How to Have a Vegan, Gluten-Free, Sustainable Thanksgiving; and Still Love Your Family Afterwards

A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving

The Debates.

“Turkey is a staple of Thanksgiving dinner.  I don’t care who eats it.”

“But Evan is vegetarian.”

“Maggie is trying very hard to stay vegan.”

“On Thanksgiving?”

“We could make them a tofurky.”

“But, those are so processed.”

“Okay, forget the tofurky. What if we have a turkey, but we buy it from a local farm?”

“They’ll probably feel better about that. Evan might even eat some. Let’s talk stuffing.”

“How about Mom’s classic challah stuffing?”

“We have three gluten-free guests.”

“Three?  Which three?”

“Does it matter?”

“We could do a rice stuffing.”

“One in the bird, and one out for the meat-phobic?”

“And one stuffing without onions.”

“What?”

“And mashed potatoes?”

“Mashed sweet potatoes, they’re more nutrient dense.”

“With butter?”

“No, not vegan.”

“Rolls?”

“Those are gluten.”

“A starter course with soy cheese?”

“Someone’s breastfeeding.”

“…Pie?”

“One gluten free crust, one vegan crust, only natural sugars. Nothing store bought because of hydrogenated oils and high fructose corn syrup. Only organic apples, unshelled pecans, free trade brown sugar, egg-free, flour-free, dairy-free, environmentally conscious, well loved, well nurtured, well educated, three years into psychoanalysis, and sublimely happy.”

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Some Bellies Grow in Brooklyn

BK BridgeWith so few days of coatless weather ahead, it seemed as good a time as any for a stroll across the Brooklyn Bridge. So we packed our passports and headed over recently. We had a hell of a time with customs because they didn’t think my shades were fly enough… but eventually they approved me for border crossing because my jeans were rolled up over my boots.

Thanks BK.
Ahhh BK

Mags and Britt

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This Crew

TytyEnamel PitcherI love Brooklyn. I’m not entirely sure why we don’t live there. I suspect, assuming life (and work/school) doesn’t drive us off kilter and send us somewhere unpronounceable – it could happen – we will leave our happy studio on the Upper West and move there within the next few years.

But a visit to the Smorgasburg is a stellar way to spend a Saturday or Sunday in the meantime. And if you get to the one in Fort Greene on Saturadys it’s a combined Smorgasburg-Brooklyn Flea, so you can find not only a smorgasbord of deliciousness, but also dreamy old things to bring home with you. (Like perhaps an old-school enamel pitcher.)

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Street food is not known for its veganness, lots of meat on a stick and fried cheese. But places like NYC (and I suspect everywhere in the Northwest) appeal to every foodie type. So we weren’t blown away when we stumbled upon Vietnamese Summer Rolls with portobello mushrooms and roasted asparagus.

But we were blown away when we ate them, because they were stellar.IMG_6873

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Others of us found gooey grilled cheese and milkshakes. Aaaand they did not look too broken up about said decision.

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IMG_6905Saturdays are the best. Full of friends, full of foodies, full of fun.

Beets For Those Who Hate Beets

Beet, Ginger, and Coconut Soup

Brittany Disdains BeetsContrary to photographic evidence, Brittany doesn’t like beets. In fact when I was thinking of things to do with our CSA beets this week I asked her, “You’re the one who loves beets, right?” To which she retorted – positively horrified – “EW! No.” And then, “Wait, who loves beets?” In the same way someone might say, “Wait, who loved the Spanish Inquisition?”

So we made her beet soup.

It occurred to me to trick her into eating it, tell her it was squash or something and then spring it on her afterwards. But if someone did that to me, I would flip. So I gave her the benefit of the doubt and told her it was indeed beets, and gave her full permission to not touch it, or having tried it to dump it politely down the drain. She later told me I was encouraged to trick her into eating new foods (sans viande) any time – and I’m really considering the possibilities.

But she, as per usual, was a sport.

Harvest abound, we’ve had enormous CSA loads lately. This week we got arugula, beets, bok choy, broccoli, cabbage, kale, peppers, hot peppers,  romaine lettuce, string beans, cherry tomatoes, tomato-tomatoes (and tomatoes and tomatoes), plums, pears, and a hernia from carrying it all home.

I found this lovely vegan soup on Epicurious for Beet, Ginger, and Coconut Milk Soup, and tweaked around with the recipe a bit.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped ginger
  • 3 large red beets
  • 5 cups vegetable stock
  • Epi calls for 1 can (14.5 ounces) of low-fat coconut milk. But it seems pretty obvious to me that low-fat coconut milk is half coconut and half water. So if I really need for something to be lighter, I can use half a can of regular and pour the rest in as water. But I think coconut milk is lovely as is.
  • And Epi calls for 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt, but I think it’s fair to say that you can be pa-retty generous with the salting.
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Share Beets!More Share Beets!Our beets from our CSA, as always, were gorgeous. Their colors are just unreal. I’m so infatuated with beet color that I once dyed a few articles of clothing with beet juice, thinking the color would penetrate. It did not, and my T’s vaguely resembled having been dragged through the mud. Fail.

