. But Chef Wendy’s reputation is stellar, so you know you’ll be getting fresh, local, seasonal, from-scratch fare. Should you wish to take advantage of Chef Wendy’s talents, and assuming you live close enough to pick up your order in scenic Hereford, PA from noon to 6 p.m. this coming Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday, you can place your order at 484-330-6405 or by e-mail at yogawithwendy@yahoo.com. But you must order today, November 15. Last call!

For the rest of us, I enjoyed perusing the menu options and hope you did, too. Food for thought! Chef Wendy’s choices are a far cry from my own Thanksgiving meal: endive boats and curried pumpkin soup; a huge, hearty salad and hot rolls; my famous crunchy baked dressing, cranberry sauce with marmalade and Grand Marnier, corn pudding, winter slaw, green beans amondine, and roasted winter veggies (sweet potatoes, sweet onions, mushrooms, and Brussels sprouts). Followed by pumpkin roll, pecan pie, bourbon-pecan fudge, and marbled pumpkin cheesecake.

Needless to say, there’s always plenty of food left over, which provides a fun challenge of its own. I like to make creamy pasta to serve with the leftovers through the weekend. The curried pumpkin soup makes a great lunch served with the slaw and hot-from-the-oven cornbread. And the roasted winter veggies are yummy over rice, assuming you have any leftover roasted veggies (we never do). Our friend Ben, our resident sweet tooth, complains vigorously about an excess of desserts, but seems strangely reluctant when I suggest sharing leftovers with neighbors and friends.

Point being, whether you’re an omnivore, vegetarian, or vegan, it’s fun to think through the Thanksgiving menu and try something new each year. It may or may not make it onto the must-have list for following years, but it will probably be good, and provide a talking point for your guests. My easy endive boat appetizers are a case in point, so simple to prepare, so quickly gobbled up by guests (warning: not vegan): Buy a couple of Belgian endive heads, cut off the base and separate the leaves (wash and dry them, please). Fill each leaf (the “endive boat”) with a mixture of crumbled pecans, dried cranberries (aka “craisins”), crumbled blue or feta cheese or a combination, and fresh-cracked black pepper. Serve. Watch guests fight over the last ones.

What do you like to serve for Thanksgiving?

                 ‘Til next time,