All of the delicious without the turkey
November 13, 2006 4:56 PM   Subscribe

Recommendations for a hearty ovo-lacto vegetarian traditional-themed Thanksgiving entree that will knock the socks off my boyfriend's hardcore Italian, meat-lovin' family? No Tofurkeys or vegetarian lasagnas, please. Details inside.

This will be the first time visiting my boyfriend's family. I'm nervous. Tofurkeys will come off as weird to them and I think anything Italian I make would be seen as "Italian without the meat". Also, his mom is the kind of hardcore Italian cook who used to make her own noodles, so I don't even want to try to match up to that.

Other concerns:
Re-heating needs to be OK, since I'll be making the Tuesday before Thanksgiving and re-heating it in their oven. This probably eliminates pastries and the like.

Heartiness and filling-ness a plus (I don't know how many non-meaty sides will be there)

It must be delicious enough to withstand the skepticism of the meat-loving friend who will be accompanying us.

My cooking skills are limited to baking cookies and opening cans of tuna. If the recipe is quick-to-prepare and difficult-to-screw-up that would be awesome.

Thank you!
posted by anonymous to Food & Drink (38 answers total)
We had a pot luck a while back and a friend made this dish -- it's a greenbean & artichoke casserole. We decided it needed to have more artichokes, but other than that, we thought it was great. I think it is good for Thanksgiving because it is and it isn't your regular old greenbean casserole, and all of my veggie friends love artichokes.

Oh, and don't be intimidated by the recipe - just read the directions, and if you can, make it at least once ahead of time so that you can tell what works for you and what doesn't. Also, making it at least once ahead of time will let you try it out on yourself and others, and also means that the day that you *need* to make it, you know what's going on, rather than being surprised. Good luck! Cooking is fun, and it's especially rewarding when you're doing something nice for someone else.
posted by Medieval Maven at 5:17 PM on November 13, 2006

Clearly, I forgot the most important part of what I was trying to say: my friend is Italian -- and I mean her family is sort of hardcore about it -- and she's said she will make this casserole to take with her to the family gathering this year. So, at least one Italian person I know thinks the dish is good enough to serve to family!
posted by Medieval Maven at 5:19 PM on November 13, 2006

This baked pasta with butternut squash, minus the bacon.
posted by padraigin at 5:23 PM on November 13, 2006

Twice baked potatoes? They're not quick, but they reheat very well and they're hard to screw up, and they're not hard to make if you use an electric mixer. I can't find a recipe very close to mine, but you can always add mushrooms and olives and other stuff to taste. There are similar recipes for stuffed potatoes.

And Medieval Maven is exactly right about making the dish for yourself before you try taking it to family.
posted by dilettante at 5:27 PM on November 13, 2006

Giant Spanish "omelet"

Ovo-lacto means you do eat that stuff, right? Forgive me if I'm wrong.
posted by Pollomacho at 5:34 PM on November 13, 2006

You're ovo-lacto and don't know how to make a quiche? Time to start practicing. For Thanksgiving theming I would put some squash or pumpking and/or nuts in it, and would definitely veer toward French style quiches rather than the similar Italian tortas.
posted by MonkeySaltedNuts at 5:39 PM on November 13, 2006

Homemade cornbread is easy, and wonderful.
posted by R. Mutt at 5:41 PM on November 13, 2006

Rather than quiche with nuts as I said above you could try adding pumpkin seeds. I would grind them up to a very chunky peanut-butter consistancy.
posted by MonkeySaltedNuts at 5:47 PM on November 13, 2006

Mashed potatoes are really easy to make, are traditional hearty etc. Or sweet potato pie.
posted by geryon at 5:49 PM on November 13, 2006

Similar to padraigin's baked pasta, butternut squash with cream sauce makes an awesome lasagna. I know you said "no lasagna," but this isn't just a "meatless" recipe, it stands on its own merit as a distinct recipe.
posted by lekvar at 5:52 PM on November 13, 2006

I'm mildly confused - your OP says entree, but lots of suggestions so far for side dishes. Perhaps I misunderstand the meaning of entree here, is it supposed to be a replacement for the turkey or a side dish?

