LET’S GET READY FOR A VEGAN THANKSGIVING DINNER

PISTACHIO AND SWEET PEA TORTE

WITH ROASTED TOMATO AIOLI

Vegan Thanksgiving yearns for a classic signature dish that becomes a cherished must-have for the Thanksgiving main course. Deliciously seasoned with flamboyant flavors, captivatingly aromatic, and visually appealing, this unique torte is a first-rate holiday entrée that delivers plenty of pizzazz. If you favor sauces to dress up the presentation, include the irresistible Roasted Tomato Aioli, an elegant complement to the torte. Both the torte and the aioli can be prepared a day ahead.

I’ve served this main-dish torte at other times during the winter and spring seasons and it’s always a hit. But mostly, I save it for Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner–that makes it special, and I change it out with other main dishes so it maintains its special status.

I know the long list of ingredients makes it look scary, but it actually comes together rather well. I’ve even made it two days ahead because it keeps perfectly. And when I bring it to the table, it always gets a few WOWs–feels really nice to hear them.

Although I’ve specified shredded carrots as part of the garnish, sometimes I use sliced persimmons or half slices of oranges. The orange colors set this dish up for an eye-appealing presentation.

Important: Because there are ingredients that require advance preparation, read the recipe thoroughly well in advance of preparing it. That way, you can have the rice cooked and ready, the pistachios roasted and ground, and the frozen peas completely thawed.

PISTACHIO AND SWEET PEA TORTE

WITH ROASTED TOMATO AIOLI

 

Makes about 10 to 12 servings

Torte

1 1/2 cups water

1/2 cup cashews or walnuts

1 tablespoon plus 14 teaspoon white vinegar or rice vinegar

2 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 3/4 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons coarsely ground roasted pistachios

 

2 medium onions, diced

2 medium carrots, diced

1 stalk celery, diced

1 red bell pepper, diced

6 cloves garlic, minced

1 (2-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon poultry seasoning

1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, coarsely ground with a mortar and pestle

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram

1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric

Pinch cayenne

Freshly ground pepper

 

3 cups cooked short-grain brown rice

1 pound frozen peas, thawed

1 medium carrot, shredded, for garnish

3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley, for garnish

Aioli

1 pound Roma tomatoes, cut in half lengthwise

1 cup water

1/2 cup cashews or walnuts

2 cloves garlic

1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground smoked paprika or liquid smoke

TO PREPARE THE PAN, cover the base of a 9-inch springform pan with a piece of parchment paper 2 inches larger. Snap the collar back onto the base, and cut away the excess paper with scissors. Lightly oil the sides of the pan, place it on a baking sheet, and set aside.

TO MAKE THE TORTE, pour 1 cup of the water and the cashews into a blender. Process on high speed until smooth and milky. Transfer to a small bowl, stir in the vinegar and set aside to sour.

Combine the oats, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in a large bowl and mix well. Stir in 1/2 cup of the ground pistachios.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Combine the remaining 1/2 cup of water, onions, carrots, celery, red bell pepper, garlic, ginger, cumin, coriander, poultry seasoning, fennel seeds, oregano, marjoram, turmeric, cayenne, and pepper in a large skillet. Cook and stir over medium-high heat for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the vegetables are softened. Add 1 or more tablespoons of water as needed to prevent burning.

Add the cooked vegetables and the cooked rice to the oat mixture and combine well.

Put the peas in a food processor. Process until creamy, stopping occasionally to scrape down the work bowl. Add the peas and the soured cashew milk to the vegetable mixture and mix well.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared springform pan and spread to the edges, packing the mixture firmly. Smooth the top and sprinkle with the remaining 3 tablespoons of pistachios. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes, or until the torte is firm when gently pressed. Let cool at least 30 minutes before serving.

TO MAKE THE AIOLI, put the tomatoes on a baking sheet, cut side up, and broil about 3 inches from the heat for 15 to 20 minutes, turning twice while broiling, until completely soft.

Meanwhile, put the water, cashews, and garlic in a blender. Process until smooth, stopping occasionally to scrape down the blender jar. Add the broiled tomatoes, lemon juice, salt, and paprika to the cashew mixture. Process until smooth and creamy, stopping occasionally to scrape down the blender jar. Transfer the sauce to a 1-quart saucepan and simmer over medium heat for about 5 minutes.

TO SERVE THE TORTE, place the springform pan on a large serving platter. To unmold, run a knife around the edge to loosen the torte. Carefully lift off the collar. Garnish the edge of the platter with the shredded carrot and minced parsley. Cut the torte into serving-size wedges and serve with aioli on the side.

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Here Comes the Thanksgiving Centerpiece!

THANKSGIVING TORTE

Thanksgiving Torte2_edited-1 copyVegans looking for that exceptional main-dish centerpiece for the Thanksgiving table need look no further!

Standing a full three inches tall and garnished to the max, this elegant and very robust torte is the ideal choice. The torte features all the pleasing qualities one might crave in an autumn dish that will take the place of that greasy Standard Thanksgiving favorite that unfortunately graces American tables across the country.

We vegans prefer a kinder, gentler, and far more earth-friendly main dish for which we can truly give thanks on this special occasion.

This sumptuous, finger-lickin’ torte evolved over a period of several years as I NGcover8 copy 2tweaked it just a tad each year, gave it more sage one year, enhanced it with liquid smoke  another year, and finally developed the Mushroom gravy to give it the finishing touch. The recipe is from my cookbook The Nut Gourmet.

