Thanksgiving: bringing everyone to the table – vegetarian menu includes recipes: includes tips on using phyllo dough

Thanksgiving: bringing everyone to the table – vegetarian menu includes recipes: includes tips on using phyllo dough – Cover Story

Nancy Ross Ryan

Thanksgiving dinner at our house gets larger, and the company more diverse, every year as children grow up, move away, get married and come home with friends, spouses and children of their own. We’re up to 16 and still counting. We have Republicans, Democrats, even fire-breathing Independents; Catholics, Lutherans, Jews, Buddhists and an agnostic or two. Not surprisingly, when this melting pot sits down to eat, we represent dietary preferences just as varied: die-hard meat eaters, those who will eat fowl and fish but no red meat, many vegetarians and a couple of vegans just for good measure.

Last Thanksgiving our youngest grandson refused a slice of turkey saying, “No thanks. I don’t eat anything with a face.” While I am proud of his stance, it would be easier to cook for our youngest vegetarian if he would eat more things with leaves, stems and seeds. Right now his diet is limited to apples, carrots, peanut butter, French fries and, well,–don’t get me started.

Cooking for this motley crew is great fun, honestly. The traditional side dishes are an easy sell; the real challenge is coming up with a “carvable” vegetable entree, a centerpiece that is eagerly anticipated, even by the omnivores.

This year’s entree is a layered Harvest Vegetable Pie that can be encased in puff pastry as well and has an easy vegan version. The fillings may be made a day in advance and refrigerated, making assembly and cooking on Thanksgiving Day quicker.

The vegetarian Thanksgiving menu chez Ryan follows. The only hors d’oeuvres served are crudites and relishes to whet, not dull, the appetite for the feast that follows, which includes two desserts. The last course is always a platter of choice seasonal fruit, peeled, cut and sliced and a big bowl of nuts in their shells. The grownups sit around the table cracking nuts and jokes. The children race around and wrestle. The cat crouches under the bed waiting for the bedlam to subside. And the dishes just wait–sometimes until morning.

Harvest Vegetable Pie

The success of this layered vegetable pie depends upon making sure all ingredients are as dry as possible, so don’t stint on cooking times. You can make the four filling-ingredients a day ahead and store them in the refrigerator in plastic bags with a clean, folded paper towel tucked in to absorb any excess liquid. fresh spinach has a much better flavor than frozen. One I 2-inch nonstick skillet can be used to prepare all ingredients; simply rinse with hot water and dry in between.

2 28-oz. cans whole tomatoes in tomato juice 1 clove garlic, minced 2 Tbs. tomato paste 3 10-oz. bags washed, ready-to-eat salad spinach or 3 10-oz. packages frozen chopped spinach, thawed 1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg 1 tsp. each salt and freshly ground black pepper. divided 2 lbs. mushrooms, stems included, cleaned 4 cups thinly sliced yellow onions 1 tsp. sugar 1 cup crumbled fete cheese (see glossary p. 126) 4 eggs, beaten 1 cup grated part-skim mozzarella cheese, divided (see glossary. p. 126) 10 sheets phyllo dough (see glossary. p. 126)

In large colander or sieve set over bowl, drain tomatoes. Save juice, covered, refrigerated, for later use. Cut tomatoes in half; place cut side down in colander; drain well. Squeeze seeds out of cut halves. Chop each tomato half into 8 pieces.

Place tomatoes in lightly oiled 12-inch nonstick skillet. Saute over high heat, stirring, until all juices have evaporated, about 5 minutes. Add garlic; cook, stirring, until garlic is soft, about 3 minutes. Add tomato paste; stir gently to combine. Cook until no juice remains, about 5 minutes. Turn tomato mixture onto large plate lined with paper towel to cool.

Cook spinach in batches with I cup water in skillet, covered, over high heat until spinach wilts, about 5 minutes. Remove to colander to drain and cool. Squeeze spinach by handfuls until very dry. (If using frozen, thawed, chopped spinach, skip the cooking step and squeeze until no more moisture can be extracted.)

Chop spinach finely with knife on cutting board. Return to colander to drain. Squeeze a second time. In medium bowl, mix spinach with nutmeg, 1/2 teaspoon salt and teaspoon black pepper. Place on paper towel-lined plate.

Trim woody ends from mushroom stems. In food processor, using shredding blade, shred mushrooms finely in batches. Or mince in batches on cutting board with knife. In lightly oiled skillet over high heat, saute mushrooms, stirring, until all moisture evaporates, up to 20 minutes. Season with remaining teaspoon salt and teaspoon black pepper. Turn onto paper towel-lined plate to cool.

