Help Me Make a Dietarily-Constrained Feast Great!
October 18, 2012 5:26 AM   Subscribe

So, I need to do some vegan cooking, but there are extra limitations. Help me come up with some ideas for a fun Thanksgiving

I have a friend who is coming to visit for a few days around Thanksgiving, and we'll be cooking up a storm.

Dietary constraints:
1. Vegan
2. No soy
3. No wheat/gluten
4. Nothing acidic (or, possibly, in very small amounts)

1. All vegetables and fungi welcome
2. No need to replicate a "traditional Thanksgiving."

I'm not terribly worried, because there is a load of Indian cooking I can make work, some soups, and we both like roasted vegetables a lot. However, I have two issues:

1. Sauces. A lot of the things I make (like the roasted vegetables) are a bit bland without some sort of sauce. Most of those sauces rely heavily on soy sauce and/or vinegar/citrus/tomatoes. I have an idea for a sort-of gravy involving reduced mushroom broth thickened with corn or potato starch, but it's still in the design stage. How can I make some great savory sauces w/o acid?

2. I'd like to make some nice desserts. I have a recipe for a vegan chocolate pudding which I think will do, and I have plans for a fruit crumble where I will swap out gluten-free steel cut oats for the wheat the flour, but I am a bit concerned it won't cook properly. Also, suggestions on (soy) butter substitutes for the topping would be appreciated.
posted by GenjiandProust to Food & Drink (24 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Oh, what an interesting challenge! You might find some help on Post Punk Kitchen for vegan stuff and Gluten Free Girl has some excellent desserts - not all vegan, but I'm sure if you poke around a bit you'll find something. For your crumble, I think if you whiz up the oats in a food processor to make oat flour you'll have better luck than if you just try to use straight steel cuts. Best of luck!
posted by hungrybruno at 5:44 AM on October 18, 2012 [2 favorites]

This Earth Balance spread is amazing - I am not vegan but I look forward to eating it at my sister's house and occasionally buy it for myself.
posted by mrs. taters at 5:47 AM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Ask your friend what he eats at home. Make that.

I don't mind saying that this is a very severe set of restrictions, and while I will give the benefit of the doubt that the soy and gluten restriction may be a legitimate allergy, the alkaline diet is pure woo. Your friend surely knows that the constraints are a pain in the ass, so I would just ask what he eats and have those ingredients on hand. That's the easiest way to handle things unless you are determined to surprise your friend in some fashion.
posted by Tanizaki at 5:49 AM on October 18, 2012 [3 favorites]

The Moosewood Celebrates cookbook is entirely comprised of menus for festive occasions, and they have a full complete vegan Thanksgiving menu. You would unfortunately have to adapt it some (one of the dishes is a mushroom filo pastry thing, which involves wheat), but there are SCORES of other dishes in there that could work (in fact, the vegetarian Thanksgiving menu features a butternut squash polenta mold that could be very easily adapted to a vegan diet, I believe).
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:51 AM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh - and I am an omnivore who served that butternut squash polenta mold at a small Thanksgiving dinner with a vegetarian couple, and it was delicious.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:52 AM on October 18, 2012

Braised Coconut Spinach with Chickpeas and Lemon

I made this a couple of weeks ago and it was amazing. I tried it over both a sweet potato and brown rice. It balanced out better with the sweet potato because I was liberal with the sundried tomato. Regarding acid: It does ask for lemon zest and 2 tablespoons of lemon juice. I don't know how acidic sundried tomatoes are.
posted by spec80 at 5:53 AM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Guy. It's Rhode Island. Johnnycakes.
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:06 AM on October 18, 2012 [4 favorites]

Here's a blog you might find some great recipes in--and I'm not even g/f, but Allyson Kramer's shizzle looks divine!---Manifest Vegan.

And I am thinking of making this Roasted Stuffed Pumpkin recipe from Nigella for Christmas this year.
posted by Kitteh at 6:12 AM on October 18, 2012

Marmite is a good substitute for soy sauce. Just taste as you add it.
I would do a pile of roasted veg with a yeasty gravy.
posted by classa at 6:19 AM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

a good and spicy dahl makes a good sauce for vegetables (masoor, i.e. red lentil, cooks into a nice smooth saucy texture)
posted by saraindc at 6:23 AM on October 18, 2012 [2 favorites]

You might want to try rolled oats rather than steel cut for the fruit crumble topping. Given that steel cut oats need quite a bit of cooking, usualy in water, they might be unpleasantly hard in a crumble.
posted by lulu68 at 7:05 AM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have done a fruit crumble/apple crisp with oats; in fact, it's the way I refer to do fruit crisps. You just pour a bunch of rolled oats into a bowl, top with enough melted Not-Butter Product Of Your Choice so that the oats are all covered. Add sugar and/or brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and a pinch of salt if your Not-Butter is unsalted. Spread it over the fruit mix and bake normally (cover with foil if it looks like it's getting too brown).

