Monday, December 1, 2014

(Almost) Vegetarian Thanksgiving

You know how sometimes things just turn out right and everything jives together really well - You plan a party with your old friends but enjoy their company anew, or you follow a tried and tasted recipe but the dish somehow tastes better? Our Thanksgiving lunch yesterday was no different. I had planned to get together with a couple friends of mine. My friend's dad is visiting her from India. With both of our parents in town, we thought it would be nice to get together. And what fun we had! We each prepared a few dishes, mostly vegetarian. Every item turned out great, if I may say so myself. Both of our parents loved the traditional fair. We dined for a long time, amid delightful conversations. Here's a recount of our wonderful meal.

When we went over to my friends' house, they had already set up the table beautifully. I was certainly pleasantly surprised, knowing that they had just returned from a trip at 1 am!

My friends made sweet potato and carrot soup with just the right amount of cinnamon, and some heat. It was the kind of soup that makes you  feel warm inside with just one sip. Then there were deviled eggs, green beans and peas casserole with crunchy almonds on top, and a beautiful dessert turkey made of fresh fruits! I contributed by making stuffed mushrooms for appetizers, stuffed acorn with quinoa pulao for the main course; and mom made third(!) batch of her almost famous cranberry pickle to eat with the pulao. To our delight, we ended up with very little leftovers. My friend immediately claimed the leftover pickle; somehow mom managed to steal the show with just a small side dish!

I used my sister's recipe for stuffed mushrooms, with a couple of modifications. It is a simple recipe, and a favorite finger food of mine to make at holiday parties. If using large mushrooms, I make 3 per person with a few extra to go around. I kept the mushrooms stuffed and ready to go in the oven ahead of time, and baked them just before heading over to my friend's house. They reheat well - just a few minutes in the oven at 375F.

Stuffed Mushrooms With Spinach and Parmesan

20 Large white button mushrooms (you can also use the brown variety)
1 Small red onion - finely chopped
1 Cup finely chopped fresh spinach
1/2 Cup grated Parmesan cheese + more for topping
3 Garlic cloves - crushed and finely chopped
1 Teaspoon Tuscan seasoning (regular Italian seasoning in lieu of it)
1/2 - 1 Teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 Teaspoons olive oil
Salt & pepper to taste
Oil spray
  • Clean mushrooms with a damp towel. If the mushrooms are very soiled, rinse them in water and pat dry right away with a towel. Remove the stems (don't discard), and clean out the brown part inside with the handle of a spoon or a butter knife. 
  • Take ~1/2 of the mushrooms stems and chop them finely. These will go in the stuffing. 
  • Heat oil in a pan and add chopped garlic. Saute for a few seconds until golden. 
  • Add onion to the pan and saute until translucent. Then add chopped mushroom stems, spinach, herbs, and red pepper flakes. Cook for 3-4 minutes on medium heat until everything comes together. Season with salt & pepper. 
  • Turn off the heat and add grated cheese to this mixture. 
  • Spray insides of the mushrooms with oil, stuff with the above mixture, top them off with more cheese that'll melt and create a crust. Once stuffed, spray the mushrooms again with oil. 
  • Preheat oven at 400F and bake the mushrooms for ~20 minutes or until the cheese on top has turned golden brown and the mushrooms are tender. 
  • Take them out of the oven, remove all the excess juices accumulated at the bottom, garnish with chopped cilantro and serve!

Stuffed acorn makes for a great vegetarian main course. It looks beautiful, is filling, and can be made quite healthy. I have always stuffed acorn with quinoa pulao with different veggies each time. I've made it with broccoli-carrot, mushroom-peas, just tri-colored peppers. This time I used sweet red and yellow peppers, and peas. To bring in a touch of spice, I added a little bit of garam masala (had to do it!). In went a few raisins to balance out the spices, like we do in Indian pulao recipes. I gauged ~3/4 cup packed cooked quinoa for each person. That was about how much everyone ate among all other dishes. I baked 3 medium acorns for 6 adults, but 2 were plenty.

Stuffed Acorn With Quinoa Pulao

2 Medium sized acorns
1 1/2 Cups uncooked quinoa
1 Small red onion - finely chopped
3 Garlic cloves - crushed and finely chopped
3/4 Cup peas - frozen or fresh
3/4 Cup chopped red and yellow sweet peppers Or use bell peppers
1/4 Cup golden raisins
1 Teaspoon garam masala
1 Teaspoon Italian herbs
1 Teaspoon red chili powder or paprika
Some red chili flakes - to liking
Salt to taste
1 Tablespoon olive oil
Cilantro for garnishing

  • Clean acorns. Keep them stem side down, and cut the top horizontally about 1/4th way down. This will make them look like pots with lids. Clean out the seeds with a spoon. Spray the insides with oil. 
  • Preheat oven at 400F and bake the squash for 25 minutes or until tender. Take out and keep aside. 
  • On the side, cook quinoa according to package instructions. Keep aside. 
  • Heat oil in a cooking pan, add chopped garlic and onion and saute for a minute or so until the onions are translucent. 
  • Add peas and peppers and cook for a couple of minutes until tender. 
  • Mix in all the herbs and spices, and lastly cooked quinoa and raisins. Salt to taste.
  • Adjust the amount of spices to your liking. Once all the flavors have come together, turn off the heat. 
  • To assemble, take a casserole or a flat bottom serving dish. Spread some of the pulao at the bottom, keep the baked acorns on top, and fill them with rest of the pulao. Garnish with chopped cilantro. When serving pulao, scoop some acorn along with it. 

Here is to another great year of wonderful eats and great friends. I can't finish this post without being thankful for my sweetheart munchkin! 

I want to hear about your Thanksgiving stories!


Anil said...

Hey, it was a nice story.
But you forgot one thing !
The People around were "Tastier"
and the food was "Lively".
Right ?
Enjoy many more "Thanksgivings"
like this !
Anil Kulkarni

Snehal said...

Well said, Kaka! Thank you.

Nupur said...

What a gorgeous table! I totally enjoyed reading about your feast.

Snehal said...

Thank you, Nupur!


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