One year my daughter asked how I ever came up with this  dish. After giving it a moment’s thought, I focused on the specific flavors that bring us pleasure during the autumn and long winter season.

This time of year we seek the intense flavor of dried herbs more than the lighter fresh herbs. We need robust ingredients that stick to the ribs like nuts and whole grains–winter foods to bring us warmth and satisfaction.

Thanks Torte 5So I added a generous amount of poultry seasoning, a seasoning blend that contains a fair amount of sage, and turned to wild rice, potatoes, mushrooms, pecans, walnuts, and a package of fat-free vegan sausage.

Because Thanksgiving can be a busy time with extra family and friends coming for dinner, I cook the wild rice two days ahead. Then it’s ready to just toss into the mix. I also make the Mushroom Gravy ahead and simply warm it on the stovetop just before serving time.

I always make this dish the day before Thanksgiving simply because it tastes so much better the next day when the flavors have had a chance to do their dance together. I pack it into a springform pan and tuck it into the oven. After cooling, it goes into the fridge until next day.

About 2 hours before Thanksgiving dinner, I take the torte out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature. Then, I warm it for 20 to 25 minutes before serving. Served with a robust mushroom sauce on the side, it makes an impressive presentation perched on a footed cake plate.

Thanksgiving Torte MichaelTHANKSGIVING TORTE

Yield: 8 to 10 servingsThanks Torte 4

3 1/3 cups water, divided

2/3 cup  wild rice

2 1/8 teaspoons salt, divided

 

3/4 pound red or white rose potatoes, scrubbed, and cut into 1-inch cubes

 

1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecan pieces

1/4 cup coarsely chopped walnut pieces

 

1 (14-ounce) package vegan ground sausage

3/4 pound  portobello mushrooms, chopped (about 4 large mushrooms)

1 large onion, diced

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oilthanksgiving torte copy

2 teaspoons poultry seasoning

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

 

1/2 teaspoon hickory liquid smokeThanks Torte 3

 

2 ripe tomatoes, sliced

Fresh herbs (dill, sage, parsley, basil, or mint)

 

Mushroom Gravy

1/2 pound sliced button mushrooms

1 3/4 cups plus 3 tablespoons water, dividedThanksgiving Torte2_edited-1 copy

1/4 cup soy sauce

1/4 cup dry red wine

2 tablespoons lemon juice

3 tablespoons cornstarch

3 tablespoons water

  1. TO MAKE THE TORTE, lightly oil the sides of a 9-inch springform pan. Remove the collar and line the base with parchment paper (for easier cleanup). Snap the collar back on and set aside.
  2. Combine 2 cups of the water, wild rice, and 3/4 teaspoon of the salt in a 2-quart saucepan. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Decrease the heat  to medium-low and steam for 45 to 50 minutes, or until the rice is tender. Drain any excess liquid and set the rice aside.
  3. Combine the potato cubes, 1 cup of the water, and 1/8 teaspoon of the salt in a 2-quart saucepan. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the potatoes are fork tender. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the potatoes to a medium bowl, mash them, and set them aside.
  4. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Put the pecans and walnuts on a small rimmed baking sheet and roast them for 9 minutes. Transfer the nuts to a dish to cool.
  5. Combine the vegan sausage, mushrooms, onion, the remaining 1/3 cup water, olive oil, poultry seasoning, and pepper in a large, deep skillet. Cook over high for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the onion is transparent, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon to break up the sausage chunks. Drain and reserve any excess liquid. Add the remaining 1 1/4 teaspoons salt and hickory liquid smoke to the sausage mixture and mix well.
  6. Add the mashed potatoes to the skillet along with the toasted nuts and cooked wild rice. Mix well to combine the ingredients thoroughly. Adjust seasonings if needed.
  7. Spoon the mixture into the prepared springform pan, spreading evenly to the edges and pressing firmly to avoid air pockets. Arrange the tomato slices over the top and bake, uncovered, for 1 hour. Allow the torte to stand for 20 minutes before removing from the pan.
  1. TO MAKE THE MUSHROOM GRAVY, combine the mushrooms, 1 3/4 cups of the water, soy sauce, red wine, and lemon juice in a 2-quart saucepan and bring to a boil. Decrease the heat slightly and simmer gently for 5 minutes.
  2. Combine the cornstarch and remaining 3 tablespoons of water in a small bowl and stir with a spoon to make a runny paste. Add the paste to the bubbling sauce, a little at a time, stirring constantly for about 1 minute, until the sauce has thickened to the desired consistency. Serve the gravy on the side.

TO SERVE THE TORTE, run a clean flatware knife around the edge of the springform pan, release the springform collar, and set the torte on a large serving platter or footed cake plate. Garnish the platter with herbs.

Prep Ahead 1: To ease the feast-day preparations, make the torte the day before, store it in the refrigerator, and reheat it at 350 degrees F. for about 20 to 25 minutes just before serving.

Prep Ahead 2: The recipe comes together more quickly if you cook the wild rice before beginning the torte, preferably even a day ahead. Make the Mushroom Gravy up to two days ahead and warm it shortly before serving.

Add a gourmet touch by serving the torte on a footed cake plate and garnish the edges with sprigs of fresh herbs and orange or Fuyu persimmon slices.