Monday, November 25, 2013

Matt LaBombard's Birdless Bounty: A Tasty Thanksgiving Without the Turkey — Part 1

There’s nothing I love more than spending time with my family and friends — except spending time with my family and friends while eating delicious food. When I’m not at Storey publicizing our books and authors, you can find me at home, rocking out in the kitchen to the latest Kenny Chesney song and trying out recipes. One thing you should know is that I’m a vegan – I’m the only vegan at Storey, and I’m the only vegan out of my close-knit group of friends and family. I guess I’ve always liked to be the odd ball! Since my diet differs from that of the people I spend the most time with, I’ve developed recipes that we will all love.

Don’t worry, my food isn’t weird or gross; it’s actually quite delicious — so delicious that I’ve had people tell me they would consider going vegan if I cooked for them every day! It’s been quite a while since I’ve eaten meat, and truth be told, when it comes to planning a menu — whether it be a holiday menu or a simple lunch for me and my friends — including meat doesn't even cross my mind. Instead, I love to serve up seasonal vegetables that are bursting with flavor and prepared with ease. What’s the point in making something that tastes amazing if you’re too tired to eat after slaving over a hot oven all day? There’s no point to me!

So I’ve drafted up some of my favorite recipes that you can make as an entire menu or as one or two dishes to serve alongside your Thanksgiving meal.  Yes, the recipes here are vegan, but they’re flavorful enough to dish up at even the fanciest celebration.

I hope that you find something that you love, and I wish you and yours a very merry holiday season. 

Birdless Bounty Thanksgiving Menu — Starter and Main Courses

  • Cranberry Chutney on Bruschetta

  • Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Balsamic Drizzle 
  • Kale and Fennel Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette 
  • Portobello Mushroom Caps Stuffed with Sautรฉed Leeks and Bread Cubes

Cranberry Chutney

This chutney screams Thanksgiving like nothing I’ve ever made. It has all the flavors of the season. The warming feel of cinnamon and the tang of the cranberries are balanced with the sweetness of the maple syrup. This is great on toasted pieces of sliced baguette or crackers, and it could go beautifully on any cheese platter (for those of you who serve one). This is also a really fun gift for any host or hostess. Put it into a mason jar tied with raffia or ribbon and attach the recipe, so that the recipient can not only enjoy it but make it for their friends and family, too.

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 shallot, small dice
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, ¼-inch dice
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, chopped
3 cups cranberries
1 ½ teaspoons grated orange zest
½ cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1 ½ teaspoons lemon zest
¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
½ cup raisins
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ cup maple syrup

In a large saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the shallot, apples, thyme, and rosemary to the warm olive oil and cook until shallots and apples are tender, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the cranberries, orange zest and juice, lemon zest and juice, raisins, salt, cinnamon, and maple syrup to the shallots and apples. Bring the mixture to a boil and then reduce it to a simmer. Cover the pot and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. After 15 minutes, remove the cover and cook for another 5-10 minutes until the mixture becomes thick and much of the juice evaporates.

Allow to cool and serve on pieces of toasted baguette.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Balsamic Drizzle

This is as easy as any recipe gets. If you’re not a big fan of balsamic vinegar, feel free to leave it out and eat the roasted Brussels sprouts as they are.

Serves 6

1 to 2 lbs Brussels sprouts, halved
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tsp grated lemon or orange zest (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
On a large baking sheet, combine the Brussels sprouts, olive oil, salt, and black pepper. With clean hands, toss the ingredients together then spread evenly in one layer. If the Brussels sprouts seem too crowded, use two baking sheets, so that they roast instead of steam. Roast the Brussels sprouts for 40 minutes, flipping them halfway through.

In the meantime, add the balsamic vinegar to a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Continue to boil the vinegar until it has reduced by half and is a thick syrup, about 15 minutes. Once the Brussels sprouts have roasted for 40 minutes, remove from oven and drizzle with balsamic syrup. If using the lemon or orange zest, sprinkle on top of Brussels sprouts and toss with two wooden spoons to coat evenly.

Serve immediately. 

Kale and Fennel Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette

Every time I make this salad, my family and friends go nuts! The seasonal flavors jump off your plate. I love the taste of licoricey fennel, but if you’re not a fan, try using a red onion. I imagine that in the summer time this salad would be delicious with chunks of watermelon and Kalamata olives.
Note: The kale can be tough, so to make sure the acid of the citrus somewhat softens it, massage the mixture together. Doing this an hour or so before serving will allow the kale to soften a bit and gives you more time to prepare the rest of the meal. Who doesn’t love a make-ahead dish!?

Serves 6

1 fennel bulb (also referred to as anise in grocery stores)
1 to 2 bunches of kale, ribs removed, sliced thinly (about 6 cups)
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped

2 tablespoons grated orange zest
½ cup freshly squeezed orange juice (about 1 large orange)
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest  
¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
1 large garlic clove, grated
1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
¾ cup extra virgin olive oil

Rinse the fennel bulb under cold water to remove any excess dirt. Also rinse the kale as there can be gritty pieces within the leaves. On a cutting board, remove the fennel stalks, slice the bulb in half, and remove the hard inner core (this is the part that looks like a triangle when you slice the bulb in half). Then slice each fennel bulb lengthwise into thin slices.

In a large bowl, combine the kale, fennel, and dried cranberries. Set aside.

In a bowl, combine orange zest and juice, lemon zest and juice, garlic, salt, black pepper, and red pepper flakes. While continually whisking, slowly pour in the olive oil to emulsify the vinaigrette.
Pour enough vinaigrette over the kale, fennel, and cranberries to moisten and, using clean hands, “massage” the kale mixture – See headnote. Before serving, add toasted walnuts and toss together with other ingredients.

Portobello Mushroom Caps Stuffed with Sautรฉed Leeks and Bread Cubes

These are a great swap for any main dish during Thanksgiving. They’re full of flavor, hearty, and satisfying. I could honestly put this stuffing into a baking dish, bake, and eat by itself, but the mushrooms are so gosh darn good! If you don’t eat meat, serve these as a side dish for guests and a main course for you, and all will be happy.

Serves 5

1 small French baguette, cut into ½ inch cubes
7 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 ½ teaspoons, kosher salt divided
¾ teaspoon pepper, divided
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
5 Portobello mushroom caps, stems and ribs removed
3 cups leeks, sliced and thoroughly washed
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped
½ tablespoon fresh thyme, finely chopped
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 cup vegetable broth, preferably homemade
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

On a baking sheet, combine the baguette cubes, 2 tablespoons olive oil, ½ teaspoon kosher salt, and ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. Spread the mixture into one even layer on the baking sheet and toast in oven for 5 to 10 minutes until golden brown. Remove from oven, set aside. 

Combine 3 tablespoons olive oil and the balsamic vinegar in a small bowl. Using a pastry brush, brush both sides of the Portobello caps with the olive oil and balsamic mixture. Place the Portobello caps top side down on a clean baking sheet. Set aside.

In a sautรฉ pan, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add the leeks, rosemary, thyme, 1 teaspoon of kosher salt, and ½ teaspoon of black pepper. Saute the mixture until the leeks soften, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for one more minute. Add the Dijon mustard, vegetable broth, red pepper flakes, and lemon juice and cook for one minute until the Dijon distributes evenly in the mixture.

Add the toasted baguette cubes to the leek mixture.

Using a measuring cup, place one cup of the baguette and leek mixture in each mushroom cap. Place the mushrooms in the oven and bake for 15 to 20 minutes until the baguette cubes are golden brown.

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