Oh No, Say it Ain’t So… A Vegan is Coming to Dinner!

WHY are people afraid of different?

The ‘V-word’ strikes fear in the hearts of many when faced with the prospect of cooking for a dinner guest who eats no animal products whatsoever, especially at holiday time.  What the heck do you feed a vegan or vegetarian  for Thanksgiving?

Well, first off, do NOT go out and buy a Tofurkey unless it’s requested.  Sure, some people NEED to have something to carve at their Holiday Table, but let’s face facts.  It’s still a processed food product that will TASTE LIKE it came out of a box.

Toasting the quinoa before adding liquid helps keep it from getting mushy.

Veg*ns (the * stands for whatever is inbetween the -g and the -n, so this would be universally understood to be either vegetarian OR vegan.  Google vegan vs vegetarian to find PAGES of explanations of what one will or won’t eat.) WANT GOOD TASTING FOOD just like the rest of us! Typically, veg*ns eat way more than just a salad.  They need protein, and carbs, and veggies, fruits and fats.

Love this citrus squeezer. You must add it to your list for Santa.


So why must these fall and winter holidays leave the PETA-philes with a plateful of side dishes?   Seriously.  What could be less satisfying?  (Not that I haven’t been known to eat only mashed potatoes, stuffing, rolls and gravy…. but that was more ‘OMG I can’t eat this stuff until NEXT November?” and less politically or ‘dietarily’ motivated.)

I don’t get it now and I didn’t get it back when I was abstaining from pleasures of the carne variety either. [Relax.  Carne is meat in Spanish.]  When I ‘went veg’, I made sure that I always provided a main dish for myself at any large gathering.  It was no one else’s problem that I had my self-imposed dietary restrictions.   I would always make something REAL.

The shape of butternut squash makes it perfect for dicing or slicing.

I rarely made wacky hippie-treehugger-healthfood.  Anything I made had ingredients that people could pronounce and even pick out of a dish if they so desired.  And not only did I make enough for myself, I made enough for a crowd, because if food is GOOD, it doesn’t matter that meat isn’t a main ingredient.  People will try it and like it, at least most of the time.

You can’t expect everyone to try, because if they’re like my father, they believe that meat equals health and even coming down with the common cold is probably due to not eating enough steak.  Apparently it has nothing to do with coming in close contact with several hundred people (AND their money…) at farmers markets each week during ‘flu season’.  Who knew?  Must.  Alert.  JAMA.

Butternut Squash roasting in Honey-Ancho Chile Glaze

About a month ago, I posted a recipe for a Honey-Chile Glaze for Roasted Root Vegetables.  I used that to roast some butternut squash.  Butternut squash is quite lovely – the long ‘neck’ is solid and easily peeled with a vegetable peeler (like my favorite Kuhn Rikon Y-shaped peeler that you’ve seen before) and the bottom is filled with the seeds.  Once the seeds are scraped out, the bottom is a nice bowl for baking full of fall goodies.  The rest can be cubed or sliced as you like.

Pan-roasted Lemony Chick Peas with Garlic are a great way to add protein to vegetarian dishes.

If you want to make ‘roasted squash cubes’ or use it in a soup in which it will remain in bits, you would want to use butternut.  It’s the easiest to cut and peel.  Dad likes to cut it into ‘coins’ and dip in egg and breadcrumbs, then fry  until golden and cooked through.

I’ve also sliced it lengthwise into thin planks (not easy, but worth it), then fried as above.  Layer these on a crusty ciabatta along with some roasted red peppers, fresh mozzarella, fresh basil leaves and balsamic vinaigrette for a to-die-for sandwich.

With leftover squash already prepared, this dish can be ready in 30 minutes!

The next night (of course, because I had my inspiration of freshly picked cilantro and shallots!), I cooked up some lemony quinoa with shallots.  I added the squash and cilantro. But what else?  It wasn’t substantial enough…  So I pan-fried some canned chickpeas with garlic and lemon zest.  Put it all together and drizzle with the reserved glaze and OHMYGOD was it heavenly.

It’s colorful, flavorful, AND nutritious – perfect for the vegetarians and carnivores alike.  So I’m dedicating this particular dish to some friends who happen to eat veg.  Kevin, Lauren and Dana, this one’s for you….. You did pick up the ingredients the other day, right, Big Daddy???  You were warned.

***In order to make the glaze vegan, you would have to sub agave nectar for the honey (because of the BEES!).  It won’t be exactly the same, but it’ll still be delicious.  So delicious that on Thanksgiving,  you’ll be walking around holding your belly and smiling, just like all the turkey-eaters!

Honey-Chile Squash with Lemony Chickpeas and Quinoa

Honey-Chile Squash with Lemony Chickpeas and Quinoa

For Quinoa:
2 Shallots, sliced thinly
1 cup Quinoa (white or red)
1 3/4 cup water or vegetable broth
1/4 cup Lemon Juice
salt, pepper & olive oil
1 1/2 – 2 cups Honey-Ancho Butternut Squash, cooked

Fresh Cilantro, chopped, to taste
Honey-Ancho Chile Glaze,  1/4 – 1/2 cup
Pan-Roasted Lemony Chickpeas with Garlic (below)

Heat a 2-quart saucepan and add olive oil to coat bottom.  Saute shallots until golden brown and soft, then add quinoa.  Stir and toast for 2-3 minutes, then add water or broth and lemon juice.  Taste for seasoning — if the liquid isn’t flavorful, the finished product will be lackluster.  Cover the saucepan and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and let cook for about 12 minutes or until liquid has been absorbed.  Stir in cubed squash, then turn off heat and let quinoa sit for 5 minutes to steam. 

Toss quinoa  gently with a fork or spatula and stir in cilantro.  Spoon onto serving platter and drizzle with additional Honey-Ancho Glaze.  Top with a big pile of Pan-Roasted Chickpeas and garnish with additional cilantro.

Pan-Roasted Lemony Chickpeas with Garlic

1 small can Chickpeas, drained and rinsed
olive oil, about 2 teaspoons
1 small clove Garlic, minced
Zest of 1 Lemon (use juice in quinoa, above!)
salt, pepper, hot pepper flakes as desired

Heat small saute pan over med heat and add oil.  Toss in chickpeas, garlic, s & p and hot pepper flakes if using.  Saute chickpeas until golden brown, stirring a few times, about 10-12 minutes.  Stir in lemon zest.

One thought on “Oh No, Say it Ain’t So… A Vegan is Coming to Dinner!

  1. Mmmm, it all sounds delicious, Kasha. It’s wonderful to see you painlessly introduce foods that many have never heard of and would have no idea how to handle.

    However, I’m sorry to bring it up, but the vast majority of people consider quinoa (and kasha and Kashi, for that matter) to be “wacky hippie treehugger-healthfood”. It’s all perspective. Keep up the culinary teaching!

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