Traditions are made to be broken. And Thanksgiving is a great time to do that.
Have you ever wondered, for instance, why does everyone HAVE to eat turkey for Thanksgiving? I mean, why should mass-slaughtering millions of innocent and beautiful birds and putting them on our tables, belly up, be a great way to show we are grateful?
Of course, there are those who veer away from this tradition, like vegetarians and vegans. But somehow, we too can’t get too far from the turkey malarkey. So we rush out to buy fake turkeys, made with soy protein or what have you, and pretend it’s just as good as the real thing.
Somewhere, we lose sight of the fact that real vegan food, made with great, natural ingredients, can be just as good-and frankly even better than- that stuff the meat-eating world thinks they cannot live without.
As Thanksgiving drew closer this year, I often got the question: “What are you cooking for Thanksgiving? Tofurky?”
No way. Instead, here’s the gorgeous spread I served up. My main dish, Cauliflower “Malai” Kofta Curry with Whole-Wheat Puris, is so delicious and satisfying, it would satisfy the most hard-core meat-eaters. Koftas are little vegetable balls – kinda like meatballs, only tastier. You can make them with a variety of veggies, including cabbage and zucchini, but I went with cauliflower because it’s one of my favorite vegetables. Incidentally, these would be great appetizers by themselves, especially with a green mint or coriander chutney.
There’s some deep-frying involved in this dish, but if you deep fry at the appropriate temperature (350-375 degrees) the food absorbs almost no oil. Plus, it is a celebration and this is still much healthier than turkey fat and butter and whatnot.
To go with the curry and puris, I served up a side of Crunchy Edamame with Crispy Onions (replacing the tried-and-tired bean casserole) and Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Pineapples and Walnuts.
For dessert, we had the most scrumptious Pumpkin “Cheesecake” with a creamy filling and a divine nut crust. And, of course, it’s all 100 percent vegan.
So here’s my Thanksgiving feast, delicious, protein-rich, quite easy to cook, and meant to show my appreciation not just for the life I am lucky enough to lead, but also the lives of my fellow creatures of all kinds who make this world such a beautiful place.
Cauliflower “Malai” Kofta Curry
For the gravy:
1/3 cup cashew pieces, soaked in 1/2 cup water
1/3 cup pumpkin seeds, roasted and then soaked along with the cashews
2 green chilies, chopped
1/2 cup coriander leaves, chopped
Salt to taste
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp cumin seeds, roasted
1 tsp coriander seeds, ground
Mix all the ingredients and process in a food processor until smooth.
Pour into a heavy saucepan on medium heat until heated through. Add water if the gravy is too thick.
For the koftas:
4 cups cauliflower, finely grated (I passed the florets through the fine grater on my food processor)
1 cup chickpean flour (besan)
2 green chilies, chopped
1/2 cup chopped coriander leaves
1 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp turmeric (optional)
1/2 tsp baking powder
Mix all the ingredients and shape into balls about 3/4th of an inch in diameter.
Deep fry in hot oil until golden on the outside. Take care not to let the oil get too hot or the outside will be browned before the inside has a chance to cook.
Place in a bowl and pour the hot gravy over the balls.
Serve hot with whole-wheat puris.
Whole Wheat Puris
1 cup whole-wheat durum flour (use regular whole wheat if that’s what you have)
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp oil
Using enough water, knead the above ingredients into a smooth dough. Set aside at least half hour.
Divide the flour into balls about 1/2-inch in diameter each.
Roll each ball into a flat round about 3-4 inches in diameter.
Deep fry in hot oil on each side until puffed and golden.
Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Pineapple and Walnuts
2 large sweet potatoes. Poke holes all over each sweet potato with a fork or small knife and then zap in a microwave about 10 minutes until tender and cooked all over. When cooled enough, peel and pass through a potato ricer or just mash with a potato masher.
1/2 cup finely chopped pineapple
1/4 cup walnuts, finely chopped
2 tbsp soy creamer (I used Silk)
Mix all the ingredients together well and add salt only if you need it.
1 tbsp canola or other vegetable oil
1 large red onion, finely sliced
1/4 tsp red chilli powder
2 cups shelled edamame beans (soy beans), microwaved for a couple of minutes if frozen, until they are just tender but have a strong bite.
Heat the oil and fry the sliced onion until browned and quite crispy.
Remove about 3/4 of the onions from the oil and reserve.
To the remaining onions, add the edamame and salt to taste.
Toss together and turn off heat. Top with remaining onions and serve hot.
For the nut crust:
2 cups walnuts (can use pecans)
2 tbsp vegan “butter” like Earth Balance or Smart Balance (the vegan version)
2 tbsp canola or other vegetable oil
3 tbsp sugar
A pinch of salt
In a food processor, process the nuts until they resemble crumbs. Add the “butter”, oil, sugar and salt and process briefly until the mixture comes together.
Pat the crust into the bottom and slightly up the sides of a 9- or 10-inch springform pan.
Bake 10 minutes until it starts to brown and becomes quite firm. Set aside to cool completely.
For the pumpkin filling:
2/3 cup turbinado sugar + 1 tbsp maple syrup (can substitute with regular dark brown sugar)
1/2 tsp powdered cinnamon
1 tsp cardamom powder
1/4 tsp powdered cloves
In a large bowl, beat until just smooth:
16 ounces vegan “cream cheese” (I used Tofutti’s Better-than-cream-cheese)
Scrape the sides of the bowl and the beaters. Add the sugar and spices and mix briefly until everything blends in.
Add 16 ounces of silken tofu, in three portions, beating well after each addition.
Add and mix until just mixed:
1 cup pumpkin puree
Pour the filling into the crust.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place a loaf pan or any other pan filled with water in the oven.
Slide the springform pan on a baking sheet and place in the oven.
Bake the cheesecake for 30 minutes.
Turn the heat down to 325 degrees and continue baking for another 20 minutes.
When the cheesecake is done, the sides will be set and puffy but the center will still jiggle when tapped.
Remove to a rack and cool completely. Chill before serving.
Enjoy, everyone, and hope you all had a great Thanksgiving!