Thanks for Giving Me a Plant-Based Entree
By Nancy Eisman
In America, Thanksgiving dinner is the most iconic meal of the year. I’m confident you already have the main course, and the must-have traditional sides and pies that your family and friends look forward to from one year to the next, on your menu. Although the standard accompaniments at most Thanksgiving dinners are usually plentiful and delicious, and your guest(s) who eat a plant-based diet won’t go home hungry, why not take the time to serve a show stopping main course made just for them?
There are two words that, when uttered, I believe foreshadow something extra special on the horizon. Those words are “puff pastry.” Seasonal, savory and/or sweet ingredients wrapped in or beautifully arranged on sheets of caramelized, flaky, and pillow-y dough are all you need to make an entrée worthy of the response “wow, you really went to a lot of trouble for me, and I really appreciate not having to make a meal out of just the sides, not that they’re not delicious but there always seemed to be something missing from the center of my plate, so thanks again.”
Puff pastry not only elevates the dish to a higher, fancier level, but it offers the versatility of using it as a delicious encasement for a full-of-flavor filling, or a round, square, rectangular, or any shape you like base for colorful, seasonal ingredients. Both of the entrées below consist of roasted sweet potatoes, eggplant, red cabbage, carrots, red onion, parsnips, beets, mushrooms, cipolline onions and red quinoa, staying in the fall flavor profile and color palate. Use my selection or any variation of fillings that you like to customize your puff pastry creation, and then proudly serve it to your very thankful guest(s).
Savory Holiday Loaf or Tarts
1 sheet Puff Pastry, thawed
1 large Sweet Potato, sliced for the loaf, diced for the tarts
1 medium Eggplant, same as above
½ small Red Cabbage, same as above
1 large Carrot, same as above
1 large Parsnip, same as above
1 medium Red Onion, same as above
Extra Virgin Olive Oil for drizzling
Salt and Pepper
3 Melissa’s Steamed Beets, juice reserved for glazing, same as above
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Portobello Mushroom, diced
4 Crimini Mushrooms, diced
1 package Melissa’s Dried Porcini Mushrooms, rehydrated and diced
6 Cipolline Onions, diced
4 Fresh Sage Leaves, diced
Salt and Pepper
1¼ cups Melissa’s Red Quinoa, cooked
1 tablespoon Maple Syrup
Take the sheet of puff pastry and open to reveal 3 sections. Place the pastry on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, and using a paring knife, carefully cut strips on both of the side sections, about ½” wide. Set aside in the refrigerator while you make the filling.
Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees. Place the sliced sweet potato, eggplant, red cabbage, carrot, parsnip and red onion on another baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for about 20-25 minutes. Remove from oven to cool, but leave the oven on.
Cook the red quinoa according to package directions, and separate out 1¼ cups. Set aside.
Sauté’ the onions, mushrooms, and sage in a little oil until the onions start caramelizing, and then mix in the cooked quinoa. Season to taste with salt and pepper and remove from the heat.
Take the sheet of puff pastry and assemble as follows:
Bake the loaf for about 20 minutes until golden-red. Remove from the oven and let rest about 15 minutes before slicing.
- Spread the cooked quinoa/onion/mushroom mixture over the center section.
- Cover with a layer of eggplant, followed by a layer of sweet potatoes and red cabbage.
- Drizzle the ingredients with maple syrup and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- Add a layer of carrots, parsnips, beets, and red onion.
- Pull up each “strip” of puff pastry, one strip and one side at a time, up and over the mixture, until the filling is all covered and a loaf is formed.
- Brush the loaf with olive oil, and then brush again with beet juice.
Take the sheet of puff pastry, open to reveal 3 sections, and then cut each section in half to make 6 squares. Place the squares 2” apart on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and set aside in the refrigerator while you make the filling.
Roast the diced vegetables as indicated above in the directions for the loaf.
Cook the quinoa as indicated above.
Sauté the onions, mushrooms and sage as indicated above.
Take the baking sheet with the puff pastry squares and assemble as follows:
Bake the tarts 15-20 minutes until golden-red.
- Leaving a ¼” border around the edge of each square, cover the centers with the quinoa mixture, followed by an arrangement of the remaining ingredients.
- Drizzle the center with maple syrup and sprinkle on salt and pepper.
- Brush the edges with a little olive oil and beet juice.