If a side dish is fine, then blue cheese mashed potatoes are awesome and very easy to make. Peel and boil potatoes in a large pan until soft (amount determined by how many people you are feeding, but estimate 2 potatoes per person is good). Take pan off the heat, then add salt and pepper, pour in a small amount of cream or full-fat milk, a knob of butter and begin mashing. Taste a bit. Go easy on the cream/milk, you can add too much and make it watery, so err on the side of caution and add a little, mash it up etc. Milk gives you the soft consistency of mash, whereas butter tends to give flavour. Keep tasting and adding more butter until it tastes like good, creamy, yummy mashed potatoes. Now add crumbled blue cheese. Again, the amount is up to you, depends how much you like blue cheese. Mash it in and taste, add more if necessary. I use the cheapo no-brand pre-crumbled blue cheese you can get ina tub at the supermarket. Its easier to mash in when its crumbly (less chance of lumps). You can make this recipe the day before, store it in the fridge and then reheat when you arrive. Microwaving it will heat it fairly consistently, but it will turn into a smooth paste which is a little odd. If you reheat it on the stovetop you will need to keep the heat low and stir constantly to avoid burning the bottom.

Agreed on making whatever dish you choose as a test run beforehand, so you are familiar with it!
posted by Joh at 6:00 PM on November 13, 2006

Another suggestion for quiche: replace half the sour cream in the recipe with plain yogurt. And if you make the crust yourself (not easy for a beginner, maybe, but worth it), replace half the white flour with whole wheat flour. Homemade quiche made this way is tangy and hearty without being heavy.

Add roasted garlic to geryon's mashed potatoes suggestion?
posted by hippugeek at 6:01 PM on November 13, 2006

A vegetarian pot pie or shepherd's pie is hearty comfort food that fits in nicely in a Thanksgiving feast, and people don't really notice the lack of meat. You're not competing with the traditional foods, but also not bringing something that non-vegetarians would see as weird.
posted by team lowkey at 6:10 PM on November 13, 2006

I usually make stuffed butternut squash, which is hearty and very attractive! I've made this Wild Rice-Stuffed Winter Squash from Vegetarian Times, Nov. 1993. Instead of the stuffing there, I do usually use a wild rice, leek, and mushroom stuffing recipe from Veg. Times, Nov. 1992, but I can't find it online. Email me and I'd be happy to share.
posted by kittydelsol at 6:12 PM on November 13, 2006

Also... quiche?!? Did I miss when quiche stopped being met with mocking derision from anyone outside of San Francisco? I wouldn't risk it at an Italian Thanksgiving.
posted by team lowkey at 6:26 PM on November 13, 2006

#team lowkey: Also... quiche?!? Did I miss when quiche stopped being met with mocking derision from anyone outside of San Francisco? I wouldn't risk it at an Italian Thanksgiving.

I'm sorry if you think all Italians are right-wing uncultured idiots like you, but real Italians enjoy tortas which are somewhat the equivalent of quiches.
posted by MonkeySaltedNuts at 6:42 PM on November 13, 2006

Stuffed squash like kittydelsol suggested is a great dish to take for omni holiday meals -- they're filling, impressive to look at, a bit different for most folks but not too "weird," definitely fit into the autumn/harvest theme, and can serve as a side dish for the meat eaters. This one appeals to me too, but I've not tried it yet -- I like the idea of some nuts and fruit in there. There are a few steps, but nothing too difficult. Do the baking of the squash "naked" at home, stuff and wrap them in foil, refrigerate, and then do the final baking when you get there.
posted by redheadeb at 6:50 PM on November 13, 2006

Umm...frittata, much? I don't think Italians are going to be freaked by a quiche.
posted by padraigin at 7:13 PM on November 13, 2006

Response by poster: Joh, yes, I am looking for entrees, not side dishes. I appreciate the suggestions, but I'd like a turkey replacement for myself (and for others to try), not a supplement.
posted by Anonymous at 7:21 PM on November 13, 2006

Joh, yes, I am looking for entrees, not side dishes.

