On the years when it’s nice out -- and please let’s all keep our fingers crossed for 2015! -- it’s a crying shame to be stuck inside cooking the same old things. So, in anticipation for an outdoor get-together this Thanksgiving Day, we’ve created a lightened-up and super-easy vegetarian feast that’s prepared on the grill and in the smoker.
For all of us home cooks, there’s just a bit of pressure associated with this particular holiday, but buying into that isn’t at all necessary. We try to get all of the "perfect Thanksgiving" marketing tricks and images out of our heads and attempt something not so cookie cutter. Here’s our plan: slow down and enjoy time spent with good people, cook whatever the heck we want, and decorate with any colors we like. With these recipes and a brand-new plan, we’re banishing the expectations of our usual Thanksgiving and envisioning something more modern and fun this year.
We start the meal with one of the biggest hits from our cookbook, The Southern Vegetarian: 100 Down-Home Recipes for the Modern Table (Thomas Nelson, 2013): smoked dates stuffed with goat cheese and pecans and topped with green onion and pink pepper. Next, a wonderful sweet potato almondine inspired by Chef Kelly English of Restaurant Iris and Second Line in Memphis and also some roasted Brussels sprouts and apples accompany the star of the show. For this main dish, which we’ve dubbed Roast Beast, we took inspiration from the infamous turducken. "What in the world would a vegetable version of that be like?" we pondered. What we came up with was a giant and flavorful stack of eggplant, portobello mushrooms, tomatoes, roasted red peppers, onions, provolone, and pesto with a dramatic presentation that steals the show.
Even though we’re going pretty rustic and causal for everything else, we still feel that the main dish, especially if it’s vegetarian, really needs to shine. It’s not that we’re vying to have our creation compete with the turkey; it’s that a sharp presentation speaks volumes about the care that was put into making the dish. Nambé’s Braid Serving Tray not only makes the main attraction look stylish, its sturdy handles also make for easy transport from countertop to table.