Traditional holiday meals often leave vegans and vegetarians eating some type of meat substitute or composing a plate of sides only. But meat-free doesn’t have to be meat-mimicking. The plant-based, gluten-free recipes below make original main courses for those who don’t eat meat, and delicious side dishes for those who do. Because sharing is the best part of the season.
Each recipe serves 4 people as a main course or at least 8 people as a side dish.
This dish is earthy and flavorful, with celery leaves adding a pop of neon. Make sure to follow Julia Child’s adage and “don’t crowd the mushrooms!” Since miso is high in sodium, I do not recommend adding any salt to this dish.
2 cups long-grain brown rice
4 cups button mushrooms
1 cup finely chopped onion
1 cup finely chopped celery
1 cup celery leaves (from the inner stalks)
4 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup miso*
In a pot, combine the rice with 4 cups of water, cover, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and let the rice simmer until just a few water bubbles are visible – about 30 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the rice steam, covered, for 10 minutes or until all the water has absorbed.
Clean the mushrooms and cut them into ¼-inch slices. Cover a plate with paper towels. Heat 1 tbsp vegetable oil in a large pan over medium-high heat and cook the mushrooms in batches (no overlapping!) until they’re browned. Place the cooked mushrooms on the paper towels to absorb excess oil. Season well with black pepper. Repeat until all the mushrooms are cooked.
In the same pan, heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil and scrape the pan to loosen any browned bits. Add the chopped onion, chopped celery and garlic and cook, stirring regularly, until tender.
Whisk the miso and ½ cup warm water into a thick paste. Add the paste to the onion-mixture and cook for another minute. Stir the rice into the onion-mixture. The risotto should be thick and creamy. Carefully fold in the mushrooms and ¾ of the celery leaves. Taste and season with more pepper, if needed.
Scoop the risotto into a serving bowl and sprinkle with the remaining celery leaves.
*Use it up: Make some miso soup.
Root Vegetable Latkes with Grape-Onion Jam
This recipe makes 12 latkes – 4 of each root vegetable. Keeping the sweet potato, rutabaga and turnip separate requires a little more effort but lets each vegetable shine. You can make the jam in advance and lightly reheat it before serving.
1 small sweet potato (2 cups shredded)
1 rutabaga (2 cups shredded)
1 turnip (2 cups shredded)
6 tbsp ground flax seed, divided
12 tbsp chickpea flour*, divided
Salt and pepper
8 cups loosely packed salad greens
For the jam:
2 cups halved red seedless grapes
1 cup finely chopped red onion
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
4 tbsp sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease two baking sheets with vegetable oil. Set out three mixing bowls. In each bowl, whisk 2 tablespoons ground flax seed with 6 tablespoons water.
Peel the sweet potato, rutabaga and turnip and shred them, one by one, using a box grater or a food processor with a grating blade, using the large hole grater. Wrap each shredded root vegetable in a clean, dry kitchen towel and press out as much liquid as you can.
Add 4 tablespoons chickpea flour to each bowl and stir. Add one of the shredded vegetables to each bowl, season with salt and pepper and stir again. Use your hands to form the mixture from each bowl into 4 round, slightly flattened patties.
Lay the latkes on the greased baking sheets and lightly brush them with vegetable oil. Bake for 15 minutes. Gently flip the latkes, brush with oil and bake for another 10 minutes.
To make the jam, combine grapes, red onion, balsamic vinegar, sugar and cinnamon in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes or until the liquid has reduced by half.
Toss the salad greens with 1 tablespoon oil, salt and pepper and place them on a plate. Arrange the latkes on top and serve with the grape-onion jam.
*Use it up: Socca is a chickpea flour-based flatbread.
Black Quinoa Salad with Butternut Squash
This dish has many components that all require surprisingly little hands-on time. It’s best at room temperature so don’t worry about everything being ready simultaneously. I used black quinoa, but any kind of quinoa – or even wild rice – is a good substitute.
1 butternut squash (or any kind of winter squash or pumpkin)
2 cups black quinoa
½ cup pumpkin seeds
1 cup dried cranberries
2 tbsp brown sugar
½ cup tahini*
Juice of ½ lemon
Salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Slice the butternut squash in half (peel it if you want to) and scoop out the seeds. Cut the flesh into 2-inch wedges. Brush each squash wedge with vegetable oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast the wedges on a baking sheet for 40 minutes, turning them halfway through, until they’re tender and the edges are browned.
Thoroughly rinse the quinoa and drain it. Put the quinoa in a pot with 4 cups of water, cover, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and let the quinoa simmer for 15-20 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the quinoa sit, covered, for 10 more minutes.
Heat a large pan over medium-high heat and dry-toast the pumpkin seeds, stirring frequently, until they are slightly swollen and browned. Remove from the pan immediately.
Wash and slice the endives in ¼-inch pieces. Heat 2 tablespoons vegetable oil in the pan you used for the pumpkin seeds over medium-high heat. Add the sliced endives and cook them, stirring frequently. Once the endives start to brown, add the brown sugar and cook for another 3 minutes, until the sugar has melted and the endives are caramelized.
Fold the pumpkin seeds, dried cranberries and endives into the quinoa. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Whisk the tahini with ½ cup warm water and 2 tablespoons lemon juice. The sauce will seem thin but it will thicken after sitting for just a few minutes. Taste, and add more lemon juice, by the tablespoon, if desired.
Scoop the quinoa salad into a shallow dish, arrange the butternut squash wedges on top and drizzle with the tahini sauce. Serve with more tahini sauce on the side.
*Use it up: Tahini is a core ingredient of traditional hummus.
Written by DC EcoWomen Board Member Katharine Eaton