My best friend comes from a family who thinks her eating habits (she's vegetarian and studying nutrition) are bizarre and, frankly, not to be trusted. She has to deal with comments like, "So you won't eat chicken broth? You're really going to be that strict?" all the time, and it makes me sad. She's been such a major influence on my own decisions about food that I hate to see her go through that, and it makes me really grateful to have a family that is so understanding (and who love her like she's their own, too). Her husband is vegetarian also, and his family struggles with it as well, so the three of us invented Canadian Vegetarian Thanksgiving last year, and this year we went vegan.
Canadian Thanksgiving takes place on the second Monday in October, making it the first holiday on my fall calendar. Each year, we've gotten together to plan our menu in advance, then prepared the meal in their tiny kitchen with only minimal bumping in to each other. This year was a great success, and we even timed it well enough to have all the food out at one time.
Canadian Vegan Thanksgiving Menu
Sauteed yellow squash and zucchini
Spicy butternut squash soup
"Grit-Style Tofu" from The Grit Restaurant Cookbook
This is a great way to quickly prepare savory, filling tofu, so here's a non-copyright-violating version - heat a little bit of oil in a large pan (not huge, but larger than you need for the amount of tofu you're using). Saute chunks of extra-firm tofu until golden brown, turning often. Sprinkle lightly with soy sauce (I tried tamari once, but it is very strong and I wouldn't suggest it for this recipe), then saute some more. Remove from pan, drain excess liquid, wipe out pan, and start process again. Make sure the oil is very hot before you add the tofu, then saute a second time until well browned, turning often. Sprinkle with a little more soy sauce, to taste, then begin to sprinkle nutritional yeast, turning the tofu, until it's as coated as you want it. Serve hot.
Incidentally, the tofu goes really well with gravy - though, in all fairness, there's very little that doesn't. There are hundreds of great vegan gravy recipes out there, from soy-sauce-based brown gravies to flour-based white gravies. Both are good, but I'm more of a white gravy person. I like to start by toasting flour in a dry pan and working my way by taste from there. Mushroom broth is a great addition, though it's hard to make enough of it from your standard package of dried wild mushrooms. I'm sure canned veggie broth would work well, but I love the mushroom flavor. Black pepper works well with mushrooms, and a standard Thanksgiving herb combo like rosemary-sage-thyme is classic. Nutritional yeast will add richness, as will plain soy milk (even 'original' flavored ones taste too much like vanilla for me, so keep an eye out for plain).
The stuffed mushrooms were a major success, and you can find the recipe for them in my Aug. 29th blog. I made them again for real Thanksgiving, as well as citrus collard greens with golden raisins and roasted Sweet Potatoes Anna, a variation on Pommes Anna, in the French tradition - though, without the traditional copper pan and fancy heavy lid to flip the potatoes, mine never made it into the solid cake form that is the goal. Click on the link above for a recipe that doesn't require the crazy pan - it's not vegan but, you know, just substitute Earth Balance or some other vegan margarine. The ingredients are incredibly simple, but the magic is in the technique.
One thing I really love about French cuisine is how much effort they'll put into a single dish - the best type of potato with the correct amount of firmness, the appropriate type of butter - you have to respect a culture so passionate about food that someone invented a kind of pan solely for Pommes Anna - one that can be flipped repeatedly in the oven to help the potato slices form a solid cake. While I have been known to tirade against appliances that can only be used for one thing (Electric jar opener? Really?), when it comes to the Pommes Anna pan, I'm amazed at the pure devotion of it. A more accessible example is the crepe pan, which has shallow sides which make it easier to flip and remove a crepe without tearing it. One excellent excuse for buying a crepe pan is the versatility of crepes themselves - but more on that later.
Next up, Mexican Chocolate Cupcakes...my first foray into desserts. Wish me luck.