In lightly oiled skillet, saute onions with sugar, stirring, until onions are caramelized but not burned, about 20 minutes. Turn out onto paper towel-lined plate to cool.

At this point, the four filling ingredients may be put into separate self-seal plastic bags, each with a folded paper towel and refrigerated.

To assemble pie: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In medium bowl, mix together fete, eggs and spinach.

Unfold phyllo sheets. Lay flat on length of waxed paper. Cover top completely with clean damp towel. Lightly oil 10-inch springform pan. (Used for cheesecakes, a springform pan is the type with removable sides.)

Remove one sheet of phyllo from top. Cover remaining sheets with damp towel. Working from edges toward center, spray or brush phyllo sheet lightly with olive oil or butter-flavored vegetable oil. Ease sheet into bottom of springform pan. Pat dough against sides; let excess hang out over pan edge. Repeat with second sheet at an angle to first sheet. Repeat with fourth and fifth sheets at angles so all four quarters of pan are covered.

Layer in 4 additional oiled sheets. Oil both sides of another sheet of phyllo; fold in half, ease into bottom of pan.

Add fillings in layers as follows: spinach-feta-eggs mixture; mushrooms, 1/2 cup mozzarella; tomatoes, 1/2 cup mozzarella; onions. Bring phyllo sheets up over top of pie. Spray lightly with oil.

Lightly oil another phyllo sheet. Cut in fourths, cutting along short side of rectangle. Fold each piece in half lengthwise. Roll up loosely jelly roll fashion. Pinch at bottom to make rose and spread side slightly to make petals. Repeat with each piece. Place 4 phyllo roses in center of pie, pinching phyllo top to attach.

Place springform pan on baking sheet to catch any drips. Bake until phyllo is golden brown and filling is completely cooked, about 1 hour.

Remove from oven. Let sit 10 minutes. With small thin spatula, loosen phyllo from pan sides. Unclasp springform; remove sides. Lift pie onto serving plate leaving springform bottom in place. Garnish edges with flat-leaf parsley. Carve with very sharp serrated knife. Makes 8 to 10 wedges.

Variations: Omit eggs and fete in spinach layer and substitute 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella-type soy cheese and 10oz. package Japanese-style firm silken tofu that has been drained and pressed to extract moisture. In the tomato and mushrooms layers, substitute 1/2 cup soy mozzarella for dairy cheese.

Instead of phyllo, try puff pastry. Use 2 sheets (1 package) frozen puff pastry, thawed according to package directions. Roll one sheet out slightly on lightly floured surface. Cut into three equal short lengths. Fit each length into sides of springform pan, allowing top edges to hang out over sides. Seal edges with water. Save scraps.

Roll out second sheet slightly. Cut circle 1/2-inch larger than pan bottom. Save scraps. Ease circle into pan bottom, sealing edges to sides on inner side with water.

Layer fillings as directed. Bring up overhanging puff pastry sides over top. Center will be open. Gather scraps, knead briefly to combine. Roll out into 9-inch circle. Brush edges with water to seal. Place on top of pie. Cut decorative slits with sharp knife. Bake at 400 degrees for 1 hour.

Simple phyllo pie: Lay phyllo sheets as directed on 1 2-inch flat pizza pan. Layer fillings to within 1 inch of edge. Gather end of phyllo together on top of pie and twist. Bake as directed.

PER SERVING: 339 CAL.; 21G PROT.: 13G TOTAL FAT (6G SAT. FAT); 35G CARB.; 139MG CHOL.; 1,032MG SOD.; 7G FIBER. OVO-LACTO/VEGAN

Vegetable-Wild Rice Soup

Make this soup a day or two before Thanksgiving. It’s important to keep the heat adjusted so the soup remains at a lively simmer and ingredients cook in the order added.

4 quarts vegetable stock 3 large garlic cloves, minced cup

sun-dried (not oil-packed)

tomatoes snipped into small

pieces (see glossary. p. 126) 2 large carrots, halved and sliced

inch thick 1 medium parsnip, diced 1 cup celery, thinly sliced 1 cup green beans, trimmed and chopped 2 leeks, white part only, cleaned and thinly sliced 2 cups shredded cabbage 1 cup wild rice (see glossary p. 126) 1 cup brown lentils, washed and picked over 4 new red potatoes, quartered

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste 1 cup frozen green peas Grated Parmessan cheese (optional)

In large stock pot, bring stock to boil. Reduce heat to simmer; add garlic and tomatoes. Stir; bring soup back to steady simmer.

