Minified Meal: Root Vegetable Stew

True story: Thanksgiving is the hardest time of year to be vegetarian. There’s a massive roasted or deep fried bird on the table, ham in the collards, lard in the pumpkin pie, and you really don’t want to tell your own great aunt or anyone else’s that you can’t eat her famous mashed potatoes because they’re crusted with bacon. And don’t get me started on the subject of Turducken. Everyone always wants to know, when we join them for a Thanksgiving meal, “But you don’t eat meat! What can we fix?” Which is a fair question: we are in fact violating the food traditions of our neighbors, friends and families. We’ve put them in a holiday pickle, and I just can’t bring myself to eat the Turducken, even to be polite. It is in this spirit that I offer, for all of you vegans, vegetarians, and hosts of vegans and vegetarians this holiday season, the following recipe.

We keep Thanksgiving pretty minimal at our house. A good meal, each other’s company, and a bottle of Highland Brewery’s seasonal Cold Mountain Winter Ale. Of course we make the trip home to see both of our families, but we have our own little celebration of sorts. I’m actually thinking a lot about family traditions this year. We’ve invented a few since we’ve been married. There’s Handmade Christmas, where we make all of our Christmas presents (or purchase things other people have made – the work of a local potter, for example, is totally acceptable within the bounds of Handmade Christmas). There’s the birthdayversary, a week-long celebration of our anniversary and both of our birthdays (it always involves a lot of cake). There’s our weird little ritual for celebrating something very exciting (basically, we hold hands, look each other right in the eye and look VERY EXCITED while jumping up and down.) Neither of us have any idea how it started, but in the event of something as exciting as, say, being admitted to grad school, you’d better believe we’re going to do the Dance of Excitement. The privileged few who have witnessed the spectacle seem to find it very entertaining.

But we don’t have any Thanksgiving rituals, and this year I’m feeling the lack. I’m thinking that a Thanks Jar, a la this one from Young House Love, might be just perfect. I love that they both wrote down the things they were thankful for but didn’t peek until Thanksgiving Day.

So that’s my thought on new Thanksgiving Traditions, three days out from the actual holiday (we might just have to write down all the things we’re thankful for at once this year). And here’s the Minified Thanksgiving meal I came up with this evening! Granted, this one took more like half an hour rather than 10 minutes, but it’s a holiday, and some of that was unattended time while it simmered. It was inspired by the produce selection at Trader Joe’s, to be honest. I got a jar of their Mirepoix mix (chopped celery, carrots and onion) and a bag of root vegetables (rutabaga, turnip and parsnip) and worked from there. So here goes: (Vegan) Thanksgiving Stew.

Ingredients:

  • 4 Tbsp. Macadamia nut oil (you could also use olive oil)
  • 3 carrots, chopped
  • 3 sticks celery, chopped
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 c. cubed rutabaga
  • 1 c. cubed parsnips
  • 1 c. cubed turnip
  • 1 butternut squash, peeled and cubed
  • 4 leaves fresh sage
  • cayenne pepper to taste
  • salt to taste
  • pepper to taste

Saute the carrots, celery, onion and garlic in a large cast iron pan in some of the macadamia nut oil (use however much you need for each step in the saute process – mac nut oil is richer and nuttier than most of the other oils I cook with, which is why I chose it for this dish). Take a large stew pot and fill it with at least 6 cups of water (you will likely need more). Add the sauteed vegetables and set the heat at medium. While they cook, saute the root vegetables in stages, until tender, then add to soup pot. Then add the seasonings, continue to cook on medium for about 10 minutes, then simmer for 10 minutes. Voila! Vegan Thanksgiving stew. I like mine pretty hot, so I went heavy on the cayenne. It tasted like fall. Spicy, spicy fall.

Not vegan? Add some sour cream – I tried it both ways and loved it. Happy Thanksgiving, everybody! And since I’m typing it out from memory, if you try it and it fails, drop me a note and I’ll try to figure out what I screwed up!

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