One week and one day are all that separates us from the big Thanksgiving feast, even though I feel a sense of déjà vu as soon as the traditional sides and sauces start pouring out of the kitchen. Cooking a separate feast for editorial photography assignments as far back as September or October, I’ve typically had my fill (and then some) of all the trimmings by the time November finally rolls around. Though cooking the yearly Thanksgiving meal a month or two ahead of the scheduled date takes some getting used to, it works out in my favor; The official family celebration can become rather hectic even without me jockeying for space in the overcrowded kitchen, so it’s nice not to feel pressured to make “go all out” and cook up something grand.
The center piece is always the biggest concern, whether trying to make a turkey replica or go a new route, but come the last Thursday in November, you can generally find me sitting down to a family feast with ye olde traditional veggie burger on my plate. I don’t feel like I’m missing anything on that specific date, having already gorged on gravy and potatoes well in advance. However, it is nice to put in a bit of additional effort and make something perhaps more seasonally appropriate. Still keeping it simple, stuffed veggies rather than a stuffed roast are the ideal main dish for a laid-back feast.
Delicata, my favorite little squash, is ideal for stuffing and roasting. Bearing thin, edible skin, there’s no need to peel; just hollow out, fill, and bake. Sizes of this gourd vary wildly, so for this particular recipe, opt for smaller, more manageable ones. To make it even easier, go ahead and cut them lengthwise like little edible boats. The seeds will be less of a hassle to reach and scrape out, and they tend to bake a bit faster, too. Serve up one of these beauties with some roasted onions, perhaps, and a generous pour of mushroom creme gravy, and you will certainly have something else to be thankful for this year.
1 – 2 Small Delicata Squash (Depending on the size of the squashes and how full you stuff them)
10 Ounces Super-Firm or Pressed Tofu*
1/4 Cup Unsweetened Non-Dairy Milk
1/4 Cup Nutritional Yeast
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1 Tablespoon Rice Vinegar
1 Tablespoon Fresh Lemon Juice
2 Teaspoons Soy Sauce
1/2 Teaspoon Garlic Powder
1/2 Teaspoon Onion Powder
1/2 Cup Diced Cremini or Button Mushrooms
1/2 Cup Frozen Spinach, Thawed and Thoroughly Drained
1/4 Cup Fresh Parsley (Leaves Only), Chopped
1/4 Cup Pine Nuts or Chopped Cashews, Divided
*You can start with 1 pound of extra firm tofu and press for about 45 minutes to 1 hour. Once the extra water has been drained off, it should be around the same weight (but it’s not critical if it’s slightly over or under.)
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and line a baking dish with aluminum foil for easy clean up. Set aside.
Slice your squash in half either lengthwise or width-wise, and use a thin metal spoon to scrape out the seeds and guts. Cut a small sliver off the bottoms of each half so that they can sit in the pan without falling or sliding. Arrange in your baking dish so that there’s plenty of space between them.
In your food processor, place the tofu, non-dairy milk, nutritional yeast, oil, vinegar, lemon juice, soy sauce, garlic and onion powder. Pulse to combine, until the mixture is mostly smooth and creamy, but still with a bit of texture. No need to go crazy here. Fold in the chopped mushrooms, spinach, parsley, and about 3 tablespoons of the pine nuts or cashews until well combined.
Spoon the “ricotta” mixture into your delicata as desired, and top with the remaining nuts. Lightly spritz or brush the exteriors of the squash all over with olive oil, and pop them into the oven. Bake for about 30 minutes, until the squash are fork-tender.
Makes 2 – 4 Servings