sort-of vegan seeks less deadly holiday meals
December 22, 2014 6:25 AM   Subscribe

I want to add to my family's holiday traditions with vegetables. What recipes would fit?

My large, Irish-Italian Catholic family is very big on tradition - so much so that we have been eating the exact same meal for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day since before I was born. I want to supplement everything with some nice plant things that won't seem too out of place. Preferably, I'd like something that goes well with the menu, is less greasy, involves vegetables, and is vegan.

I know there is a contingent that will be happy for the addition (and no one else has to eat it!). Here's our menu:

Christmas eve:
Fried bread with anchovies
Pasta with parmesan and olive oil
Fried calamari, fried shrimp
Fried smelt
Probably some other kinds of fish, almost always fried
Italian sausage at midnight
A million kinds of cookies

Christmas day:
Roast beef
Mashed potatoes with gravy
Yorkshire pudding
Maybe green beans with almonds and butter?
posted by quadrilaterals to Food & Drink (23 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
Though I am not a ratatouille eater, this definitely sounds like a place for it. Try this one from Alice Waters, why not?
posted by mimi at 6:32 AM on December 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

White bean and pomegranate salad. I add walnuts or pecans.
posted by BibiRose at 6:35 AM on December 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

Some version of roasted Brussels sprouts, maybe? Here's a festive one: Brussels Sprouts with Pecans and Ginger Honey Sauce
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 6:36 AM on December 22, 2014 [5 favorites]

Roasted brussels sprouts! Roasted any vegetable, really. They're easy but still delicious and festive. I like to cut them in half and roast them in olive oil with garlic, cut-side down so that they get all caramelized and delicious.

(On preview: beaten to the punch! But seriously they're wonderful.)
posted by mskyle at 6:37 AM on December 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

A vegan lasagna would fit in nicely for Christmas Eve, you can even make the noodles out of thinly sliced eggplants or zucchinis. Clearly a green salad would work there too. Bruschetta on crostinis make a nice prelude and fit right in.

You can do roasted veggies tossed in olive oil for Christmas day. I'd do root veggies like potatoes, carrots, parsnips, etc. Toss in olive oil and throw them in the oven. They'll meld nicely with the rest of the meal. You can do some broccolini in olive oil and a touch of garlic.

Another option would be to bring a crudité platter with vegan dips like hummus, baba ganousch, tepanade, etc.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:38 AM on December 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

Here's what I'd think about.

Christmas Eve:
- wilted greens with sliced garlic
- sautéed broccoli rabe with white beans and lemon
- eggplant caponata
- fennel and orange salad

Christmas Day:
- roasted parsnips and carrots with warming spices (cinnamon, Harissa, cumin..)
- marinated kale salad with nuts and roasted squash
- beets with preserved lemon and yogurt
posted by thirdletter at 6:40 AM on December 22, 2014 [4 favorites]

For Christmas Eve, how about greens sauteed in olive oil with garlic and red pepper flakes? My Italian mother was particularly fond of swiss chard cooked this way.

I suppose introducing a vegan red sauce (marinara or even puttanesca, both minus the anchovies) would be rocking the boat, but neither requires cheese in its making.

I was going to add "roast brussels sprouts" for Christmas day, but I see I've been beaten to the punch.
posted by mr vino at 6:40 AM on December 22, 2014

Simple, quick, fancy, and amenable to festive/delicious cream sauce, (Italian) vinaigrette, or a simple twist of lemon:

 - steamed asparagus

Hearty, numerous ingredients including well-disguised beans, crispy breadcrumb crust, can include vegan sausage, looks nice on the table in a pretty ovenproof crockery container:

 - vegan cassoulet

(I can't find my gorgeous recipe from the Irregardless Café online - the newspaper site doesn't have it anymore - but memail me and I'll send the recipe to you. It includes golden beets and red beets, and fennel, and tastes absolutely wonderful, and the colors are amazing. My dude talked about this for a year after eating it at the restaurant, so when they published the recipe I was thrilled.)

