With Thanksgiving right around the corner, we will be devoting the next few weeks to local options for the big feast. The cool thing about Thanksgiving is that the "traditional" meal consists of fruits and vegetables that are in-season and available locally at this time of year. The challenge today is that we often end up buying said fruits and vegetables at the grocery store, so there is a good chance they have been shipped from some distant locale.
We begin our Thanksgiving journey with the main course—for many, that will be turkey, but for the vegetarians, vegans, and non-conformist among us, there are plenty of other options that take advantage of the flavors of the season.
Let's get cooking…
Turkey, the local kind. Have you ever eaten a turkey that has never been frozen? Buying a local turkey means paying a little more and giving up the pop-up timer, but in return you get a tastier turkey that is about as fresh as they come. Last year we purchased our first local, organic turkey. We signed up for the weight range we wanted a few weeks before Thanksgiving—there is not a guarantee on size because, well, they are still living turkeys at that point, so it's an estimate. As it happened, the turkeys were all a little "plumper" than expected that year, so we ended up with about five extra pounds on pick up day.
Check with in Middletown, the in Portsmouth, or in Newport to sign up for a local, organic turkey.
Vegetarian main course options. With so many sweet, hearty vegetables in season right now, there are plenty of vegetarian options that capture the flavors of Thanksgiving. My top choice this year is a vegetable lasagna that we recently adapted from a Cooking Light recipe to be more Thanksgiving-esque. It was rich, healthy, chock full of root vegetables, and definitely nice enough to be a main course at any Thanksgiving table. I'm including our adaptation below if you want to try it for yourself!
Vegan main course options. Again, in-season vegetables provide a great starting point for a vegan-friendly meal. One of my favorite main course options is stuffed squash. Your favorite variety of fall squash can be stuffed with a variety of hearty grains and vegetables to make a delectable meal that presents nicely. Nava Atlas, author of several vegetarian and vegan cookbooks, offers a recipe for stuffed butternut squash that can serve as inspiration. Barley, quinoa, and couscous could be a nice alternative to the rice, and I might experiment with adding other veggies to the mix—sautéed in-season greens, chopped apples, or turnips, for example.
I have never attempted a Tofurkey, but if anyone has a great-tasting recipe they would like to share, please post it in the comments!
Lasagna with Fall Vegetables, Cheese, and Sage Béchamel
Adapted from Cooking Light's recipe.
This recipe involves many steps, but you can prepare and refrigerate the béchamel, covered, up to two days ahead and refrigerate the vegetable mixture and the greens mixture separately for up to two days. Also, for an easier meal make this into a baked ziti dish by substituting a pound of cooked whole wheat ziti. Mix all the ingredients together in a lasagna pan, and bake just as you would the lasagna.
Yield: 9 servings
- 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 6 cups fat-free milk
- 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh sage
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
- 2 1/2 cups finely chopped onion
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 teaspoon sea salt, divided
- 10 oz. fresh spinach, or any cooking greens you like and can get locally. We had braising greens from the farm, but you could also try other cooking greens like turnip greens or kale.
- 14 cups of your favorite fall vegetables, in small cubes. We tried pumpkin, turnips, carrots, sweet potato, and butternut squash.
- Cooking spray
- 2 cups (4 ounces) shredded Gruyère, Asiago, Swiss, or any cheese combination you like
- 1-1/2 cups (3 ounces) grated fresh Parmesan cheese
- 12 pre-cooked lasagna noodles
- 2 cups warm water
Preheat oven to 450°.
To prepare béchamel, lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Place flour in a Dutch oven, and gradually add milk, stirring with a whisk. Add 1/2 cup onion, sage, shallots, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and bay leaf. Bring the mixture to a boil; cook 1 minute or until thick. Strain béchamel through a sieve over a bowl, and discard solids. Set the béchamel aside.
To prepare the filling, heat 1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add 2 1/2 cups onion and garlic; sauté 3 minutes. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt and greens; sauté 2 minutes or until spinach wilts. Set aside.
Combine 1 1/2 teaspoons oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and vegetables on a jelly roll pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 450° for 15 minutes.
Combine cheeses; set aside.
To prepare noodles, soak noodles in warm water in a 13 x 9-inch baking dish 5 minutes. Drain.
Spread 3/4 cup béchamel in bottom of a 13 x 9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Arrange 3 noodles over béchamel; top with half of mushroom mixture, 1 1/2 cups béchamel, and 1/3 cup cheese mixture. Top with 3 noodles, spinach mixture, 1 1/2 cups béchamel, and 1/3 cup cheese mixture. Top with 3 noodles, remaining mushroom mixture, 1 1/2 cups béchamel, and 3 noodles. Spread remaining béchamel over noodles. Bake at 450° for 20 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining cheese; bake an additional 10 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.