As you might suspect, I love Thanksgiving.
It's a holiday that is a celebration of food, family, and...er...football. While I don't necessarily care about the latter, although I have been known to jump into a friendly Turkey Bowl competition with friends, the thing that tugs on my heart strings most is having the opportunity to give thanks for loved ones near and far and to eat some deliciousness. And to spend the day cooking, drinking, and laughing with a glorious bunch of fools I call "family."
I have always thought that preparing a meal has more to do with self-expression and love than sustenance. As my former professor at Northwestern, Dwight Conquergood, so wisely spoke, "Food is not feed." It tells a story of who we are, where we come from, and brings communities together.
Folks are usually obsessed about The Bird on the big day. But what about the other, veggie friendly contributions to the feast? It takes a village, no? Our table is filled with roasted Brussels sprouts, braised turnip greens with apples, mushrooms, peas, and sweet potatoes (without the marshmallow, thank you very much). There are a host of dishes that capture the flavors of the season and are still healthy!
So, if you are headed off to a potluck Thanksgiving (or hosting one yourself), might I suggest bringing along some Pomegranate Couscous with Grilled Eggplant and Kale or Farro with Butternut Squash, Apples, and Dried Cranberries.
Or, if you have the mind, take some time to assemble this delicious terrine.
This is a total showstopper and is surprisingly easy to make. Yes, there are many steps, but you are basically layering veggies in a pan and turning it upside down! Your friends don't have to know and you receive the accolades from serving this beautiful dish!
1 large eggplant, cut into 1/4" rounds
2 large zucchini. cut lengthwise into 1/4" strips
1 red pepper
2 yellow peppers
1/2 cup quinoa, cooked
16 oz frozen spinach, thawed
3 cloves garlic
1 cup sun-dried tomatoes
1/2 cup almonds
1 cup basil leaves
2 Tbl balsamic vinegar
2 tsp tahini
Walnut and Fig Pâté (recipe follows)
4 Tbl olive oil (divided)
Char peppers directly on gas burners, turning frequently until completely blackened (or roast in a 450 degree oven for approximately 30 minutes until charred). Place peppers in a large bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Set aside. Once cool enough to handle, remove core, seeds, and skin and slice into 1/2" wide strips.
Squeeze thawed spinach in a dish towel to remove as much of the liquid as possible. Heat 1 Tbl olive oil with one one clove of garlic smashed. Once garlic has browned, discard and quickly saute spinach in garlic oil for 1-2 minutes, until aromatic but still a vibrant green. Transfer to a bowl and set aside to cool.
On a grill pan over high heat, grill zucchini and eggplant slices in batches. Lightly season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
In a food processor, puree sun-dried tomatoes, almonds, basil, and balsamic vinegar. With the motor running, drizzle in remaining 3 Tbl olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
In a small bowl, combine cooked quinoa, tahini, and 1/4 of the cooked spinach.
Now we're ready to get down to business. Line a 9 x 5 loaf pan with plastic wrap, allowing for at least 4" overhang. Of the remaining spinach, gently press 2/3 onto the four edges of the pan. Place eggplant in a single layer on the bottom and cover with half of the pesto. Layer on zucchini slices and cover with mushroom pȃté. Layer in peppers and spread over quinoa mixture. Add another layer of eggplant, pesto, and zucchini. Cover with remaining spinach. Fold excess plastic over terrine. Cut a piece of cardboard to fit snugly inside the rim of the pan. Place a couple of cans on top to weigh it down and refrigerate over night. Unwrap plastic wrap and invert on a serving platter.
Pat yourself on the back for a job well done.
Mushroom, Walnut, and Fig Pâté
This earthy spread is as delicious as it is versatile. Spread it on dark bread toast point with some arugula as an appetizer, thin it out with roasted vegetable stock for a hearty pasta sauce, or spread it on sandwiches with roasted veggies.
8 oz crimini mushrooms, sliced
2 medium shallots, chopped
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted
1/4 cup dried black mission figs, sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup cognac
3 Tbl olive oil, divided
Heat 1 Tbl olive oil over medium flame and saute shallots until translucent, about three minutes. Add garlic and cook for one additional minute. Add mushrooms, thyme, and bay leaf and saute until browned, about five to seven minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
While mushrooms brown, toast walnuts in a dry saute pan until aromatic. Add walnuts and figs to mushrooms, and cook for two to three minutes. Add cognac and cook until the cognac is completely evaporated. Remove from heat, and discard herbs.
Pulse mixture in a food processor while drizzling in just enough oil to provide some moisture. Mixture should be smooth but still slightly chunky. Allow pâté to come to room temperature before serving. Keeps in refrigerator covered for three days.