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An Almost Vegetarian Thanksgiving, Part 1

As I mentioned in my previous post, these days I call myself an “almost vegetarian”. I do eat meat, but I tend to use it as a flavoring rather than as a main ingredient in most of my day-to-day cooking. I don’t think I can go full-bore vegetarian, as I consider myself an omnivore. I also couldn’t imagine a life without crispy chicken skin. That being said, I derive a great deal of pleasure by coming up with new ways of cooking vegetables so that other people, especially those who do follow a truly vegetarian or vegan diet, can expand their own kitchen repertoire.

Jonagold apples

For 2012, Thanksgiving will be spent with friends at a restaurant owned by Chef Tom Colicchio (who you may know if you’re a fan of the television reality show, Top Chef). Post-Thanksgiving dinner will be Friday, November 23 and it will be “almost vegetarian” as well. Originally, all but one course was going to be meatless, but I have some chicken broth and pancetta that need to be used soon, so a couple of courses will be changed. This is what I’ve come up with:

Chicken consommé, with autumn vegetables and wild mushrooms
Fettucine, with chestnuts, sage and farm egg
Roast chicken
Brussel sprouts, with hazelnuts and pancetta
Pickled cippolini onion, crosnes and roasted carrot salad
Ice cream, pumpkin jam

Recipes for all of the above will be provided later this week. All with the exception of the roast chicken can be slightly tweaked if you’d like to make them vegetarian (i.e., substitute vegetable stock for chicken for the consommé; wild mushrooms or radish sprouts for the pancetta, for the brussels sprouts side).

I suppose I should mention that for the past few years, I’ve had ‘meatless’ or ‘mostly meatless’ Thanksgivings and Christmases. Also, perhaps unconsciously, I’ve gradually been weaning myself from a meat-centric diet to a vegetable-centric omnivorous diet, one that tends to lean strongly in favor of lacto-ovo vegetarianism. That being said, I am less focused on the debate of vegetables over meat, than over whether something is delicious (while still keeping in mind my local/sustainable/organic ethos).

Vegetarian Thanksgiving is a fairly new idea within the realm of holiday tradition, but one that I am glad to see finally enter the mainstream. I am, for one, thankful that people who choose to be vegetarian, have a wide array of choices to them that have nothing to do with tofurkey.

After all, holidays are a time for celebration, especially one as food-focused as T-day. Who has time to be miserable at the dinner table?

Celery and garbanzo bean salad

Celery and garbanzo bean salad

This is an adaptation of this recipe from 101 Cookbooks. My version is a little more “minimalist” — just cooked chickpeas, celery, lemon juice, sea salt, black pepper, hazelnut oil, celery leaves, Italian parsley and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

1 large celery stalk, stripped of strings
2 tablespoons hazelnut olive oil
1 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon freshly grated Parmesan
1/2 cup cooked garbanzo beans, heated
sea salt, to taste
freshly milled black pepper, to taste
1/2 teaspoon celery leaves, minced (optional)
2 tablespoons freshly chopped Italian parsley

Slice the celery stalk quite thinly – 1/8-inch or so. In a small bowl, combine the hazelnut oil and lemon juice. In a large bowl, toss the heated garbanzo beans with the dressing. When well combined, add the celery and half of the Italian parsley. Toss once more. Taste for salt and pepper. Spoon onto individual salad plates, then top with Parmesan cheese, the celery leaves (if using), and remaining Italian parsley. Serve immediately. Makes 2 servings, or 1 serving for one ravenous eater.

Time: 20 minutes, including prep.

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