CELEBRATE A WHITE CHRISTMAS AT THE TABLE

WHITE CHRISTMAS TRIO WITH SAVORY WALNUT SAUCE

A beautiful main dish, this trio features a tasty grain as the base, topped with a hearty serving of vegetables. The final topping is a snowy white, ultra creamy walnut sauce garnished with fresh pomegranate seeds and a sprinkle of parsley.

While it looks complicated, it’s really quite manageable with good planning. The bulgur, vegetables, and the sauce can each be made a day ahead and stored in a container that can be gently warmed in the oven. You don’t even have to warm the sauce–just enjoy it at room temperature and it will be delightfully creamy and delicious.

This is a fun dish to serve because it lends itself to inventively creative presentations. Assembling the dish will tap into your innovative notions and allow you go be as expressive as your inner artist allows. If you prefer simplicity, that’s totally OK and your family will still enjoy a luscious and healthy whole grain dish complete with vegetables and a unique, walnut-based sauce that’s white as snow to top off the White Christmas Trio.

To fill out the meal, I would also add legumes, a side vegetable, and a gorgeous salad. Of course, a delicious appetizer makes a great start to the festivities. Perhaps the Yin Yang Thanksgiving Paté. A lighter choice might be the Smoky Garlic Stuffed Endive. I’ve posted some fun choices for your holiday dessert and will let you explore the many recipes by clicking on Desserts.

WHITE CHRISTMAS TRIO WITH SAVORY WALNUT SAUCE

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

Bulgur Wheat

1 1/2 cups coarse bulgur wheat or Basmati brown rice

3 cups water

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1/3 cup raisins

Walnut Sauce

3 cups walnuts

3 cups vanilla soymilk

1 to 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast

1 teaspoon salt, or to taste

1/2 teaspoon organic sugar

1/4 teaspoon pepper

Pinch cayenne (optional)

Vegetables

2 large carrots, coarsely grated

2 large zucchini squashes, coarsely grated

1 large yellow summer squash, coarsely grated

1 medium onion, chopped

2 tablespoons water

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced, crosswise

1/2 teaspoon oregano

1/2 teaspoon basil

1/2 teaspoon marjoram

1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt or to taste

Freshly ground black pepper

Juice of 1/2 lemon

Garnish

1/2 to 3/4 cup pomegranate seeds

2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley

TO MAKE THE BULGUR WHEAT, combine the bulgur, water, and salt in a 2-quart saucepan. Cover, and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low, and steam for 12 to 15 minutes (steam Basmati brown rice 35 to 45 minutes, or until tender).

Put the raisins in a small bowl and cover with hot water. Set aside to plump them while preparing the remaining ingredients.

TO MAKE THE WALNUT SAUCE, put the walnuts, soymilk, nutritional yeast, salt, pepper, and sugar in a blender. Process until smooth and creamy. Adjust seasonings as needed. The sauce will thicken when standing. Set aside in a saucepan and warm gently before serving.

TO MAKE THE VEGETABLES, combine the carrots, zucchini, yellow squash, onions, water, olive oil, garlic, oregano, basil, marjoram, salt and pepper in a large deep skillet. Cook and stir over medium-high heat until the vegetables are soft, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add 1 or more tablespoons of water as needed to prevent burning the vegetables. Adjust seasonings and add lemon juice to taste.

Drain the water from the reserved raisins and add them to the vegetables and toss well.

TO ASSEMBLE THE DISH:

  • Mound the bulgur wheat onto a large serving platter.
  • Spoon some of the walnut sauce over the bulgur, leaving a 1-inch border of the bulgur showing.
  • Form a ring of the cooked vegetables, leaving a 1-inch border of bulgur wheat around the edges.
  • Finish with a sprinkle of pomegranate seeds and parsley over the top.
  • Serve the remainder of the walnut sauce on the side.

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I BROUGHT A GHOST TO THE HOLIDAY TABLE!

GHOST PUMPKIN RAGOUT

White pumpkin 2My idyllic vision was to make a dramatic presentation of a tasty, savory stew served inside a plump white pumpkin. I could even picture the dramatic moment I would lift the lid of the pumpkin, stand back, and let my dinner guests watch in amazement as the giant plume of steam rose up from the steaming stew.

After several experiments, I found it impossible to prevent the pumpkin from totally collapsing or half the stew from oozing out the bottom of the cooked pumpkin. Neither was a pretty site. I was glad I hadn’t experimented on guests.

