Satisfying the special diets

Cylinders of delicata squash hold rice, lentils, and nuts.
Cylinders of delicata squash hold rice, lentils, and nuts.
Posted: November 15, 2012

Thanksgiving conjures up a centerpiece of a perfectly browned turkey on a platter with a multitude of side dishes. But if your family is like many, there will be folks around your table who forgo meat or gluten or animal products of all sorts. Luckily, there is a bounty of local vegetables, herbs, grains, nuts, and seeds to be thankful for.

Indeed, the staples of several American Indian tribes - North America's original locavores - can inform our Thanksgiving repertoire. Wild rice, greens, cranberries and dried fruits, pecans and squash can be combined in modern ways and celebrate this historical legacy.

To satisfy divergent diets, protein, in the form of cheese or nuts or a combination of grain and legumes, will be appreciated.

Along with bubbling casseroles and overflowing serving bowls, consider making a dish or two that comes in discrete portions.

Roasted cylinders of sweet delicata squash elegantly hold single servings of savory seasoned grains, lentils, and toasted pecans. Throw in some dried cranberries or pumpkin seeds. Use a combination of wild and brown rice as the grain, and this dish is not only vegetarian, but vegan, gluten-free. It is equally at home alongside a slice of turkey as it is standing in for a stuffed bird.

Packaged phyllo is perfect for creating an appealing single-serving vegetarian or vegan dish. These sheets of dough can be layered, brushed with melted butter or seasoned oil, and filled with cheddar and chard, or garlicky mushrooms and walnuts, or savory spiced pumpkin.

The filled sheets can then be rolled into small burrito-shaped logs. Phyllo dishes can be made ahead and frozen, or baked ahead and re-warmed. Depending on the size and shape you choose, these savory bundles fit in as a main course or in smaller portions for starters.

The dessert course is also an opportunity to stylishly serve guests who may not eat dairy, eggs, or common flours. Poached or roasted pears, perfectly peeled clementines in Grand Marnier simple syrup, or seasonal mixed fruit salad can be eaten by everyone, and will complement the assortment of pies and cakes.

You can please vegan guests and surprise everyone else by serving a moist ginger orange cake that has neither eggs nor dairy, and is delicate and flavorful nonetheless. Or opt for a flourless almond cake for those avoiding wheat. Combine either cake with roasted pears and jewellike pomegranate seeds and this combo could become a new tradition alongside the pumpkin pie and whipped cream.

Family gatherings aren't easy, but a festive menu that offers something for everyone can be a piece of cake.


Vegan Orange Ginger Cake With Spice Roasted Pears and Pomegranate

Makes 6 to 10 servings

Zest from 3 medium juice   oranges

1 cup fresh-squeezed orange juice (juice of 3 medium oranges)

1 tablespoon apple cider  vinegar

1 tablespoon Grand Marnier

1/3 cup vegetable oil

11/2 cups unbleached white flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup granulated sugar

3 tablespoons chopped moist candied ginger

Large pinch salt

Spice Roasted Pears   (optional, see accompanying recipe)

Pomegranate seeds  (garnish, optional)

Orange slices (garnish, optional)

Grand Marnier glaze (optional, see note)

1. Prepare your pans by brushing or spraying lightly with oil and lightly dusting with flour. Shake off excess flour. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Whisk together the orange zest, juice, vinegar, Grand Marnier, and oil. In a separate bowl mix together the flour, baking soda, sugar, ginger, and salt. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix well.

3. Pour into prepared cake pans and bake, 30-35 minutes for whole cake, 20-25 minutes for cupcakes, 25-30 minutes for individual bundt pans.

4. Serve with a few slices of Spice Roasted Pears and a sprinkle of pomegranate seeds.

- Adapted from "Joy of Cooking"

Note: To make Grand Marnier glaze, mix 2 teaspoons Grand Marnier and 1/4 cup of sugar. Brush on warm cake. (This cake fills one 9-by-9-inch square pan, or makes 10-12 small cupcakes or 6 medium individual bundt cakes.)  

Per serving (for cake only; based on 10): 228 calories, 2 grams protein, 37 grams carbohydrates, 23 grams sugar, 8 grams fat, no cholesterol, 149 milligrams sodium, 1 gram dietary fiber.


Vegan, Gluten-Free Spice Roasted Pears

Makes 4 servings

Juice of 1 lemon

Juice of 1/2 orange

4 firm, almost-ripe pears, such as Bartlett or Bosc

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon dried ginger

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon powdered cardamom

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment or other nonstick liner.

2. Mix the citrus juices together in a nonreactive bowl (stainless steel or glass). Peel and quarter the pears, core each quarter, and slice in half or thirds. Place in the bowl with the juice. Toss to coat the pears well with citrus juice to prevent browning. Add the sugar and spices and toss again gently to coat.

3. Place coated pears on the baking sheet. Roast about 5 to 8 minutes until browned on bottom and sizzling.

4. Remove from oven and cool. Serve as is, or alongside Vegan Orange Ginger Cake.

- From annasedibleadventures.com

Per serving: 167 calories, 1 gram protein, 44 grams carbohydrates, 31 grams sugar, trace fat, no cholesterol, 5 milligrams sodium, 7 grams dietary fiber.