Easy to understand by your older relatives, but maybe a little too boring for you:

 - salad

Also non-threatening, and super easy to do if you're the one making the roast and/or you're not really vegetarian:

 - add some carrots, mushrooms, and other vegetables to the roast pan for the last part of the cooking, then serve them on the side.
posted by amtho at 6:43 AM on December 22, 2014 [4 favorites]

Most UK (and Irish, actually) Christmas dinners are much heavier on the vegetables than yours. Traditionally you might have brussel sprouts, and some or all of roast parsnips and carrots, mashed swede or turnip, and cabbage. My family have all of the above, but two of us are vegetarian.

Every British newspaper and magazine has had nothing but recipes for Christmas sides for the past three months, so just do some googling. Delia Smith and Jamie Oliver are usually good for traditional foods. Honey-roast parsnips are fairly classic, Jamie had a cranberry-glazed roast carrot recipe on his website that my sister in law is cooking this year, and we often have mulled red cabbage (twist on the traditional green cabbage, we buy ours so I don't have a recipe to hand).
posted by tinkletown at 6:45 AM on December 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yet another person who was going to suggest brussels. My recipe involves tossing with olive oil, s&p, maple syrup or honey (if your brand of vegan allows for honey), and a solid whack of chili flakes.

Broccoli is great grilled or roasted--olive oil, s&p, cumin. Carrots with cumin and caraway.

Chickpeas cooked down with tomatoes (canned or fresh, diced), curry, onion, garlic. Coconut milk as well if you feel like it.

Butternut squash with ras-el-hanout or standard Christmas spices (nutmeg, cinnamon, mace, clove) and some heat.

Carrot latkes.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 6:52 AM on December 22, 2014

I also recommend Brussels sprouts! My spouse makes them by starting them on the stove with bacon (similar to this), but you could leave out the bacon and substitute a different fat. He then puts the sprouts in an oven dish with potatoes or parsnips, whole-grain mustard, and fresh rosemary, and finishes them in the oven. Excellent for people who normally wouldn't eat sprouts.

Small, thin green asparagus (the ones that are about the length of a finger) are excellent when stir-fried. Add some sea salt and it's almost like having French fries.

White asparagus from a jar is really tasty, warm or cold. Wrap cold white asparagus in slices of ham to appeal to meat-eaters.

Something that might go along with your Christmas Eve meal is caponata, a Sicilian aubergine stew. It's delicious and easy to make.
posted by neushoorn at 6:52 AM on December 22, 2014

I love steamed broccoli with pasta with olive oil and parmesan. An easy, non-boat-rocking addition.
posted by hydropsyche at 6:58 AM on December 22, 2014

Pasta with parmesan and olive oil

Roasted root veggies are also a go-to for me at meals like this. Or, try a roasted spaghetti squash tossed with parmesan and garlic.
posted by anastasiav at 7:04 AM on December 22, 2014

I feel like everyone's got the Fancy Vegetables (asparagus, brussels sprouts, fennel, etc.) covered, so having one of the heartier dishes vegan-friendly would be nice.

Would your family be amenable to changing the mashed potatoes slightly? I am normally a "put all the butter and milk and sour cream you can find into the mashed potatoes" kind of person, BUT once I committed to making vegan mashed potatoes for a potluck. Cooks Illustrated has a recipe for olive oil garlic mashed potatoes that are totally vegan and out of this world good. Like, you would never believe there wasn't heaps of animal fat/dairy in there, but there isn't. I'm pretty sure this is the recipe (I used it from one of their books and don't have the online subscription so I can't read that page, alas.)
posted by misskaz at 7:11 AM on December 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

How about a simple butternut squash soup? The only ingredients in my butternut squash soup are the squash, a couple cloves of garlic, a sprinkling of sage, and water. Period. And it couldn't be easier - you peel the squash, seed it and cut it into chunks, and throw it in a pot with a couple cloves of garlic and ONLY just enough water to cover; then you bring to a boil and simmer until the squash is soft. Puree with a stick blender, add some chopped sage and bring back to a simmer and you're done. (I've also thickened it with a chunk of stale bread sometimes, but it's not essential.)

