Expanding the Thanksgiving Table

Meatless Entrees Make For Thankful Vegetarian Guests

When the Thanksgiving dinner guest list includes those who do not eat turkey, what is the cook—or the thoughtful guest—to do?

Many families feel they should come up with a second main course to offer alongside the traditional holiday bird. Likewise, vegetarian or vegan guests might want to bring a dish they can eat without making extra work for their host. So, in addition to turkey for traditionalists, what entrées can we prepare that are celebratory, seasonal, show-stoppers—but not faux turkey?

Traditionally, Italian families have made both roasted turkey and a main pasta dish for Thanksgiving. A vegetable lasagna will feed a crowd and can be made ahead of time. For a smaller group, prepared butternut ravioli, available fresh or frozen at better grocery stores, can be simply tossed with aromatic browned butter and sautéed fresh sage.

For a vegan offering, small acorn squashes may be filled with a flavorful mixture of caramelized onions, savory beans and dried fruits. Smaller squash are more readily available in early November and keep well in the refrigerator or other cool spots.

When these dishes arrive at the table, everyone will have much to be thankful for—including leftovers.

Judith Fertig is a freelance food writer at www.AlfrescoFoodAndLifestyle.blogspot.com. The accompanying recipes are from her cookbooks.


Thanksgiving Lasagna

This seasonal vegetarian entrée will feed a crowd and taste even better the next day.
Serves 12

9 no-boil lasagna noodles
1 tbsp olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
1 cup coarsely shredded carrot
2 cups baby spinach
2 cups cubed butternut squash
1 (16-ounce) jar marinara sauce
1½ tsp dried oregano, crushed
2 cups cream-style cottage cheese, drained
1 slightly beaten egg
2 cups shredded Monterey jack cheese

1. Oil a 3-quart rectangular baking dish. Set aside.

2. Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet and sauté onion and mushrooms until the mushrooms begin to release their juices, about 5 minutes. Stir in carrots, squash and spinach and cook, stirring, until tender. Stir in marinara sauce and oregano. In a medium-size mixing bowl, stir together the cottage cheese and egg.

3. Layer three noodles in the bottom of the baking dish. Top with a third of the cottage cheese mixture and a third of the Monterey jack. Continue to layer, ending with a third of the Monterey jack sprinkled on top. Preheat the oven to 375° F.

4. Bake, uncovered, for 30 minutes or until bubbling. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.


Butternut Squash Ravioli with Fresh Sage

This vegetarian dish features the vibrant flavors and colors of autumn.
Serves 4

Note: If butternut squash ravioli is not available, pair cheese ravioli with 2 cups of cooked butternut squash cubes and toss with the browned butter and sage.

4 tbsp unsalted butter
12 to 15 fresh sage leaves
1 (14- to 16-ounce) package of fresh or frozen butternut squash ravioli
¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat for about 4 minutes. When butter starts to have a nutty aroma and is light brown, add sage leaves and fry for 1 minute. Remove from heat.

2. Bring a large pot of water to the boil. Add ravioli and cook until they float to the top. Remove ravioli with a slotted spoon and toss gently in browned butter and sage sauce. Transfer to a large serving bowl and sprinkle with cheese.


Acorn Squash Compotes

These stuffed acorn squash will steal the spotlight.
Serves 8

2 cups thinly sliced onion
2 tbsp olive oil
1 (15.5-ounce) can chick peas, drained
3 cups red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and chopped
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup snipped dried apricots
½ cup port, brandy, or dry white or red wine
¼ cup honey
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
Natural salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
8 small acorn squashes, cut in half and seeded
Fresh thyme sprigs for garnish

1. Heat oil in large skillet that won’t stick over medium-high heat. Add onions and sauté until medium brown, about 10 minutes. Stir in chick peas, kidney beans, apples, dried fruits, port and honey, and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat. Season with thyme leaves, salt and pepper. (Cooks have the option to make the filling up to this point ahead of time. Covered and refrigerated, it will keep for up to three days.)

2. Preheat oven to 350° F.

3. Pack squashes with filling, place on baking tray and bake uncovered for 25 minutes. Cover with lids and bake 20 to 30 minutes more, until squashes are tender. Garnish with thyme and serve.

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