Victoria's Vegetarian Victuals

Well, this month we had to do a lot of searching and researching, and thinking and conniving, in order to prepare this column for you. Thanksgiving is tough, because the dishes are so traditional. I know that each American family has its own special way of preparing traditional side dishes for Thanksgiving, and no holiday would be right in that house without these long-time favorites.

We have done Thanksgiving for two (for some newlywed friends of mine) and we have substituted and modified many of the traditional meat dishes, but this year we are going to give you a table full of delicious side dishes prepared from traditional ingredients, but oh, how different the results! You non-vegetarian folks, please add these to your board, beside the turkey. You vegetarian friends, please check the Seasoned Cooking archives for meatless artificially-turkey-flavored entrees. If you need more of these, please let us know.

Enjoy these recipes. Some are a little more exotic than I usually offer you, but all of the ingredients are usually available in health food store, if you cannot locate them in your supermarket.

Spicy Baked Potatoes

  • 2 large baking potatoes
  • 1 tsp sunflower oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 inch piece fresh ginger root, grated
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground cilantro
  • 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
  • garlic salt
  • plain yogurt and sprigs of cilantro, to serve

Preheat the oven to 375F. Prick the potatoes with a fork. Bake for 1 hour or until soft. You can save time by pre-cooking them in the microwave. I always do. Cut the potatoes in half, scoop out the flesh, and set aside. Heat the oil in a nonstick frying pan and fry the onion for a few minutes to soften. Stir in the ginger, cumin, cilantro and turmeric. Stir over low heat for about 2 minutes then add the potato flesh and garlic salt to taste. Cook the potato mixture for another 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Spoon the mixture back into the potato shells, and top each with a spoonful of fresh yogurt. and a sprig or two of cilantro Serve hot.

  • Yields: Serves 2 to 4 (2 in my house!)
  • Preparation Time: about an hour and a little more

Stuffed Baked Potatoes

  • 4 medium-sized baking potatoes for each kind of stuffing
  • olive oil for greasing
  • sea salt for serving

Preheat the oven to 400F. Score the potatoes with a cross and rub all over with oil. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 45-60 minutes or until a knife inserted into the centers indicates that they are cooked. Cut the potatoes open along the score lines and push up the flesh from the base with your fingers. Season with sea salt and fill with your chosen stuffing.

Red Bean Stuffing
  • 1 x 15 oz can of red kidney beans
  • 7 oz. low fat cottage or cream cheese
  • 2 tbsp mild chili sauce
  • 1 tsp ground cumin

Drain the beans, heat in a pan or microwave and stir in the cream cheese, chili and cumin.

  • Yields: Enough to fill 4 potatoes
  • Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Soy Vegetable Stuffing
  • 2 leeks, thinly sliced
  • 2 carrots, cut in sticks
  • 1 zucchini, thinly sliced
  • 4 oz baby corn, halved
  • 3 tbsp. groundnut or sunflower oil
  • 4 oz button mushrooms, sliced
  • 3 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp dry sherry or vermouth
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • sesame seeds, to sprinkle

Stir fry the leeks, carrots, zucchini and baby corn in the oil for about 2 minutes, then add the mushrooms and cook for another minute. Mix together the soy sauce, sherry and sesame oil and pour over the vegetables. Heat through until just bubbling and then scatter over the sesame seeds.

  • Yields: Enough to fill 4 potatoes
  • Preparation Time: About 30 minutes
Cheese and Creamed Corn Stuffing
  • 1 x 15 oz can creamed corn
  • 4 oz cheese, grated
  • 1 tsp dried mixed herbs

Heat the corn, add the cheese and mixed herbs.

  • Yields: Enough to fill 4 potatoes
  • Preparation Time: 5 minutes or less

Baked Pumpkin

  • 1 x 4 lb pumpkin
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1" cube fresh ginger root
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 zucchini, sliced
  • 4 oz sliced mushrooms
  • 1 x 14 oz can chopped tomatoes
  • 1 cup pasta shells
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • salt and ground black pepper
  • 4 tbsp ricotta chase
  • 2 tbsp fresh basil, chopped

Preheat the oven to 350F. Cut the top off the pumpkin with a large, sharp knife, then scoop out and discard all the seeds. (Unless you want to toast them for snacks, later) Using a small, sharp knife and a sturdy tablespoon, scoop out as much of the pumpkin flesh as possible, and then chop it into chunks. Bake the pumpkin in the oven with its lid on for 45 minutes to one hour, until the inside begins to soften. While the pumpkin is baking, make the filling. Gently fry the onion, ginger and pumpkin flesh in the olive oil, for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the zucchini and mushrooms and cook for another 3 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, pasta shells and stock. Season well, bring to a boil, cover and simmer gently for about 10 minutes. Stir the ricotta cheese and basil into the pasta and spoon the mixture into the pumpkin. It may not be able to fit all the stuffing into the pumpkin shell. If so, serve the rest separately.

