If you want to spare the life of a turkey this Thanksgiving, then maybe it’s time to find some inspiration in the pages of celebrity chef Yotam Ottolenghi’s new cookbook, “Flavor.” With COVID-19 guidelines urging people to stay at home, here’s a chance to get creative while eating green.
Co-authors Ottolenghi and Ixta Belfrage (a test kitchen chef at Ottolenghi and a veteran of his NOPI restaurant) write that their vegetarian cookbook has “more than one hundred innovative, super-delicious, plant-based recipes,” some of which are also vegan or can be adapted into a vegan version. According to the authors, the book brings a “next-level approach to vegetables” that “breaks down the fundamentals of cooking into three key elements: process, pairing and produce.”
As the authors explain, home cooks can experiment with their process through such techniques as charring and infusing, while pairing their dishes in categories such as sweetness, fat, acidity and chile heat (Belfrage was influenced by her grandfather in Mexico City) and seeking out the perfect produce.
In a statement that was written before Thanksgiving but that rings eerily true for the holiday, Ottolenghi writes, “If you want to win more people over to the veg camp, there is no worse way to go about it than demand that they go cold turkey.” He writes that he will use “an animal-based aromatic ingredient” if it “does an outstanding job at helping a vegetable taste particularly delicious.” But, he adds, he “will also offer various alternatives to animal products (and dairy products, whenever I can) so that everyone can join in.”
When they were interviewed for the Australia-based Booktopia podcast on Sept. 7, the authors reflected on their favorite recipes in the book.
“I love the Brussels sprouts with chestnuts and grapes,” Ottolenghi said. “The sweet and sour dish is absolutely amazing.”
“It kind of changes every time I flip through the book,” Belfrage said. However, she mentioned the mushroom lasagne, “a really delicious lasagne” that includes multiple kinds of mushrooms—brown button, oyster, porcini and wild—along with black pepper and red chiles.
Both of these dishes look like a good main course for a vegetarian Thanksgiving, for different reasons.
As the authors write of the sweet and sour Brussels sprouts with chestnuts and grapes, “A subtle sharp sweetness, with hints of bitterness, gradually emerges, giving the dish a real festive quality.” They call it “an obvious candidate for a holiday feast.”
The mushroom lasagne, meanwhile, “contains one of two epic ragù recipes in this book…that, we believe, gives any meat ragù a terrifically good run for its money.” There’s even an alternative for the kids’ table: “Pull back on the black pepper and lose the chile for a child-friendly version.”
Want to carve an eggplant instead of a turkey? Try the stuffed eggplant in curry and coconut dal. In doing so, you’ll get a chance to make your own paneer and coconut dal. The dal will give you some vegetarian Thanksgiving leftovers that, as the authors note, can be served with their curry-crusted rutabaga steaks and rice.
There are recipes involving vegetarian Thanksgiving staples like potatoes, onions and, of course, squash. As readers will find out, you can serve your squash in many different ways, including a version that combines butternut squash with Israeli couscous in tomato and star anise sauce.
“If you are lucky, you will get a crisp, caramelized layer of couscous at the bottom of the pan,” the authors write. “It doesn’t happen every time, but it will still be totally delicious without it.”
There are a few other Middle Eastern-influenced squash dishes. One is the mafalda pasta and roasted butternut in warm yogurt sauce. The authors write that because of its natural acidity, yogurt “makes creamy pasta sauces that are rich but not in any way cloying or unctuous. These are found all over the Middle East but aren’t quite as popular elsewhere.” In their version, a tomato-chile sauce “helps cut the fattiness even further.” There’s also the super-soft zucchini with harissa and lemon.
You can even make squash for dessert—the butternut, orange and sage galette.
“The hyper-flaky pastry, which is rich from the butter and crunchy from the polenta, is the star here,” Ottolenghi and Belfrage write.
With these recipes, you can be the star of your own vegetarian Thanksgiving this year.