Add ingredients in following order, bringing soup back to steady simmer between each addition: carrots, parsnip, celery, green beans, leeks and cabbage. After adding cabbage, simmer 25 minutes.

Add rice, lentils and potatoes all at once; simmer 35 minutes.

Add salt and black pepper to taste. Add green peas. Cook only until soup returns to simmer. Serve with dish of grated Parmesan for passing at table if desired. Makes 16 servings.

Helpful hint: If liquid seems to be evaporating too fast, cover soup, reducing heat to maintain simmer.

Variations Substitute 1 cup peeled, diced turnips for parsnip.

PER SERVING: 147 CAL.; 7G PROT.; 0.5G TOTAL FAT (0G SAT. Fat ); 30G CARB.; 0 CHOL.: 339MG SOD.; 7G FIBER. LACTO/VEGAN

Mushroom-Walnut Gravy

This “gravy gets its flavor from dried mushrooms and browned flour. But burned flour is bitter, so cook carefully. Brown flour has half the thickening capacity of white flour, so this recipe calls for 8 tablespoons, just enough to thicken the gravy nicely. This can be made a day in advance and refrigerated.

2 cups boiling water 1 cup dried wild mushrooms 8 Tbs. unbleached all-purpose flour 1 medium onion. finely chopped 1 Tbs. vegetable oil 3 cups vegetable stock 1 cup walnuts, toasted and finely chopped 1 tsp. salt tsp. freshly ground black pepper % tsp. dried thyme

In bowl, pour boiling water over mushrooms. Let steep 20 minutes.

In nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, brown flour, stirring constancy, until color is deep amber, about 3 minutes. Be careful not to burn. Scrape flour onto plate to cool.

In skillet, saute onion in oil until translucent, about 3 minutes. Set aside.

Drain mushrooms, reserving liquid. Rinse mushrooms to remove all sand and grit. Chop finely. Strain reserved steeping liquid through paper coffee filter to remove sand.

In 3-quart saucepan, combine flour with a little stock, whisking to combine until smooth. Add remaining stock and mushroom liquid. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly until thickened. Add mushrooms, onion, walnuts, salt, black pepper and thyme. Cook until heated through, about 5 minutes. Makes 5 cups.

Variation: Substitute 8 ounces finely chopped fresh mushrooms, sauted until browned in 1 tablespoon ail, for dried mushrooms. Increase vegetable stock to 1 quart.

PER SERVING: 64 CAL.: 2G PROT.; 4G TOTAL FAT (0 2G SAT. FAT); 5G CARB.: 0 CHOL.; 126MG SOD.; 1G FIBER VEGAN

Baked Candied Sweet Potatoes

Candied sweet potatoes are another traditional Thanksgiving favorite. Here’s do-the-day-before version shot’s lighter in fat and calories and easy to reheat. Because potatoes are baked instead of boiled, flavor is not diluted with water. Besides being tasty, sweet potatoes, large edible roots, are packed with vitamins A and C.

8 sweet potatoes. washed but not peeled 1 tsp. salt 2 Tbs. butter or margarine 3 Tbs. honey or maple syrup 1 tsp. grated orange rind 1/2 tsp. white pepper 1/4 tsp. mace 1/2 tsp. cinnamon 3 Tbs. brown sugar

Pierce potatoes and bake in 400-degree oven until soft, about I hour and 15 minutes. Remove from oven. Let rest on racks until cool enough to handle.

Cut in half. Scrape out potato flesh into large bowl Puree in batches in food processor or put through food mill. Pour puree into bowl. Add salt, butter or margarine, honey or maple syrup, orange rind, white pepper and mace. Beat with electric mixer.

Transfer to lightly oiled oven proof casserole. Cover top with plastic wrap lightly sprayed with vegetable oil on one side, oiled side down. Refrigerate until ready for cooking.

To heat: Remove from refrigerator and bring to room temperature, about 2 hours. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove plastic wrap from casserole. Mix cinnamon and brown sugar together with fork, breaking up lumps. Put in sieve; shake mixture over top of casserole. Bake until hot, about 30 minutes. Makes 8 servings.

PER SERVING: 187 CAL.; 2G PROT.; 3G TOTAL FAT (2G SAT. FAT); 39G CARB.; 8MG CHOL.; 335MG SOD.; 3G FIBER. LACTO/VEGAN (HONEY)

Broccoli Bake

Everyone loves the taste of traditional broccoli-cheese casserole topped with tons of buttered crumbs. Here’s a flavorful, less fat-laden version, with vegan alternatives Besides containing vitamins A and C, this member of the cruciferous family provides riboflavin, calcium and iron.