There's also hasselback potatoes (that recipe includes cheese, but that is NOT a requirement), and I've also seen that same kind of treatment applied to zucchini and other squash.

Finally, I found a recipe for a really refreshing and pretty fruit salad in a "Christmas cookbook" I got from an Irish friend - it's nothing more than pink grapefruit and pomegranate, with a little sugar (maybe) and a little mint. You need two grapefruit and pomegranate each; segment both grapefruit, and juice one of the pomegranates and cull all of the pips out of the second pomegranate. Combine all that in a bowl, taste and add any sugar if you think it needs it, and add a lacing of chopped mint if you want. Let that sit in the fridge for at least an hour to let the flavor meld.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:01 AM on December 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

If you want something with protein, a pureed white bean soup could work well. I'd go for Italian seasonings in it for Eve and rosemary and thyme for Day.
posted by metasarah at 8:02 AM on December 22, 2014

Oh, these are all great. I'm best-answering the ones I'm most likely to make. Keep 'em coming!
posted by quadrilaterals at 8:21 AM on December 22, 2014

If you have not ever had Muhammara, make some immediately. It's a simple roasted red pepper and walnut dip that is mind blowingly good.
posted by bobdow at 9:12 AM on December 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

this sweet potato soup does not need the dairy at all; sub a carrot for the pear, and bung a stick of celery in there for the simmer (& remove it before blending) and it becomes much more savoury and satisfying and hearty.
Serve with the sesame-kale chips from this soup, which are a salty crispy, slightly oily delight. (The second soup might work too, but I haven't tried it personally yet).
posted by AFII at 9:42 AM on December 22, 2014

I've been making a massaged kale salad with dried cranberries and toasted sliced almonds that's super easy and very seasonal. It goes something like this...

2 bunches of kale, cleaned and torn into bite sized pieces
3 T olive oil
3 T lemon juice
1 t salt
1 t sugar
1 t garlic powder
Black pepper
.5 C dried cranberries
.5 C sliced almonds, toasted

1. Combine first seven ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Using clean hands, work the kale vigorously so it softens and wilts. Taste and adjust seasoning.
2. Add cranberries and almonds. Toss to distribute evenly.

The salad is very versatile. You can change the toppings to whatever is seasonal. I usually like to do 1 nut and 1 fruit or vegetable to keep it simple but still filling.
posted by slogger at 9:57 AM on December 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

I've never made, but this vegan wellington looks AMAZING. And it really fancy, special-occasion food.
posted by mercredi at 10:14 AM on December 22, 2014

Okay, same cookbook from whence I got the grapefruit and pomegranate salad: a carrot and parsnip soup. The original recipe called for butter as the cooking fat and chicken as the broth, but those can both be swapped out for vegan alternatives, I'm sure. You need:

A big onion
One big or two small potatoes
Two parsnips
Three or four carrots
About three or four cups of vegetable broth
Salt and pepper

Chop the onion, and peel and chop the other vegetables. Heat up a couple tablespoons of oil in a pan, and add the onion and potato. Cover and let that cook for a few minutes. Add the carrots and parsnips and cover and let that cook for a few minutes more. Then pour in the broth, bring to a boil, and then let simmer until the vegetables are all soft. Puree with a stick blender or a blender and reheat. Done. (The cookbook also suggested adding a dash of sherry or some cream at this point, but I just made this and it's fine without either.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:54 AM on December 22, 2014

A salad of shaved fennel (root not seeds) with orange (blood orange for drama) and fresh toasted walnuts pairs excellently with seafood.

Another way to sneak veg in on Christmas day is to make Colcannon mash instead of mashed potatoes. Basically adding cabbage or kale and a little butter to the mashed potatoes.
posted by BrotherCaine at 11:10 AM on December 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

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