Thanksgiving can be a challenge for the meatless diner. While the rest of the world is figuring out what size turkey to buy, vegetarians are looking for something to serve as a festive main course. Thankfully, we can celebrate the season with a plant-based showstopper of a dish.
These Delicata Squash Roasts Stuffed With Mushroom Pecan Pâté are my latest answer to the question "What do vegetarians eat for Thanksgiving?" I wanted them to be a slice-able roast, so that they have the same presence on the table that a chunk of protein of some sort would, giving the turkey a little competition. Mushrooms, sage, miso and pecans provide lots of "meaty" textures and flavors, and the savory filling is ringed by the sweet, creamy squash. A bed of savory sautéed apples and dried cranberries adds a juicy counterpoint.
When I make a dish like this to take to a gathering, I make extra. That way all the turkey lovers can slide a slice onto their loaded plates of turkey and stuffing, and say, "Huh, this vegetarian thing is really good." It serves as a fine side dish that might convince some of your friends and family that eating less meat can be a tasty proposition.
The recipe is designed to be easy to prep ahead, in stages if need be. You can roast the squashes, make the filling and sauté the apples up to two days out, and simply assemble and bake in time to serve. You can work it in around all the other dishes that are going in and out of the oven, if you are having a big gathering. If the oven is full, the microwave is not a bad option, either. Cut the recipe in half, and you can have a dinner for two.
This time of year, you should have your pick of the nicest squashes. Look for straight, evenly cylindrical delicatas, and use the scale at the store to make sure they are 14 to 16 ounces each. The trick of baking them "standing up" helps them hold their shape, so the cavity stays open for stuffing. I definitely recommend baking the squash and making the filling a day ahead, and assembling the "roasts" after the squash and filling are completely cold, but you can assemble at room temperature, too.
Thanksgiving is a great time to celebrate the glory of the harvest, by eating a plant-based meal.
Robin Asbell is a cooking instructor and author of "Big Vegan," "The Whole Grain Promise" and "Great Bowls of Food." Find her at robinasbell.com.