6 cups loosely packed broccoli florets 1 tsp. salt Water to cover 3/4 CUp low-fat milk or rice milk 2 Tbs. cornstarch 1 Tbs. Dijon mustard (see glossary,p. 126) 1/2 tsp. each salt and freshly ground

black pepper 1 cup grated cheddar or cheddar-style soy cheese

cup soft bread crumbs 1 Tbs. olive oil 1 Tbs. grated Parmesan or Parmesan-style soy cheese

Preheat OVEN to 350 degrees.

Place broccoli and salt in covered saucepan with water just to cover. Bring to rolling boil over high heat. As soon as broccoli boils, remove from pan and drain in colander, reserving cooking liquid.

Plunge broccoli into ice water to stop cooking. Drain and set aside.

In saucepan place 3/4 cup broccoli cooking water; add milk or rice milk. Dissolve cornstarch in a little of the liquid. Add to pan with mustard, salt and pepper. Bring to boil, stirring constantly. Cook 3 minutes. Add cheese or soy cheese; stir to melt.

In bowl combine reserved broccoli with cheese sauce. Place in a lightly oiled ovenproof casserole.

In skillet, saute bread crumbs with oil, stirring, until golden, about 3 minutes. In bowl, toss bread crumbs-with Parmesan or Parmesan-style soy cheese to mix. Sprinkle over top of broccoli casserole. Bake until brown and bubbling, about 40 minutes. Makes 8 servings.

Helpful hint: Homemade bread crumbs or bread crumbs purchased from the bakery have the best flavor and texture. Purchasing a 16-ounce bag of prepared ready-to-eat broccoli florets saves preparation time. One bag yields 6 cups florets.

PER 1-cup SERVING 140 CAL.; 7G PROT.; 8G TOTAL FAT (4G SAT. FAT); 12G CARB.; 17MG CHOL.; 637MG SOD.; 2G fiber LACTO/VEGAN

Mashed Garlic Potatoes Champ

Champ is an old-fashioned lash dish of scallions and mashed potatoes. Here it is unlivened with garlic and olive oil. Mashed potatoes, alas, should not be made a day ahead; however, they can be kept warm in a hot-water bath for an hour.

3 lbs. russet potatoes, peeled and

quartered 3 garlic cloves, peeled, ends

trimmed 1 1/2 tsp. salt, divided 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil 1 tsp. salt 1/2 tsp. white pepper 3 bunches scallions. cleaned,

trimmed and chopped into 1/2-inch pieces

Place potatoes: garlic cloves and 1 teaspoon salt in covered saucepan with water just to cover. Bring to boil. Reduce heat; cook until potatoes are fork tender, about 20 minutes. Drain into colander, reserving cooking water.

While potatoes are cooking, cook scallions in small covered saucepan in boiling water with remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt until tender, about 5 minutes. Drain; shock in ice water to stop cooking. Drain.

In mixer bowl, mash potatoes with potato masher using fork tines to mash garlic if necessary. Beat with electric mixer, adding oil and reserved potato cooking water as needed for creamy consistency. Add salt and white pepper. Stir in scallions.

Cover bowl. Set in skillet with 2 inches simmering water to hold for serving, up to 1 hour.

Serve with butter or a small pitcher of extra-virgin olive oil if desired. Makes 8 servings.

PER 1 CUP SERVING 212 CAL.; 3G PROT.; 7G TOTAL FAT (1G SAT. FAT); 35G CARB.; 0 CHOL.; 735MG SOD.; 3G FIBER. VEGAN

Cranberry-Orange-Pecan Relish

Everyone has their favorite version of this fresh cranberry relish. This one features pecans, which can be omitted.

1 lb. fresh cranberries, stemmed.

washed and drained 2 thin-skinned oranges. washed,

quartered and seeded 1 1/2 cups sugar 1 cup finely chopped pecans

In food processor or blender, coarsely chop cranberries in two batches; transfer to glass or stainless-steel howl.

In food processor or blender, coarsely chop oranges. Ada orange pulp, peel and juice to cranberries. Add sugar, stir to mix. Add pecans; stir. Refrigerate, tightly covered, up to 4 days. Makes 8 servings.