  • Yields: 4 servings
  • Preparation Time: About 1 hour and 20 minutes

Camembert Fritters

For Marmalade:
  • 2 red onions, sliced
  • 3 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp coriander berries, crushed
  • 2 large bay leaves
  • 3 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 6 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp salt
For Cheese:
  • 8 individual portions of Camembert
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 cup plain white or whole wheat dried breadcrumbs to coat
  • oil for deep fat frying

Make the marmalade first. In a large saucepan, gently fry the onions in the oil, covered, for 20 minutes or so, until they are soft. Add the remaining marmalade ingredients, stir well, and cook, uncovered, for another 10 to 15 minutes, until all of the liquid has been absorbed. Cool and set aside.

Prepare the cheese by first scratching the mold ring lightly with a fork. Dip first in egg and then in bread crumbs to coat well. Dip and coat a second time if necessary. Pour oil into a deep fat fryer until it is 1/3 full. Heat to 375F. Carefully lower the coated cheeses into the hot oil three or four at a time and fry until golden and crisp, about 2 minutes or less. Drain well on a paper towel and fry the rest, reheating the oil in between. Serve hot with the marmalade.

  • Yields: 4 servings
  • Preparation Time: About 45 minutes

Savory Nut Loaf

  • 1 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for greasing
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 leek, chopped
  • 2 celery ribs, finely chopped
  • 8 ounces of mushrooms, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 14 oz can of lentils, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup mixed nuts, such as hazelnuts, cashews and almonds, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 aged Cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1 medium egg, beaten
  • 3 to 4 tbsp fresh mixed herbs, chopped
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • chives and sprigs of flat-leaf parsley, to garnish

Preheat the oven to 375F. Lightly grease the sides and bottom of a 9x3x5 inch loaf pan and line with waxed paper. Heat the oil in a large saucepan; add the chopped onion, leeks, celery ribs, mushrooms, and the crushed garlic.

Cook gently for about 10 minutes, until the vegetables have softened, stirring occasionally. Add the lentils, mixed nuts, flour, grated cheese, and herbs. Season the ingredients with salt and pepper, and mix thoroughly.

Spoon the nut, vegetable and lentil mixture into the prepared loaf pan, making sure that it is pressed into the corners, and level the surface. Bake, uncovered, for 40 to 60 minutes, or until the nut loaf is lightly browned on top and firm to the touch. Cool the loaf slightly in the pan, then turn out onto a serving plate. Serve the loaf hot or cold, cut into slices and garnished with cloves and flat-leaf parsley.

  • Yields: Serves 4
  • Preparation Time: About an hour and a half

Zucchini Fritters with Chile Jam

For the Chile Jam:
  • 5 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 large onions, diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 - 2 Thai chiles, seeded and sliced
  • 2 tbsp dark brown sugar
For the Fritters:
  • 3 1/2 cups zucchini, coarsely grated
  • 2/3 cup parmesan cheese, freshly grated
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 4 tbsp unbleached, all-purpose flour
  • vegetable oil for frying

First make the chile jam. Heat the oil in a frying pan until hot, then add the onions and garlic. Reduce heat to low, and cook for 20 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onions are soft. Leave the onion mixture to cool, then transfer them to a food processor or blender. Add the chiles and the sugar and blend until smooth, then return mixture to saucepan. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until the liquid evaporates and the mixture has the consistency of jam. Cool slightly.

To make the fritters, squeeze the zucchini in a dish towel to remove any excess water, then combine with the parmesan, eggs, flour, salt and pepper. Heat enough oil to cover the base of a large frying pan. Add 2 tbsp of the mixture for each fritter and cook three fritters at a time. Cook for 2 - 3 minutes on each side until golden, then keep warm while you cook the remaining fritters. Drain on paper towels and serve warm with a spoonful of the chile jam.

  • Yields: 12 fritters
  • Preparation Time: about 45 minutes