Real-Life Testers: Vegetarian Thanksgiving Dinner Menu
Just because you're a vegetarian, doesn't mean Turkey Day can't be fun! We gave the bird a break and put together a meatless menu. Real-life tester, Erin Pearson, made our menu and said it had one carnivore guest considering going vegetarian!
Our real-life Erin Pearson, a 28-year-old from NYC, invited her friends -- both vegetarian and meat eaters alike -- to a Thanksgiving in July party to sample our recipes.
The Ingredient List
Since the vegetarian menu consists of five different recipes, there was quite an extensive ingredient list! Erin suggests making a shopping list and shopping the day the actual day.
The Table Setting
A nice table setting sets the tone for any meal, especially Thanksgiving! Erin opted for simple white napkins and bright, beautiful flowers.
The Tart Crust
The Mushroom & Leek Tarts stole the turkey's seat in this menu and were a "huge hit!" Since this dish can be a little labor intensive, try to think of the tart in three parts: the crust, the vegetable filling and the cheese-egg mixture. To get a really flaky tart crust, make sure your butter is really cold when you start.
Time Saving Tip: You can make the tart dough up to 3 days in advance.
Rolling Out the Dough
To start the dough, use your rolling pin like a mallet and hammer the dough until its flattened and only a coupe inches tall. From there roll the dough into the rectangular tart pans.
Lining the Tart Pans
After lining the tart pans, pierce the bottom of the dough with a fork all over -- these helps to prevent bubbles in the piecrust while baking.
Add Pie Weights
Cover the tart dough then fill with pie weights or dried bean. This step is important because it keeps the piecrust from rising and guarantees you'll have ample space for your filling.
So Many Mushrooms
Erin decided to mix it up and used three different varieties of mushrooms: bella, maitake and oyster. Feel free to use which mushrooms are your favorite! Erin says, "I used six or so sprigs of thyme while sautéing the mushrooms. I think it added another layer of flavor too."
Building the Tarts
Why do the two tarts look slightly different? Erin's boyfriend hates goat cheese, so she substituted it for Gruyere in one of the tarts. This substitution helped Erin personalize the meal to make it fit her gathering.
The Finished Tarts
Sprinkle a generous amount of thyme and parsley over the Mushroom and Leek Tarts as a finishing touch. Then, serve the tarts warm or at room temperature.
Braising the Fennel
The Braised Fennel on Lentil Quinoa Pilaf is a great recipe to prep before the big event. Make the pilaf a day in advance, then bring it to room temperature or warm it gently before serving. But don't add the vinaigrette until just before serving to help the flavor pop.
Erin liked the inclusion of the Braised Fennel on Lentil Quinoa Pilaf recipe on the menu because she says it added heartiness to the meal that would have otherwise been lacking. "It essentially replaced the meat."
Erin made sure the recipe's namesake "Brown Butter" was truly browned. Be patient as this may take some time, but it's worth the wait. The group thought the cake was not too sweet and the cream cheese whipped frosting paired nicely with it.
Time Saving Tip: Bake the layers cakes ahead of time, then frost them within 2 hours of serving.
Baked Layer Cake
Make sure to let the baked layers of the cake cool completely, before icing them with the cream cheese whipped cream frosting, otherwise you'll have a sloppy, melted mess. Erin opted to use whole-wheat flour and pastry flour instead. She says it didn't affect the texture at all!
Fall Chopped Salad
The Pistachio-Pomegranate Chopped Salad was Erin's favorite dish from the bunch. "The vinaigrette had sweetness with a nice balance of acidity," Erin says. She also enjoyed the saltiness of the ricotta with the candied pistachios.
Those who grew up eating sweet potatoes with marshmallow topping absolutely loved the Roasted Spice Squash! But it was definitely rich and Erin says she could eat more than one small helping.
The Complete Plate
After the meal was over, one taster said she would "take that meal over turkey and stuffing any day of the week." It was savory and colorful and really looked and smelled like Thanksgiving, while not being too heavy.
Time for Dessert
Erin's Brown Butter Pumpkin Layer Cake came out beautifully!