Well, crap. I was going to suggest corn casserole. You can make that days in advance and it always goes fast at our house.

But if you want to make in advance, I'd really look at a casserole, since you could freeze/fridge it days ahead.
posted by dw at 7:33 PM on November 13, 2006

I second a pot pie. (I'm eating a veggie one I made myself right now.) It's pretty easy to make one, and you don't miss the chicken at all.
posted by anjamu at 7:49 PM on November 13, 2006

MonkeySaltedNuts: I'm sorry if you think all Italians are right-wing uncultured idiots like you...

Geez, enough with the ad hominem. I'm a vegetarian in San Francisco having an all vegan Thanksgiving with several families and friends, most of whom aren't vegetarian, as we have done for the last few years. Unfairly or not, quiche has a reputation as the most unmanly, most frou-frou food ever. Whenever you serve non-vegetarians, and especially as part of a traditional meal, and especially when serving your loved-one's families who may or may not be open-minded about such things, you have to be very careful about scaring them off with weird food. The poster is nervous about bringing Tofurkey to the boyfriend's "hardcore Italian, meat-lovin' family". I don't think it's out of line for me to say it's an unnecessary risk trying quiche on them. Go with something comfortable. Something with gravy. Everyone loves gravy.
posted by team lowkey at 8:07 PM on November 13, 2006

Well, I always think the best part of the Thanksgiving turkey is the stuffing, so could you make a stuffing casserole? Or put stuffing inside a pumpkin or squash for a festive presentation? (You should probably make the 2 separately, then stuff and reheat right before eating.) On preview, there's lots of votes for this idea.

I tasted a stuffing sample at Williams-Sonoma that was excellent, with no turkey involved: you start by frying some onions, celery and carrots in olive oil, while that's cooking you moisten the bread cubes (they used their own brand of focaccia stuffing mix) with stock, then combine. At the store they put this mixture in a baking dish, topped it with grated cheese and sprinkled it with one of their flavored olive oils and baked it until hot. It was surprisingly good, didn't seem too difficult, and the cheese and oil made it rich and tasty.

It's always a good idea to test a new recipe before serving it to guests, especially one as vague as I've given you! If you want a more defined recipe, here's one from Williams Sonoma for a stuffed acorn squash entree (vegetarian) that might work for you.
posted by Quietgal at 8:19 PM on November 13, 2006

Maybe a mushroom lasagne with bechamel sauce? I had a delightful version as a main course the other night at Greens (vegetarian) restaurant here in San Francisco. Sorry I don't have a recipe (should be easy enough to Google for some to vet before you make the final product), but Italians do love them some tasty lasagne, and lasagne refrigerates/reheats nicely.
posted by trip and a half at 8:29 PM on November 13, 2006

Oops. I'm an idiot. Just saw the "no vegetarian lasagnes" part. [It was delicious, anyway.]
posted by trip and a half at 8:34 PM on November 13, 2006

I am 100% Sicilian. I remember my quiche phase, and lots of behind-my-back eye-rolling from the mamas and nonnis in mia famiglia. I still feel embarrassed to think about it! Tortas, or frittatas, are casual supper food, not meant for holiday dinner (which is traditionally served in the mid afternoon).

A pasta primavera as piatti primi, or risotto or arancini (but practice practice practice). Eggplant parmigiana as your secondi. Some braised fennel or interestingly stuffed peppers as a veggie side dish.
posted by thinkpiece at 8:38 PM on November 13, 2006 [1 favorite]

ova-lacto vegetarian = no to meat, but yes to eggs and dairy. As opposed to vegan, which means no animal products at all.
posted by team lowkey at 8:56 PM on November 13, 2006

Good ideas, thinkpiece! (Although pasta primavera strikes me as bit unseasonal.)