You can approximate a cheese sauce using nutritional yeast. It would be delicious over roasted broccoli or cauliflower.
posted by specialagentwebb at 7:07 AM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

I've been a vegetarian for going on 20 years, so I have a lot of meatless Thanksgiving dish creation experience. I know you said there is no need to replicate a traditional Thanksgiving, but I like to play around with remixed Thanksgiving themes. You might like some of these recipes.

One of my favorite Thanksgiving recipes is sweet potatoes with garam masala. It's super easy to make. Boil 4 or 5 sweet potatoes in their skins until they are just cooked through but still firm -- not mushy. Allow them to cool, then take the skins off and slice into disks about 1/4 inch thick. Fry about a tablespoon of whole black mustard seeds in canola oil (or peanut oil -- I used to use peanut oil before my son developed a peanut allergy) in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the sweet potato disks and season with about a tablespoon of some good garam masala (not the cheap kind -- get the good kind from an Indian grocery if you can). Fry for 8-10 minutes, until the sweet potatoes are just turning golden. Then turn off the heat and add a pinch of fresh cilantro and just let it wilt in the remaining heat. Or you can use frozen cilantro like Dorot's. (Unless you or someone else at your dinner party are one of those weird anti-cilantro people, in which case you could leave it out, but I always feel like something's missing when I do.)

The cool thing about the sweet potato recipe is that it doesn't need sauce! And it's plenty flavorful, trust me.

I've also gotten good reviews from my picky eaters at home for my version of deconstructed green bean casserole. The version I usually make uses cheese and crackers, but you could substitute vegan rice milk cheese (just for the creaminess) and slivered almonds instead of the crumbled cracker topping. So the modified recipe for you would be this: steam one half pound of fresh green beans for 10 - 15 minutes, until just tender. Put the green beans in a casserole fish with one medium-sized sliced shallot, sliced into thin rings, and about half a pint of sliced baby portabella mushrooms. Toss with olive oil and sea salt. Top with some white rice cheese (swiss or mozzarella flavor would be good) and slivered almonds; bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes or so.

I'm also a fan of stuffed squash for Thanksgiving. Cut a sweet dumpling squash in half, remove the seeds and pulp, brush with olive oil and roast at 350 until tender. Then stuff with cooked rice (cooked in soy-free vegetable broth if you can find it), savory herbs (sage and thyme are good go-tos for Thanksgiving flavor), dried fruit and nuts (in my case these days I use the only "packed in a peanut-free facility" tree nuts I can readily get, which are almonds, but you could use cashews which lend a really rich flavor). Bake for another few minutes until the topping starts to turn golden. It makes a nice centerpiece dish for a holiday meal.

Full-sized portabella mushroom caps also have a lot of flavor on their own, and make a good alternative option for a stuffed centerpiece on the plate. Just saute the mushrooms in olive oil and sea salt, and then add a rice-based stuffing on top.
posted by BlueJae at 7:19 AM on October 18, 2012 [4 favorites]

Oh, also, you could totally make a whipped sweet potato casserole for dessert. The grown-up version of the silly marshmallow topped thing. Just boil the potatoes soft, skin, mash, whip with cinnamon and brown sugar, -- and my secret weapons: apple juice and maple syrup. Top with something crunchy like a sugar / oat crumble or walnuts if you like, and bake. The need to include milk or butter in sweet potato casserole is a total myth; I've made it without lots of times.

(This is, of course, only really an option if you like sweet potatoes enough to have them twice in a meal, or are not making the garam masala sweet potatoes I mentioned. But really, you should try the garam masala sweet potatoes. Seriously. Garam masala and sweet potatoes are soul mates.)
posted by BlueJae at 7:26 AM on October 18, 2012 [2 favorites]

I don't have any recipes, but was while reading your question, I was thinking that their must be some vegan recipes incorporating nutritional yeast, miso, tahini, or various nut butters that would make a great sauce for vegetables. There is a restaurant in DC that serves bento boxes with sweet potatoes with some sort of sauce that tastes like it might be a combos of tahini or Japanese sesame paste and miso that is quite tasty. Sorry that I don't have anything more specific.
posted by kaybdc at 9:52 AM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh my god, this stuffed squash recipe. A bit labor-intensive, but seriously one of the most delicious things I've ever eaten.
posted by ActionPopulated at 10:14 AM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Is the restriction "nothing acidic" (which would exclude, for example, lemon juice) or "nothing acid-producing/only alkalizing foods" (which, by many lists of "alkalizing foods", would definitely include lemon juice)?

