Thanksgiving without turkey may sound like the Pilgrims without their rock, but not to vegetarians or those just looking for a break from the bird. A meatless Thanksgiving needn't ignore traditional holiday flavors or colors, and can certainly be as festive a menu as one with a main course of poultry.
After all, the holiday commemorates the harvest, so a meal filled with fruits, grains, beans and vegetables is an apt way to celebrate.
This meatless dinner begins with a curried butternut squash soup accompanied by loaves of chewy, whole-wheat french bread. Leave the bread on the table for what's to follow -- a rich and fruity lentil loaf flecked with hazelnuts and complemented by cranberry chutney, from a recipe courtesy of Homespun, the local condiment specialty shop. A side dish of plain, steamed brussels sprouts completes the course. And from the Connecticut Avenue restaurant, Mrs. Simpson's, lemon mousse for dessert -- a tart and refreshing finish. BUTTERNUT SQUASH SOUP (6 servings)
2 tablespoons butter
1 medium-size onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 1/2-pound butternut squash
4 cups vegetable broth
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons chopped parsley, for garnish
Heat the butter in a heavy saucepan and add the chopped onion and garlic. Stir over low heat until the onion is soft but not browned. Stir in the curry powder.
Split the squash lengthwise and remove the seeds and stringy fibers. Peel and cut into cubes.
Put the squash in the saucepan with the onion and garlic, and add 2 cups of the broth. Bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for 5 to 8 minutes, or until squash is soft and can be mashed easily. Cool slightly.
Pure'e the soup, 2 cups at a time, in a blender or food processor. Return the pure'e to the saucepan and stir in the remaining broth, milk, salt and pepper. Bring just to the boiling point and serve from a warmed tureen, with parsley sprinkled on top. Pass chewy whole-wheat french bread (recipe below). Adapted from "Beautiful Soup" by Dorothy Ivens. WHOLE-WHEAT FRENCH BREAD (Makes 2 loaves)
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
5 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 cups cold water, plus water for kneading
Dissolve the yeast in the warm water. Stir the flour and salt together. Add the cold water and the yeast and mix. The dough will be stiff. Add at least half a cup more water by wetting your hands as you knead, about 10 minutes. The dough should be quite soft and silky when you finish.
Cover the dough and let it rise in a cool place, never over 70 degrees at any time, for about 2 1/2 to 3 hours. After about 2 1/2 hours, poke a wet fingertip into the dough about 1/2 inch deep; if the mark stays without filling in at all, the dough is ready to deflate. (If it sighs and collapses slightly, it is too warm. Take steps to make the next two risings cooler.)
Deflate the dough by turning it out onto a lightly floured board and, with wet hands, pressing out all the accumulated gas. Try to handle the dough gently to avoid tearing it. Fold it into itself to make a smooth ball and place the ball again in the bowl to rise. Cover and set it again in a cool place, as before, using the same test to determine when the dough is fully risen. The second rise takes about 2 hours; now it is ready to shape. It should be lively, elastic, not at all sticky on the surface, and still very soft. If the dough still seems a trifle sticky, allow a longer resting period in the next step.
Turn out on floured board and press out gas. Divide and shape into two rounds. Turn the rounds seam-side down and let them rest until they are soft. Use this time to wash the bowl, and to prepare the baking sheet to proof the loaves. (Two loaves will fit nicely on a 15-inch baking sheet; the sheet can be dusted with cornmeal and the loaves placed on them to be proofed.).
Shape the rounded loaves into long loaves, rolling the dough back and forth under your palms until it is nearly as long as you want the loaf to be.
To proof, leave the loaves exposed to the air, but protected from drafts. After about an hour at 70 degrees, the bread will be ready to bake.
Spray or paint the proofed bread with warm water. Slash the loaves just before putting them into the oven so that they will have the characteristic open-leaf pattern on their crusty surface. For best results, use a bread-slicing knife for slashing with a long, thin, sharp, wavy-edged blade. Slash as deep as an inch if the dough seems lively, less if you aren't too sure about it. Make a cut at each end, almost lengthwise, and almost to the middle of the bread. The third long diagonal is in the center.
Put the loaves into a 450-degree oven quickly so that as little heat escapes as possible. Repeat the painting or spraying every 3 to 5 minutes until the crust begins to brown nicely -- this should take about three or four treatments, depending on your oven and your dough. Reduce oven heat to 350 degrees and bake until bread is done, about 15 more minutes. Bread is done when it is golden brown and hollow-sounding when you thump its bottom with your fingertips. From "The Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book" by Laurel Robertson with Carol Flinders & Bronwen Godfrey. LENTIL, HAZELNUT AND CIDER LOAF (6 to 8 servings)
1 cup dried lentils
2 cups apple cider
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
1 large carrot, scraped and chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed
2 tablespoons butter plus extra for pan
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 cup hazelnuts
1/2 cup grated swiss cheese
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley plus enough for garnish
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Dry bread crumbs for sprinkling
Put the lentils and cider into a saucepan and bring to a boil; turn the heat down, half-cover the saucepan and let simmer over a fairly low heat for 20 minutes, until the lentils are tender and all the liquid is absorbed.
Saute' the onion, carrot, celery and garlic in the butter for 10 minutes, until they are softened and lightly browned. Add the saute'ed vegetables to the lentils, together with the thyme, nuts, cheese, parsley and egg. Mix everything together thoroughly and add salt and plenty of pepper to taste.
Butter a 8-by-4-inch loaf pan and sprinkle lightly with dry bread crumbs. Spoon mixture into loaf pan, smooth over the surface and cover with a piece of foil. Bake the loaf in a 350-degree oven for 1 hour, then remove the foil and cook for a further 10 to 15 minutes to brown the top. To serve, slip a knife around the sides of the loaf and turn out onto a warm serving dish. Decorate the top with sprigs of fresh parsley. From "The Festive Vegetarian" by Rose Elliot. HOMESPUN'S CRANBERRY CHUTNEY (Makes 6 1/2-pints)
2 cups water
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 to 1/2 cup chopped pineapple
1/2 cup white vinegar
1/2 lime, sliced and diced
1 apple, peeled, cored and chopped
1 pear, peeled, cored and chopped
3 cups cranberries
1/3 teaspoon curry powder or to taste
1/3 teaspoon powdered ginger
1/8 teaspoon cloves
Small cinnamon stick
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup chopped english walnuts
Simmer the first 7 ingredients until the lime is tender, about 20 minutes. Add the cranberries and cook until they burst. Add spices and raisins. Remove from the heat and add the walnuts. Process in a water bath for 10 minutes and seal into jars. MRS. SIMPSON'S LEMON MOUSSE (6 to 8 servings)
6 eggs, separated
Zest and juice of 4 lemons
1/2 cup, plus 2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
2 cups heavy whipping cream
Whipping cream and lemon slices for garnish
Combine beaten egg yolks, lemon zest, lemon juice and 1/2 cup sugar in a saucepan and cook until very thick and custardy, stirring occasionally. Be careful not to let it near boiling or it will curdle. Cool thoroughly. Whip cream until thick. Fold into curd mixture. Whip egg whites until slightly thick. Add 2 1/2 tablespoons sugar and continue whipping until thick and firm, but not dry. Fold gently into cream and lemon curd. Serve with whipped cream and slice of lemon curl. This dessert will hold up to two hours before serving.