However, beets make for a hearty risotto (roast them in olive oil, then proceed as usual with the risotto -- the color is quite holiday festive, as well, especially if you include a few golden beets, and toss in the sauted beet greens at the end).

(I love the idea of the arancini, as well, but the poster has indicated a level of skill that may not be conducive to the idea of impressing her Italian relatives, what with the time s/he has between now and Thanksgiving.)
posted by trip and a half at 8:58 PM on November 13, 2006

Okay, okay, okay... You said no veggie lasagna. Which makes me sad. If you change your mind, I have an awesome recipe that's different than any other lasagna recipe I've come across. No red sauce, lots of cheese, pesto and chunky veggies. It is easy to put together and can be made beforehand and either baked or reheated on the day it is to be served. It always makes my co-workers jealous when I bring leftovers in for lunch and never fails to impress the most meat-loving of meat-lovers. My email's in my profile. :)

If you really do want to stick to non-lasagna options, the previous suggestions of an all-veggie pot pie sound great. Nice and comforting...
posted by youngergirl44 at 9:35 PM on November 13, 2006

The no-fail side dish is rounds of sweet potato, baked with a little brown sugar and black pepper.

Another is a nice cold salad with tomatoes, bocconcini (mini balls of fresh mozzarella), green beans, basil, oil and balsamic vinegar.

A three-bean salad is another good bet. People like them and are familiar with them as a side dish, and you could get your protein from it without needing to bring anything freaky like tofu. Similarly, a veg or bread plate with hummus can serve this function.

For entrees:
Risotto is a great idea. (Unless you fear the family will be hyper-critical of your Italian cooking.) Mushrooms, or acorn/butternut squash, are great in risottos. Risottos are super-easy, though they take an hour or more to make. Plus they're awesome comfort food. (I'm happy to post a recipe later; not enough time right now - if you're interested just say so)

Veggie chili with TVP is usually a hit, though it might not be the right vibe for this meal.

Polenta with tomatoes and onions went over big with my husband's family last Thanksgiving; we ran out.

Shepherd's pie with spicy lentil base and nice potatoes on top. You could add a layer of "stuffing" if you love the stuffing flavor but want it to be veg.

Also, mushroom gravy is easy to make, and if you bring your own then you can enjoy the potatoes and other veg things along with them.
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:51 PM on November 13, 2006

Oh man, I used to make a russian vegetable pie that was killer out of Anna Thomas' "The Vegetarian Epicure". I am so sorry my wife hates mushrooms. This one involves a pie crust so it may not qualify.

High Fat is what you want. This will get the hard core where they live. Something from the Moosewood Cookbook could do it.
posted by pointilist at 11:10 PM on November 13, 2006 [1 favorite]

I think the problem here is that "ovo-lacto-vegan" crossed with "hearty traditional-themed Thanksgiving entree" yields the null-set.

The specific problem here is the "traditional entree" part: the tradition for Thanksgiving entrees is always poultry of some kind, if not a turkey than a goose or a duck or individual cornish game hens. Regardless, poultry isn't vegan. Hence the problem.

If you're willing to give up on some of that, how about manicotti? It isn't "traditional-themed Thanksgiving" but if you do it well it could satisfy all your other requirements. And though it's usually prepared with a meat sauce, it doesn't have to be.

And some of the other suggestions above would also fill the bill, as long as you're willing to yield on the tradition part.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 1:22 AM on November 14, 2006

Even thought I've been a vegan for about ten years now, I think this is kind of a terrible idea.

You're meeting your boyfriend's family for the first you really want to be remembered as the girl who brought her own food to Thanksgiving dinner? People are so defensive about their cooking, and if TV can be believed this is especially true of Italian families. Even though you aren't trying to insult them, I think the potential is too great for giving offense.