Really, you might find it easiest if you ask your friend to give you a list of acceptable-to-him and unacceptable-to-him ingredients and work from that.
posted by Lexica at 6:42 PM on October 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

The rolled oats for a crumble will work well, but I've also had delicious fruit crumble made with shredded coconut!
posted by jaksemas at 2:00 AM on October 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

My gluten-free crumble recipe is rolled oats, with almond flour subbed in for the wheat flour, plus nuts, sugar, spices, and vegan buttery spread. The almond flour is an easy sub, since it's not technically baking (meaning more complicated chemical interactions -- it just needs to hold things together some.) I can dig up the exact recipe if you want it.

My favorite vegan chocolate pie dessert. I've done a vegan, gluten-free crust for it of crumbled gluten-free cookies with vegan buttery stick.
posted by gingerbeer at 5:34 PM on October 19, 2012

Oh, and your gravy question: I make a pretty tasty vegan mushroom gravy for thanksgiving. Sauteed mushrooms and onions, mushroom broth, wine, thickened with corn starch.

Our standard thanksgivings meals are mostly vegan and gluten-free, plus a turkey, so I have a whole bunch of recipes I can suggest if you want more. Here are a handful of the greatest hits:

-- roasted veggies
-- quinoa with dried cranberries
-- any number of green salad variations, usually with seasonal fruit and nuts
-- garlic mashed potatoes
-- acorn squash stuffed with quinoa w leeks and walnuts and sage
-- kale and jicama salad

And, I'm realizing my chocolate pie above violates your no soy rule. Apologies.
posted by gingerbeer at 5:51 PM on October 19, 2012

Nachos with generous lashings of guacamole and jalapenos?
posted by dontjumplarry at 3:28 PM on October 22, 2012

What first came to mind would be a wild rice 'stuffing'...

I am one to usually wing my recipes vs. following one, so what I might do is:

Cook a mixture of 2/3 wild rice and 1/3 brown rice/buckwheat.
Add chunks of white onions or scallions
Add a good bit of chopped celery
Some cubed roasted potatoes/squash or apples would be great to replace the soft texture of the bread.
I love adding sunflower seeds to this kind of dish for texture and flavor.

Add your spices: Sage-lots of it, thyme and fresh parsley. Salt and pepper.

Mix everything, moisten with some vegetable broth and loosely pack it into a casserole dish and bake until hot.
I can imagine this would be great topped with cranberry sauce, but that might be too acidic for your friend.


For your roasted veggies a mix of root veggies such as carrots, parsnips, rutabaga, and sweet potato go really well together(not the orange yam type, the yellow fleshed firm type). Roast with olive oil, salt and a pinch of cayenne.
A creamy dill sauce would accompany this nicely on the side. You could experiment with thickening almond milk with corn starch and adding salt, onion powder, crushed garlic and dill to your liking.
posted by tenaciousmoon at 3:49 PM on October 28, 2012

Thanks, everyone, these a re great ideas!
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:12 PM on November 17, 2012

In case anyone was wondering how it played out:

For Thanksgiving lunch, we had roasted vegetables (sweet potato, onion, fennel, carrots, mushrooms) -- I was going to make a mushroom gravy, but there was a problem with the broth, so we made a curry sauce out of coconut milk and spices. Served on rice.

For dinner, we made the quinoa-stuffed peppers from Vegan with a Vengeance, swapping the tomato sauce for a bit more broth, and some frozen spinach and asparagus.

For dinner, there was Gluten-Free Pear Crumble, with the quinoa flour replaced with ground almonds, and I used up some cashew pieces by throwing them in the crumble. It was good, but needed a) more ginger (maybe candied, maybe fresh) and b) spices (cardamon and ground cloves, I am betting). We also cooked and mashed squash with plenty of salt and pepper.

The next day, gluten-free steel cut oats and dried fruit (thanks, Bob's Red Mill), I forget what we had for lunch, and dinner was a lentil dish with guests, who also bought some damn fine braised asparagus. All in all, it worked out well, and thanks for all the suggestions, whether I used them immediately or not!
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:09 AM on December 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

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