Most vegetarians can count on one question at this time of year: "What will you eat at a big holiday celebration?"
When asked, I say that I used to settle for trimmings: salads, cranberry sauce, any vegetables, pumpkin pie, etc. I'd leave the table feeling full, but not well-fed. Since turkey and other meats contribute the protein to many holiday menus, I pass up a lot more than meat and poultry when I refuse a host's entree.
In recent years, I've been serving a nourishing meatless adaptation of a traditional holiday dinner, featuring most of the familiar flavors, as well as fruits and vegetables in overabundance appropriate to a celebration of a bountiful Earth.
The meal starts with a crustless quiche of spinach, mushrooms and three cheeses. A red pepper rim gives it a seasonal look, and the combination of tofu, eggs and cheese make it a potent protein source.
The flavors and colors of Cranberry-Apple Sauce and Carrot-Flecked Corn Bread set off the entree Stuffed Acorn Squash with rice, currents and nuts. Topped with a tangy sauce of orange juice, tahini (sesame paste) and garbanzo beans, the rice-stuffed squash becomes a worthy main course. According to the rules of complementary proteins, the amino acids in the garbanzo beans and sesame paste, plus the amino acids in the rice, add up to the usable type of protein you'd get from turkey. Finally, pumpkin cheesecake--more wholesome than the name implies--is a scrumptious switch from the standard holiday dessert.
You can save some time by making several dishes the day before. In fact, the Cranberry-Apple Sauce, rice stuffing and Pumpkin Cheesecake taste even better after sitting, refrigerated, overnight. Don't prepare the quiche in advance; it loses color. Wait until party day to stuff the squash too, or it will turn mushy. The corn bread also is best served straight from the oven.
VEGETARIAN HOLIDAY MENU
Two Vegetable Wreath (Crustless Quiche With Spinach, Mushrooms and 3 Cheeses)
Stuffed Acorn Squash With Orange Spice Sauce
Apple-Cranberry Sauce, Carrot-Flecked Corn Bread
TWO VEGETABLE WREATH
(Crustless Quiche With Spinach, Mushrooms and 3 Cheeses)
1 small white onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon butter or margarine
12 medium mushrooms, sliced
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon thyme
3 eggs, beaten
1 pound soft tofu
Dash soy sauce
4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
1 package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and very well drained
1/4 cup Jarlsberg cheese, grated
1 long sweet red pepper, cut in thin strips
Dash ground nutmeg
Grated Parmesan cheese
Grease bottom and sides of deep 9-inch pie plate.
Saute onion and garlic in butter until onion is tender. Add mushrooms, oregano and thyme. Cook, stirring frequently until mushrooms are cooked and all liquid has evaporated in pan. Remove from heat.
In food processor or blender, blend eggs, tofu and soy sauce together until smooth. Pour into prepared dish.
Sprinkle half of feta cheese over 1/4 tofu mixture and top with half of spinach forming wedge of feta and spinach. Next, make wedge of Jarlsberg cheese and mushrooms by sprinkling half of Jarlsberg next to spinach and topping with half the mushrooms. Repeat with remaining ingredients, alternating spinach-feta wedge with Jarlsberg-mushroom wedge.
Press red pepper strips as spokes between spinach and mushroom wedges. Form border around rim of quiche with remaining red pepper strips. Dust spinach wedges with nutmeg and grated Parmesan cheese. Bake 25 to 30 minutes at 375 degrees, until knife inserted near center comes out clean. Let stand 10 minutes before cutting. Makes 6 servings.
2 cups fresh cranberries, washed
2 apples (preferably Rome), peeled, cored and chopped
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground mace
In saucepan, combine cranberries, apples, honey, water, cinnamon and mace. Cover and bring to boil. Cook over low heat until berries "pop" and apples soften, about 10 to 15 minutes. Stir well and puree. Chill, covered, 4 hours or overnight. Makes 6 servings.
STUFFED ACORN SQUASH WITH ORANGE SPICE SAUCE
6 medium acorn squash
2 white onions, chopped fine
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup walnuts, chopped
1/4 cup currants
2 teaspoons ground allspice
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
Freshly ground pepper
1 cup long grain white rice
Orange Spice Sauce
Snap off any stems on squash and trim stem ends flat. Place squash, stem side down, in pie plate or large baking dish. Pour Sweet Broth in bottom to depth of 1/2 inch. Bake at 425 degrees until squash soften, about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, saute onions in butter until translucent. Stir in walnuts, currants, allspice, cumin, cinnamon and season to taste with salt and pepper. Add rice and stir to coat with spices. Stir in 2 cups Sweet Broth, cover and bring to boil. Lower heat and simmer until liquid is absorbed, about 20 minutes.