I understand wanting to have something that you can eat--believe me, I've been there about ten thousand times before--but you also say in your question that you want to impress the family and knock the socks off a friend. Look, this just straight-up isn't going to happen. You've already admitted that you're no Molly Kazan, and even if you were the most you could expect would be a few polite comments.

Not to freak you out, but this meeting is a big deal. You might not think so, and you're boyfriend might not think so, but as far as the family is concerned you're auditioning for the role of daughter-in-law. Hell, my extended family still asks me about girls I haven't talked to in five years.

So you're going to be in the spotlight, and I think that making a big deal about bringing your own vegetarian entree will, at best, seem a little try-hard and eager for attention. "Hey guys, try my quiche, it's delicious! It's vegetarian, you know. Yeah, I cook all the time back might say I'm something of foodie!" etc.

At worst, you could come across as saying that their food isn't good enough for you. I know that's not what you're trying to do, but people still have this 80s-standup-comedian idea of vegetarians as strident and humorless, turning up their nose at "normal" food.

I'm sure that there's a middle ground, where you're just bringing a dish, potluck style, but to a lot of people in our parent's generation, that's a mild-to-medium faux pas. I mean, I don't know your boyfriend's family or anything, but why take the chance?

What I'd do is just remind your boyfriend that you don't eat meat and have him relay the information to his mother. Have him ask her to make you an extra meatless side because he likes you a lot and he wants you to be happy and you might even be grandbaby-making material. You're going to be a guest in the house and she'll want to be a good host, going out of her way to accommodate you. (Plus--not to be Machiavellian about it--but this reverses a bad situation: now she's trying to impress you, not the other way around.)

And if it doesn't work's just one meal, you can fake it for that long. I'm not saying you should hide who you are or be ashamed, but sometimes--for example, when you're meeting your boyfriend's family for the first time--you have to go along to get along.

Good luck! I hope I didn't make you ten times more nervous about everything.
posted by Ian A.T. at 2:19 AM on November 14, 2006 [1 favorite]

Ian A.T.'s advice is right on the money, especially when you consider the European angle. My European in-laws simply don't do potluck, and take pride in composing their menus from beginning to end, up to and including foreseeing ovo-lacto options for yours truly. I guess it also depends on how much they've taken over American traditions, but as a groundrule I would suggesting showing up with alcohol (or flowers?), not food, and trying to give them an early heads-up.
posted by rudster at 4:29 AM on November 14, 2006

Response by poster: Ian A.T., my boyfriend's family knows I'm vegetarian and his mom is OK with me bringing something. As soon as she heard about about the vegetarianism she was worried there wouldn't be anything there for me. She normally does all the cooking (and a lot of cooking) with a very set series of courses, so if I made an entree I could eat it would make life a lot easier for her.

The mutual friend and I will be showing up with alcohol and cookies as well, this is just a supplement.
posted by Anonymous at 5:01 AM on November 14, 2006

Ian A.T. has a great point. Which is why if you bring something, it should be something that can be seen as a side-dish. That way you aren't saying "I know you won't cook anything I can eat so here!" but rather "I know you have a lot of mouths to feed so I wanted to give you a hand." Something like roasted veggies, but if I were making it I'd use rosemary instead of their spices. I'd also add a sliced acorn squash and half-way through, about a dozen cloves of (peeled) garlic.
posted by ilsa at 8:29 AM on November 14, 2006

Ricotta spinach pie

It can be a side or a light main course. It's delcicous but unobtrusive. I've made it for meat-eaters and they really liked it. Also, it travels and reheats well.
posted by 912 Greens at 12:49 PM on November 14, 2006 did it go?
posted by Ian A.T. at 12:08 PM on November 26, 2006

« Older good eats in lansing, michigan?   |   I'm already sad about this as I type it... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.