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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STUFFED EGGPLANT IN GRAND HOLIDAY STYLE

PECAN CRUSTED STUFFED EGGPLANT

An elegant dish for the festive occasion, these stuffed eggplants not only make an attractive presentation but they also bring delicious pleasure to the lucky guests who have come for holiday dinner. If the guests are eggplant lovers–even better!

To save time during the busy holiday season, you can make this dish a day ahead and cover it in plastic wrap before baking. Then, next day bring the eggplants to room temperature and bake them shortly before serving.

To determine which size eggplants to buy, it helps to be a little familiar with your guests appetites. Very hearty eaters will be able to handle one-half of the large 1-pound eggplant. Once it’s stuffed, it’s pretty impressive in size.

Those with more average appetites will be very satisfied with one-half of a 1/2-pound eggplant. Keep in mind that the mushrooms, carrots, and the brown rice mixed with the eggplant make even this size a robust serving.

I’ve chosen pecans for the crusty topping because of their natural sweetness, but chopped cashews or walnuts would also make excellent choices to give the topping a pleasing crunch.

PECAN CRUSTED STUFFED EGGPLANT

 Yield: 8 average servings or 4 very hearty servings

Eggplant Stuffing

4 small eggplants, about 1/2 pound each for average servings or 2 large eggplants (1 pound each), for very hearty eater

1/2 pound fresh button, mushrooms halved and thinly sliced

7 garlic cloves, minced

2 medium carrots, diced

1/2 cup water

1 1/2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon soy sauce

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cider vinegar

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

1 cup cooked short grain brown rice

3/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon onion powder

Freshly ground black pepper

1 or 2 pinches cayenne

Topping

3/4 cup pecans, coarsely ground in a nut mill

1 tablespoon white miso

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

Have ready a large, rimmed baking sheet. Cut the eggplants in half lengthwise. Using a serrated grapefruit knife or paring knife scoop out the eggplant flesh, chop it into bite-size pieces, and set it aside in a medium bowl.

Brush the shells inside and out lightly with oil, put the shells on the baking sheet, and put them under the broiler for 3 to 5 minutes, until the flesh is soft and golden brown. Remove and cool.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Transfer the chopped eggplant flesh to a large skillet. Add the mushrooms, garlic, carrots, water, and oil and cook and stir over high heat for about 3 to 4 minutes.

Add the soy sauce, vinegar, and lemon juice and cook another 1 or 2 minutes. Add the rice, salt, garlic powder, onion powder, pepper, and cayenne. Adjust seasoning if needed. Mix well and stuff the mixture into the eggplant shells, filling them to the rim. Store extra stuffing in the refrigerator and see note for leftover suggestion.

Put the topping ingredients in a small bowl and use the fingers to mix it well. Spoon the topping over the eggplant and press gently to secure it. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes and serve.

Note: Extra eggplant stuffing is delicious as an appetizer spread that can be spooned onto toasted pita wedges or crackers. These handy leftovers bring a delicious appetizer to the table quickly.