PER 1/4-CUP SERVING 278 CAL.; 2G PROT.; 9G TOTAL FAT (1G SAT.FAT); 51G CARB.; 0 CHOL.; 1MG SOD.; 4G FIBER. VEGAN

Fresh Pumpkin Pie

After tasting my first fresh pumpkin pie, it was hard to imagine going back to using canned pumpkin for my pies. For cooking, buy small, sugar pie pumpkins.

1 3/4 cups fresh pumpkin puree

(recipe follows) 3/4 cup sugar 1 1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice 1/2 tsp. salt 1 1/2 cups evaporated skimmed milk 3 eggs, beaten Unbaked 9-inch deep-dish

pie crust (For a low-fat, whole wheat

crust made without white sugar or

shortening, see the February issue, page 28.)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In large bowl combine all ingredients except pie shell, stirring to mix well. Pour mixture into pie shell.

Place in oven for 10 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350 degrees. Bake until knife inserted in center comes out clean, about 40 to 50 minutes. Makes 4 cups filling or one 9-inch, deep-dish pie of 8 to 10 slices.

Helpful hint: To measure the capacity of pie plates, fill measuring Cup with water and pour water into pie plate to the rim. Count the Cups to determine the capacity.

PER SLICE 268 CAL; 8G PROT.; 10G TOTAL FAT (3G SAT FAT); 38G CARB.; 81 MG CHOL; 347MG SOD.;0.5G FIBER. OVO-LACTO

Fresh Pumpkin Puree

Once you taste the difference fresh pumpkin makes, you’ll never go back to canned.

1 small sugar pie pumpkin, 7 to 8

lbs. seeded, cut into quarters Bake, cut sides down, in baking pan in 375-degree oven until tender, about 1 1/2 hours.

Remove from oven. Cool; scrape out pulp into bowl. Mash with potato masher then puree in batches in food processor until smooth Makes 4 to 5 cups puree.

Helpful Hint: Freeze unused puree in self-sealing freezer bags for later use.

PER CUP 49 CAL.; 2G PROT.; 0 TOTAL FAT (0 SAT. FAT); 12G CARB.; 0 CHOL.; 2MG SOD.; 2G FIBER. VEGAN

Tofu-Pumpkin Pie

This version of the Thanksgiving classic is egg- and dairy-free, but every bit as delicious as the original. This recipe is adapted and reprinted with permission from Vegetarian Times Complete Cookbook by the Editors of Vegetarian Times and Lucy Moll (Macmillan, 1995).

1 lb. Japanese-style firm silken tofu

(about 1 1/2 10 1/2-oz. packages).

drained 16-oz. can pumpkin puree or 13

cups fresh puree 1 tsp. ground cinnamon 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg 1/2 tsp. salt 1 tsp. vanilla extract 3/4 cup light brown sugar 1 tsp. ground cloves 3/4 cup vegetable oil 5 Tbs. coarsely chopped candied

ginger, divided, or 1 tsp.

ground ginger Unbaked 9-inch deep-dish pie crust

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine all filling ingredients except pie shell and candied ginger in food processor or blender. Process until smooth, about 3 minutes. Add 3 tablespoons candied ginger; process 30 seconds. Pour filling into crust; bake 1 hour. Let cool. Place remaining candied ginger in processor or blender; process until coarsely ground. Sprinkle over pie. Makes 8 to 1 0 slices.

PER SLICE 293 CAL.; 6G PROT.; 16G TOTAL FAT (3G SAT. FAT); 33G CARB.; 0 CHOL.; 432MG SOD.; 2G FIBER. VEGAN

RELATED ARTICLE: Phyllo Without Fear

Following are tips for success in handling phyllo, the tissue-thin sheets of pastry dough traditional in Greek cookery. Phyllo is available frozen in supermarkets.

* Let phyllo thaw in refrigerator in its package.

* Do not open until all recipe ingredients are cooked. cooled and assembled.

* Open protective inner wrap; discard.

* Unfold stacked phyllo sheets and lay on length of waxed paper.

* Cover with clean. damp dish towel that has been soaked then wrung almost dry.

* Remove phyllo sheets one at a time, re-covering remaining sheets with towel immediately. Make sure all edges are covered.

* Spray or brush phyllo with oil starting from outside edges and working in.

* Always spray top or last piece of phyllo with oil before baking.

* Don’t fret if you bungle a phyllo sheet or two; packages contain up to 20 sheets.

Nancy Ross Ryan, a chicago-bused food writer, cookbook author and frequent Vegetarian Times contributor, is thankful she has a big family to cook for–and a dishwasher.

COPYRIGHT 1996 Vegetarian Times, Inc. All rights reserved.

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