Part 1: Fresh Inspiration
I love mounds of spinach, but I wanted something more interesting for T-Gives.
I made several rounds around the sprawling Santa Monica Farmer’s Market in the pouring rain early Wednesday morning. My shopping list was getting perpetually more soaked, but it was a glorious treat to experience weather in Los Angeles.
I trudged on through the rain, picking out flowers and gourds for decorating the T-Gives table and slowly checking off my list. I was delighted when I found a pomegranate vendor with the white variety as well as the red, an extra special treat for my menu.
Eventually, I stumbled upon a vendor who had an exotic looking green vegetable that fulfilled my vision. Curly mustard greens with a hint of purple to them, how visually stimulating! I grabbed a leaf and tasted it. It had a nice bit of peppery spice to it. Two dollars for a big bunch: sold!
Part 2: Designing the Table
For the centerpiece of my table, I filled the bottom of my fruit bowl with crumpled newspaper to support the gourds and pieces of fruit. The gaps were filled with short stemmed flowers, topped with a few dried chilies for an extra splash of color.
Part 3: They Drank, I Cooked
About mid-afternoon, the guests started arriving, bringing with them booze. In typical Thanksgiving fashion, no one had eaten all day. As intoxication set in around the table, I rushed to the rescue with:
Pistachios, Cashews, Raisins, Dried Cherries.
Part 4: Salad
This was an unexpected twist on the typical preparation of brussels sprouts. I shaved all the sprouts through the shredding disc of my food processor and made a dressing of soaked raw sunflower seeds, olive oil, ginger and meyer lemon. Each serving was formed into a cake by dropping them on a plate from a small bowl, then garnished with a ribbon of purple carrot and edible flowers.
Despite several attempts to explain “edible flowers,” a few guests refused to budge. Their loss, as these flowers had a playful texture and spicy flavor.
Part 5: Appetizer
Originally the plan was to move from the salad to to the main course, but with so much left to prepare and hungry, restless guests waiting, I brought in Plan B: The Appetizer.
A twist on the classic skillet cornbread. After pouring a batter of chickpea four and cornmeal into the hot pan, I topped it with onions, corn, paprika and pepitas. Upon serving, each slice was dressed with fresh sage, dried thyme and savory, a sprinkle of sea salt and a drizzle of agave nectar.
Part 6: Main Course
The pearl onions I had been slowly caramelizing for the last half hour got deglazed with a splash of white wine, then I threw the mustard greens on top to let them steam, figuring they would pick up some extra flavor by hanging out with the onions.
The phyllo purses went from the freezer to the oven and the lentils went back to the stove for a reheating. Sweet potatoes were mashed with coconut milk and garam masala. Last to go were to go were cranberries, deep-fried in pancake batter.
This was the climax of the cooking extravaganza. Batches of cranberries frying… lentils simmering… greens steaming… reheating sweet potatoes… burning hands… smoke in my eyes… plating phyllo purses…
And finally, seven plates to the table!
Black Lentils in Mushroom-Zinfandel Sauce, Sweet Potato Mash with Coconut Milk and Garam Masala, Trio of Phyllo Purses (Pumpkin-Walnut, Truffled Sunchoke, Christmas Lima), Mashed Potatoes, Steamed Mustard Greens, Caramelized Pearl Onions, Deep Fried Cranberries.
Small serving sizes made for an exciting variety of textures and flavors without the side affect of feeling stuffed. Regardless, afterwards we needed a bit of an…
INTERMISSION — Wash some of those dishes!
Part 7: Dessert
Of course no T-Gives would be complete without pie, and in my book pecan pie > pumpkin pie.
Vegan Maple Pecan Pie in Almond-Corn-Flax Crust.
Homemade Vanilla Bean Organic Grass-Fed Ice Cream.
Homemade Vegan Cashew Based Maple Sweetened Pumpkin Ice Cream.
Far removed from a “Traditional Thanksgiving”, I felt pretty good about making a successful menu that was 100% vegetarian and 90% vegan, yet it still had a T-Gives feel to it.
Please check out some of the recipes that I have provided. Feedback is always welcome. They make a good meal for any holiday, so don’t feel like you have to wait until next T-Gives to try them out!