Paul & Elizabeth's is a 31-year-old natural foods restaurant in Northampton, MA. Although Northampton is a bastion of good vegetarian and natural foods restaurants, Paul & Elizabeth's remains a perennial favorite of locals, and continues to be voted one of the best restaurants in the area by the readers of The Valley Advocate.
Paul & Elizabeth's has been a favorite of mine for 25 years, so when I got this assignment, I couldn't imagine a better place to get vegetarian Thanksgiving recipes from. Their food is fresh, clean and flavorful. I never miss meat when I'm eating there, and I love that it's a family-run business.
Nathan Sustick is the executive chef for Paul & Elizabeth’s (and he's the son of the proprietors, Paul and Elizabeth Sustick). As I expected, he was full of ideas for an inspiring vegetarian Thanksgiving meal, cooked in your own kitchen. His most mouthwatering suggestions? Roasted Brussels sprouts, Indian pudding and a gravy flavored with garlic, ginger and tamari.
Start with local, seasonal vegetables
“At that time of the year I like to really highlight all the local vegetables available,” said Sustick. He suggested cooking a variety of winter squashes and green leafy vegetables, such as kale. Sustick especially recommended roasted vegetables such as butternut squash, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower.
Get creative with beans
In terms of protein "replacements" (such as tofu, tempeh or seitan) Sustick said that many of the typical protein replacements often aren’t the best choice for a holiday meal. "They always have a tendency to come up short, flavor-wise. Having something like Tofurky is just silly," said Sustick.
Sustick suggested creative uses of cheeses or beans as a protein source instead. "I like to make an Italian Wedding soup that has onions, carrots, potatoes, celery, tomato, chickpeas and lots of fresh herbs," he said.
Nathan Sustick's Italian Wedding Soup
1 carrot, diced
2 onions, diced
3 cloves of garlic
1 C. celery root, diced
2 cans of organic crushed tomatoes
2 C. vegetable stock
2 cans of cooked garbanzo beans (or 1-2 C. pre-cooked if not using canned)
Basil, parsley, thyme, and oregano to season
Sauté onions and garlic in a little olive oil, dry basil and oregano until onions are soft. Add vegetables and stock and cook on a medium heat until vegetables are soft. Add chickpeas, fresh herbs, and salt and pepper to taste.
“Potatoes and cauliflower could be added for a more hearty soup. Also, a nice touch is to serve with fresh parmesan cheese or aged asiago cheese and a crusty bread,” said Sustick.
Sustick also suggested using cheeses with pastas or eggplant, or doing a potato au gratin. "You can also add use a little butter and cream cheese mixed with mashed butternut squash and sweet potatoes. It gives it a nice rich flavor," said Sustick.
Serve a rich, vegetarian gravy
One of the attractions for many in a Thanksgiving meal – gravy – can still be a delicious part of a vegetarian Thanksgiving. "I do a roasted garlic and ginger gravy thickened with cornstarch. I like it more than regular gravy," said Sustick. "Gravy is one of those things that people would really miss," he added.
Roasted Garlic-Ginger Gravy
3 C. water
¼ C. diced fresh ginger
¼ C. roaster garlic
¼ C. organic tamari (more or less to desired saltiness)
Cornstarch to thicken
Mash garlic with a whisk and add to water with the ginger. Bring to a boil, and then add tamari. Bring back to boil and add cornstarch slowly to desired thickness.
Incorporate seasonal fruit or squash into dessert
Dessert is the easiest part of a vegetarian Thanksgiving. "You can always have pumpkin pie or really any other kind of fruit pie or crumble," said Sustick (try blueberry-pear crisp. The recipe is posted on Hometalk). Other ideas are Indian pudding, pumpkin cheesecakes or fruit compotes. Naturally, yeast, nut or fruit breads, and cranberry sauces, are traditional vegetarian Thanksgiving options.
When in doubt, get take-out
If you don’t feel confident about your vegetarian cooking abilities, you may want to check with your local food co-ops or vegetarian restaurants to see if they have pre-made Thanksgiving offerings for carry-out. (Paul & Elizabeth's offers a variety of take-out options.) Pre-made sauces, dressings and desserts are all fair game to pick up at your local natural foods restaurant.