Vegetarian on Thanksgiving? Now hear this.
Some days I get a little jealous of vegetarians. They’re conscientious objectors, which confers a certain measure of instant awesomeness. They can look a pig in the eye, which I bet would come in handy more often than you’d think. They don’t have to willfully ignore the clear reality that the steaks they get from their pastured meats CSA have the texture of extra-sturdy rubber bands. Unless they eat nothing but cheese, which is what I would do as a vegetarian, they probably have excellent HDL and LDL cholesterol levels. And if they’re like Umami Boy, maybe they’ve lost 40 pounds or so since they gave up eating meat. It’s not that I’d want to be a full-grown adult with a weight in the double digits and what I can only assume would be a completely concave bust, but who doesn’t enjoy making a brazen claim of self-achievement from time to time? “I’ve lost 40 pounds!” I’m automatically jealous.
On Thanksgiving, though, I’m not jealous at all. It isn’t so much the turkey flesh itself that sets my mouth a-gleek. But at your average Thanksgiving table, it’s just about everything else. Our two kinds of stuffing contain at least five kinds of meat between them. Some of the best Brussels sprouts are cooked with bacon. And what are mashed potatoes without gravy? On Thanksgiving, at least where I eat, I think it would be very hard to be vegetarian and not feel like an afterthought.
Every year there seem to be one or two more vegetarians at the Thanksgiving table than the year before, so every year I spend a little early-November time thinking about meatless main dishes that pack a serious savory punch. Last year’s Acorn Squash Lasagna with Bechamel Sauce went over better than your average turkey can fly. This year, among others (coming soon to a blog near you!), I’m thinking Warm Farro with Broccoli and Shiitakes. With mushrooms, soy sauce and parmesan cheese, this is one of the meatiest meatless dishes in recent memory. You could serve it spooned into roasted squash halves for a festive presentation or add a cup or two of cooked French lentils to up the protein. Whatever you do, I think the vegetarians at your table will feel well loved. As long as the carnivores don’t get to it first.
P.S. Do you like the sneak peek of our new kitchen countertop in the photo background there? That little semi-DIY kitchen project we were working on turned into a down-to-the-studs renovation of half the house, which is getting dangerously close to finished. I’m excited to unveil the results soon!
Recipe: Farro with Broccoli and Shiitakes
: This recipe makes a wonderful Thanksgiving main dish for vegetarians. Serves 4 as a main or 8 as a side.
- 1 cup whole farro
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
- 15 shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and thinly sliced
- 5 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 medium head broccoli, cut into small florets (reserve the stems for another use)
- 1 Tablespoon soy sauce
- 2/3 cup water
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese (omit to make vegan)
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Place the farro in a medium pot with cold water to cover by an inch. Soak for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, drain the soaking water and add fresh water to cover the farro by two inches. Add the salt. Bring the farro to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to maintain a gentle boil. Cook for about 25 minutes, until the farro is tender but still chewy. Drain.
- Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion, mushrooms and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft and the mushrooms have reduced substantially in volume, about 7 minutes. Lower the heat if necessary to prevent the onion and garlic from browning. Add the broccoli florets, soy sauce and water to the pan. Cover and simmer until the broccoli is quite tender, 5 to 7 minutes more. (Cook the broccoli only as much as you like it cooked. I prefer this dish without any hint of crunch.) Remove the lid and cook one minute more to reduce any remaining liquid to just a few tablespoons.
- Off the heat, add the drained farro and the parmesan cheese to the pan. Stir well and season to taste with pepper. Serve warm.
Preparation time: 30 minute(s)
Cooking time: 30 minute(s)
Number of servings (yield): 4