But don’t they look like purple Cindy-Loo-Who’s?

Unlike Epicurious, we roasted our beets first because I really dislike the way boiled beets taste (hey, maybe that’s the objection Britt has!) and we thought the roasty flavor might add a nice quality to the soup.

Zebra BeetsRoasting Zebra BeetsOnce the beets were finished roasting (in a container with aluminum foil over it, at 350° for about an hour or until you can easily pierce them with a fork) we removed the skins by dropping the still-hot beets in an ice bath, then sautéed the onions, garlic, and ginger. We added the beets, stirred ’em around, then the vegetable broth and can of coconut milk and S&P. Then blended with an Immersion Blender.Beets and AromaticsImmersion BlendingWe left it to cook and thicken altogether for a bit, and then put it in the fridge to serve chilled later, although it’s very tasty served warm as well. I swirled some pomegranate molasses on the top (which kind of made the dish) and garnished with a peppery arugula leaf.

IMG_6956For our second course we had a flatbread – dough ala Evan – with tomato sauce (entirely CSA share and window garden tomatoes), share broccoli, share arugula, share peppers, (non-share) shallots and black olives, paired with a share romaine salad with (non-share) avocado, and peanut sauce. Share-iffic. I’d been referring to our flatbread as a vegan pizza, but Evan explained that it cannot be pizza without cheese. And so: flatbread.

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Yummy meal; yummier company.

Evan later said to me: “Why did we make beet soup for Brittany? It seems a little cruel…” I had no acceptable answer for him, except to say that I’d wanted to try it, and she and Tyler were coming for dinner. My sincerest apologies for being an asshole.

But when asked, Brittany said, “I still hate beets… but look at my bowl.” (Empty.) Then she clarified: “It wasn’t beet forward.”

Brittany and Beet Soup.

Tequila-Tofu Taco Night

Taco NightAfter debating the merits of Chipotle earlier this week, all we could think about was Mexican food.  It might not be the most sustainable meal, but one of our favorite vegan dinners when we need a light cooking night is tequila tofu tacos. It’s freakishly easy, and a stellar backup for nights when spending long hours in the kitchen feels foreboding.

We sauté up some firm tofu in olive oil with:

  • lime
  • cumin
  • coriander
  • a splash of tequila
  • garlic
  • and sea salt

Then we chop up whatever came in our share that week – preferably tomatoes (love cherry), sometimes corn, or occasionally cabbage for some crunch. And we cut up some avocado. (Sorry fellow locavores, I simply can’t help eating avocados… like, all the time.) Er, and occasionally the addition of pineapple is just about the best thing ever.

Tofu TacosPan-fry some soft taco shells, stuff them with goodies, add some chile sauce. And enjoy.

Taco DonezoAnd just for good measure: a little tequila on the side never hurts.

The Eight-Legged Vegetable

Sometimes an obscure vegetable can pop up in your CSA share.  Take, for example, the purple kohlrabi.

Purple Kholrabi

What does one do with a purple kohlrabi?

My parents once made a deal that if my pop would do the food shopping, my mum would cook anything he brought home for a month. Taking this as a challenge (not a compromise), the old man got more and more creative with what she came home to. On the day she opened the fridge and found an entire octopus, she surrendered, and they’ve been sharing the shopping responsibilities since. Finding a purple kohlrabi felt a lot like finding an octopus.

The best way we’ve found to negotiate the less common is to blindly jump in and Sauteed Vegetablesfirst taste it raw, then cooked, then hope to high hell you match it with the proper ingredients. We paired our purple kohlrabi with bok choy and peppers in some olive oil, while making a curry sauce separately. For the curry we Tofu Currysauteed onion, garlic, and scallions. We added some fresh ginger, curry powder, and turmeric. Then covered it in coconut milk and a bit of soy sauce, and simmered. Then we chucked in some tofu, the sauteed vegetables, poured it all over rice, and dinner was concocted.

The kohlrabi reminded us vaguely of turnip, although it had been described to us as tasting like broccoli stalk. Raw it was subtle and crunchy. We found that the longer it cooked, the sweeter and more flavorful it became.  The occasional (accidental) crispier kohlrabi slices, ended up being the best part of our curry.

Kholrabi and Tofu Stirfry

Given the chance, even an octopus can surprise you.