Mixed Rice, Seeds, and Nuts Stuffed in Delicata Squash

Makes 6 side-dish servings

For the rice stuffing:

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion, minced

4 shiitake or other mushroom caps, cut into small pieces

1 carrot, minced finely

½ stalk celery, minced finely

1 large clove garlic, minced finely

2 teaspoons Urfa pepper (or ½ teaspoon cayenne)

¼ cup toasted pecans,  broken into small pieces

½ cup cooked French or  fancy brown lentils

¼ cup toasted, salted pepitas (pumpkin seeds)

1 cup cooked brown jasmine rice (2/3 cup dry rice cooked in 11/2 cups water)

1/4 cup cooked wild rice (cook a tablespoon or two of wild rice along with the jasmine rice)

1/3 cup vegetable stock

2 tablespoons of minced  dried cranberries or dried cherries (optional)

1/3 cup finely minced parsley

For the squash: 

2 large or 3 small-to-medium delicata squash

Olive oil for pan

1. In a small saute pan, heat the olive oil until shimmering. Add the onion and cook until just browned. Add the mushrooms, carrot, celery, garlic, and chili pepper, stirring and cooking for about 5 minutes until the mushrooms are soft and slightly browned. Add these vegetables, along with the pecans, lentils, and pepitas, to the two rices in a large bowl. Add vegetable stock, minced parsley and dried fruit if using. Season assertively with salt and pepper and stir well.

2. Cut squash into 2 or 3 pieces to make 6 pieces total. Place onto oiled cookie sheet with one cut end down. Roast 5-7 minutes. Remove from oven and turn squash pieces so the other cut end is placed down on the baking sheet and the browned end is up.

3. Bake another 7-10 minutes until squash is just soft. Remove from oven and let cool slightly.

4. Run a paring knife gently around the seeds in the center of each slice and push the seeds from the center into a bowl. These seeds can be cleaned and used to make a delicious toasted snack. (If you do, clean and roast them with a little oil and salt, they can substitute for the pepitas in the stuffing recipe - or just snack on them as you cook.)

5. The squash cylinders can be sprinkled lightly with salt and pepper, coating the inside flesh as best you can. They are now ready for stuffing. Mound stuffing into the center of each. These can be stuffed and refrigerated for 2 to 3 days. Warm, covered with foil, until warm through, about 25 to 35 minutes (depending on how full the oven is).

- From Anna Herman

Per serving: 336 calories, 10 grams protein, 46 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams sugar, 14 grams fat, no cholesterol, 63 milligrams sodium, 9 grams dietary fiber.


Cheddar-Chard Phyllo Logs

Makes 8-10 servings

2 tablespoons olive oil or  butter

1 medium onion, peeled  and chopped

3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

2 teaspoons fennel seed

1 large bunch chard  (about 14  leaves),   cleaned, ends trimmed and sliced  coarsely

Salt and pepper

1/2-1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 cups grated sharp  cheddar cheese (approximately 11 ounces)

1 box phyllo dough

8 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted

Mixture of seeds (sesame, charnuska, fennel, caraway, etc.)

1. Heat oil in large saute pan over medium heat until hot. Add onion and cook, stirring often, until onion is translucent. Add garlic and stir. Increase flame to medium-high and add the chard. Stir often while cooking to allow the chard to wilt and as much liquid to cook off as possible. Let cool. Pour off any excess liquid.

2. Using a food processor with the blade attachment, or a large knife on a cutting board, chop the chard mixture until it is a coarse puree. Add this to a bowl and toss with the salt and pepper, cayenne, and grated cheddar cheese. Refrigerate until cool, or until ready to use, up to 3 days.

3. To assemble, remove phyllo from packaging and open up the stack of phyllo sheets flat onto a clean dry surface. Cut in half crosswise to make sheets that are now 5½ by 11 inches. Stack these sheets together.

4. Place a single sheet on a dry surface oriented with short side closest to you (parallel to the counter edge) and brush lightly with butter. Place a second sheet on top. Brush lightly with butter. Place a third sheet on top. Place two rounded tablespoons of filling about one inch from the bottom edge of the rectangle. Smooth the filling to within ½ inch of each side, with the filling measuring approximately 1 inch by 4 inches long. Fold long edges in toward the center to just cover the sides of the filling. Roll the stacked sheets over the filling, rolling away from you into a log shape. The folded edges keep the filling enclosed. Brush the top edge of the sheets with butter to secure the seam. Place seam side down on a cookie sheet. Repeat until filling is done. You should make about 8 logs with the filling and have some sheets of phyllo left over for another purpose. This extra phyllo should be re-rolled and wrapped well and will last in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

5. Brush the top of each log with butter and sprinkle with some of the seed mixture. Bake at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes until nicely browned. Remove from oven. Serve warm or at room temperature. Logs can be baked and kept cool until serving (same day) and re-warmed before serving. The logs can be prepared ahead and frozen before baking. Bake directly from the freezer for 30-40 minutes.

6. You can also cut the initial phyllo into 3 lengths and make smaller logs with a scant tablespoon of filling for each, to serve as appetizers.

- From annasedibleadventures.com

Per serving (based on 10): 224 calories, 6 grams protein, 2 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram sugar, 20 grams fat, 48 milligrams cholesterol, 222 milligrams sodium, 1 gram dietary fiber.

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