As a vegetarian since middle school, I don't find the ritual pardoning of Tom the Turkey very cute. And while I delight in expressing love and celebrating family and friends through food — and relish any occasion to share a festive, delicious meal — the overconsumption at Thanksgiving always leaves me a bit queasy. My partner has passively converted me to veganism, a diet he adopted years ago as a small way of reducing economic and environmental havoc, and having lived all of my life in the U.S., an expectation of savory carbs to kick off the holiday season feels hardwired into my DNA. So come the fourth Thursday in November, what to do?
 

Six months ago we joined a local community supported agriculture (CSA) program, by which we basically subscribe to local farms, committing to pay a set monthly amount in return for which we get a share of whatever crops they're producing each week. Ever since, we've been largely planning our diet around seasonal local produce; it's another way of reducing our footprint and supporting sustainability. This year we decided to do an all-CSA Thanksgiving. It turns out that building the traditional menu around actually fresh vegetables is a no-brainer — the origin of traditional Thanksgiving dishes is what was available pre-industrialization, after all.

 

In the end, my guests — vegans and carnivores alike — declared the experiment a success. Decadent but ethical, hearty but (kinda-sorta) healthy. And not a shred of tofu!

 

Note on the recipes (all recipes my own unless otherwise noted): 

A few of these recipes call for vegetable broth. If you join a CSA and feel overwhelmed keeping up with the new vegetables coming in — or just tend to have veggies in your fridge 'til they get wilty and unappetizing — homemade vegetable broth or stock is a great solution. Put any combination of vegetables in a pot, cover with water and let simmer for an hour or more. Then strain out the vegetables and freeze the broth; I especially recommend bagging it in one cup increments. This will keep for months, and whenever a recipe calls for vegetable broth, you're all set.



 

I also recommend saving the vegetables you strain out — puree them in a food processor or blender and freeze them, as well. This makes a good base of soups and thick tomato or other sauces.



Vegan almond butternut squash au gratin

 

Ingredients

  • One 2 1/2 lb butternut squash
  • 1/3 cup margarine or butter substitute (or butter, if you don't want to go vegan. And yes, there is such a thing as trans fat-free margerine)
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp mustard powder
  • 1/2 cup nutritional yeast

  • 1/2 cup ground almonds or almond meal

  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup almond or other nondairy milk substitutes



 

Time Estimates

Prep time: 20 min  

Cook time: 40 min  

Total time: 1 hr  

 

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Grind almonds in food processor.
  3. Mix paprika, turmeric and mustard powder into vegetable broth. 

  4. Melt margarine or butter over medium heat. Whisk in flour slowly until smooth and bubbly. Slowly add broth and spice mixture, whisking all the while. Whisk in nutritional yeast and keep whisking until mixture is thick and bubbly, about 2 minutes, maybe more. Turn up the heat if it's not getting thick and bubbly. Stir in lemon juice and about half the ground almonds. Turn off heat.


  5. Slice squash in half vertically. Peel and seed the squash. Slice into 1/4 inch slices.
  6. Place slices in a pot and cover with water. Bring water to boil and let cook for 2 minutes. Drain in a colander.


  7. Place squash in a 10" diameter casserole dish, gratin dish or baking pan. Pour almond milk over the slices and stir a bit to make sure the slices are all saturated. Pour your sauce on top and stir into the top layer of squash a bit. Sprinkle remaining almonds on top. Bake in oven for 30 minutes or until bubbly and slightly browned.

 

Serves about 4

 

Story by Nicole Solomon. This article originally appeared in Plenty in November 2008. The story was added to MNN.com.

 

Copyright Environ Press 2008