It would have been a beautiful holiday dish and a magnificent presentation–would have–but—–

I tried the experiment about three times and just gave up in frustration! Yet, somehow I hoped to bring a rich, flavorful stew to the table that included scooping up some of that delicious, delicately sweet pumpkin flesh as I was spooning out the stew.

White Pumpkin RagoutMy instincts led me to cook and serve them separately and allow the two to meet up in the soup bowl. That worked like a charm! Here’s a little detail about ghost pumpkins:

Ghost pumpkins, also called albino, Snowball, Casper, Lumina, Baby Boo, Cotton Candy Pumpkin, stand apart from the familiar orange jack-o-lanterns in many ways. Their flesh is considerably thicker and shows off a gorgeous hue of brilliant golden orange. The texture is pleasantly firm and delightfully moist.

White pumpkin 1The white pumpkin’s best-kept secret is its pleasantly sweet flavor, though not as sweet as butternut or kabocha, the Japanese pumpkin. White pumpkins are still less common than the jack-o-lanterns but are becoming more available at chain groceries and farm stands.

A perfect marriage, the white pumpkin is the ideal mate to enhance this celebratory ragout that needs little else to bring pleasure and satiety to a holiday meal.

To give this flavorful ragout its moment in the sun, I served it in a wide, shallow soup bowl and heaped the serving into the center. Serve the stew with plenty of hearty whole-grain bread to mop up any bits of delicious sauce that remains in the bowl.

 GHOST PUMPKIN RAGOUT

 Yield: 12 to 14 hearty servings

1 medium or large ghost pumpkin or 2 large butternut squashes

5 cups waterWhite Pumpkin Ragout

2 cups dry red wine

2 (6-ounce) cans tomato paste

1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce

4 cloves garlic, crushed

2 sticks cinnamon

2 teaspoons dried thyme

2 bay leaves

3 medium carrots, angle sliced

2 to 3 medium leeks, white part only, cleaned and thickly sliced

2 medium yams, cut into bite-size pieceswhite-pumpkins

1 pound baby white rose potatoes, scrubbed

1 large sweet onion, coarsely chopped

1/2 small cauliflower, chopped

2 small beets, diced

1/2 pound green beans, trimmed, cut into 1 1/2-inch lengths

1/2 pound button or cremini mushrooms, thickly sliced

1 cup red lentilsWhite pumpkin 2

Juice of 1 lemon, or to taste

1/4 cup natural sesame seeds

1 pound frozen peas, thawed and held at room temperature

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Wash the pumpkin and dry it. Using a firm paring knife, cut a 5 or 6-inch diameter hole in the top and gently lift it out by the stem. Use a large spoon to remove the seeds and stringy matter from the pumpkin. Set the seeds aside to roast separately. Place the pumpkin on a large rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until soft when gently pressed, yet still firm.
  2. When the pumpkin is cool enough to handle, cut it into 2-inch chunks, peeling the skin as you go. Set the chunks aside.
  3. While the pumpkin is roasting, combine the water, red wine, tomato paste, soy sauce, garlic, cinnamon sticks, thyme, and bay leaves in a 12-quart stockpot.
  4. Add the carrots, leeks, yams, potatoes, onion, cauliflower, beets, green beans, mushrooms, and red lentils. Cover the stockpot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer gently for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the vegetables are just softened.
  5. Before serving, add the lemon juice to taste and adjust seasonings, if needed.
  6. To serve, spoon some of the pumpkin pieces into wide soup bowls. Spoon the ragout over the pumpkin and sprinkle the top with sesame seeds. The finishing touch is a generous sprinkling of plump peas over the top.

Note:

Butternut squashes make the perfect stand-in if ghost pumpkin is unavailable. Bake them at 400 degrees F. til tender, about 50 to 60 minutes.

Don’t throw those pumpkin seeds away!

roasted-pumpkin-seedsRoasted Pumpkin Seeds

Clean the stringy flesh clinging to the seeds by rinsing them in a bowl of water. Put the seeds on a large rimmed baking sheet and sprinkle with 1 or 2 teaspoons of canola oil. Use your hands to mix the seeds and coat them with the oil. Sprinkle the tops lightly with salt and pepper and toss with a spatula. Put the pan in the oven and roast at 200 degrees for 8 to 10 hours. I let the seeds roast overnight.

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.