A Modern Thanksgiving: 3 Easy-to-Execute and Delicious Plant-Based Recipes From Celebrated Canadian Chefs
The pesto brings together lots of citrusy cilantro leaves and bright balancing flavours in a tasty condiment ready to complete a deliciously baked sweet potato. Photo: Al Douglas
Whether you’re celebrating the moment and going plant-based this Thanksgiving or looking for a few green dishes to make your traditional holiday feast pop, we’ve got you covered.
Potato Gnocchi, Nutmeg Spinach Sauce, and Orach Salad
Gnocchi are easily made deliciously chewy dumplings that are part mashed potato, part pasta. They’re particularly tasty simply browned and crisped in butter. Tender spinach is puréed into a bright green sauce scented with fragrant nutmeg. Orach is an ancient vegetable with a savoury mineral flavour like spinach and chard. Its microgreens and tender leaves pair beautifully with earthy potatoes.
Nutmeg Spinach Sauce
2 tablespoons (30 mL) butter 1 yellow onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, finely grated with a microplane or finely minced
½ teaspoon (2 mL) ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon (2 mL) sea salt Freshly ground pepper
½ cup (125 mL) water
10 ounces (280 g) baby spinach
1. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat.
2. Stir in the onion, cover, and cook, stirring frequently, until soft and fragrant but not browning, 10 minutes or so.
3. Stir in the garlic, nutmeg, salt, and pepper and continue cooking for a minute. Add the water and spinach and cook, stirring constantly, just until bright green and wilted, only a minute or two.
4. Transfer to a high-speed blender and carefully purée until smooth. (Hot liquids are dangerous—they can violently erupt. For safety, drape a kitchen towel over the blender, start slowly, then gradually increase the speed.)
5. Return the sauce to the pot and reserve at room temperature. Bring to a simmer just before serving.
4 large russet or Yukon Gold potatoes (about 2 pounds/ 900 g), peeled and quartered
2 cups (500 mL) all-purpose flour, divided
2 eggs, whisked
1 teaspoon (5 mL) sea salt
Freshly ground pepper
4 tablespoons (60 mL) butter
A handful of fresh orach leaves or baby spinach (2 ounces/57 g or so)
A handful of orach sprouts or other savoury, snappy fresh microgreens
1. Place the potatoes in a large pot and cover with salted water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook until tender, 15 minutes or so.
2. Drain the potatoes, rinse the pot, fill with hot water, and return to a simmer. Pass the potatoes through a ricer or food mill fitted with its finest disc into a large bowl and let cool until no longer steaming, 15 minutes or so.
3. Sprinkle in 1½ cups (375 mL) of the flour. Add the eggs, salt, and pepper. With a sturdy wooden spoon, vigorously stir the mixture into a rough dough.
4. Measure the remaining ½ cup (125 mL) flour onto a work surface. Lightly flour your hands, reserving some flour to the side. Turn out the dough and lightly sprinkle with some of the reserved flour. Knead for a minute until a smooth dough emerges. Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces. Dust 1 piece of dough with flour and roll into a long, even rope about 1 inch (2.5 cm) thick. Repeat with the remaining 3 pieces. Cut each rope into 1-inch (2.5 cm) pieces. You should have 32 or so gnocchi.
5. Bring the simmering water to a boil over medium-high heat. Working quickly, immediately transfer the gnocchi to the boiling water. Cook, stirring gently, until all the gnocchi are floating and cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from the heat.
6. Melt the butter in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. With a skimmer or slotted spoon, lift the cooked gnocchi from the water, draining thoroughly, and transfer to the melted butter. Without stirring, patiently cook the gnocchi until just one side is thoroughly browned and crispy.
7. Serve on a pool of warm spinach sauce with a tangle of fresh orach leaves and orach sprouts.
Maple-Spiced Sweet Potato With Cilantro Cashew Pesto
We grow many things well on our farm, but sweet potatoes are not one of them—our growing season is too short. So instead, we rely on farmers in much warmer climates to do it for us. Nonetheless they are a nutritional powerhouse, and one of my favourite vegetables. Baking is my preferred way to cook them. We do grow lots of fragrant cilantro, and through life-cycle harvesting we enjoy its aromatic leaves, green coriander seeds, and lacy white flowers. The pesto brings together lots of citrusy cilantro leaves and bright balancing flavours in a tasty condiment ready to complete a deliciously baked sweet potato.
Cilantro Cashew Pesto
1 large bunch of fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems, any flowers and a few tender stems reserved for garnish
1 cup (250 mL) unsalted roasted cashews
4 garlic cloves, sliced
½ cup (125 mL) extra-virgin canola or olive oil
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
4 ounces (115 g) Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated
½ teaspoon (2 mL) sea salt
1. Measure the cilantro, cashews, garlic, canola oil, lemon zest and juice, cheese, and salt into a food processor. Purée until a smooth, bright paste emerges, scraping down the sides a few times along the way.
2. Reserve or transfer to a resealable container and refrigerate for up to 5 days.
Maple-Spiced Sweet Potato
2 large sweet potatoes, unpeeled, sliced in half
lengthwise (cut each potato
into 4 wedges for smaller
1 tablespoon (15 mL) vegetable oil, olive oil, or reserved animal fat
Freshly ground pepper
¼ cup (60 mL) pure maple syrup
1 tablespoon (15 mL) fennel seeds
1 tablespoon (15 mL) green coriander seeds
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Turn on the convection fan if you have
2. Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper.
3. Use the point of a small sharp knife to lightly score the surface of the sweet
potatoes in a diamond pattern, making cuts ½ inch (1 cm) deep at ½-inch
(1 cm) intervals. (For smaller side portions, no need to score the wedges.)
3. Arrange the sweet potatoes cut side up on the prepared baking sheet and
lightly oil the tops. Season with salt and pepper. Bake for 45 minutes.
4. Carefully brush the potatoes with maple syrup and evenly sprinkle with the
fennel seeds and coriander seeds. Continue baking until glazed and tender,
15 minutes or so more. Serve with a generous dollop of cilantro cashew
pesto on top. Garnish with cilantro flowers, if any, and a few tender stems.
Excerpted from Farmhouse Vegetables by Michael Smith. Copyright © 2023 Michael Smith. Photography by Al Douglas. Published by Penguin, an imprint of Penguin Canada, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.
Pistachio Cake With Strawberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream
Finely ground toasted pistachios sifted with cake flour gives this beautifully nutty single-layer fancy cake its flavor. Swiss meringue strawberry buttercream is then piped on top using a large multi-pronged star tip, and the whole cake is dotted with fresh berries of all kinds, along with whole pistachios and chopped sprinkled pistachios too, if you so desire. I used what I had
in the fridge to decorate this cake, which included gooseberries and fresh mint. go nuts!
½ cup (125ml) soy milk
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 cup (130g) finely ground shelled toasted pistachios (you can use a food processor for the grinding)
1½ cups (195g) cake flour 1 tsp baking powder
¾ tsp fine sea salt
½ tsp baking soda
½ cup (112g) unsalted plant-based butter, room temperature
1¼ cups (250g) granulated white sugar
¼ cup (60g) sour cream
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tsp pistachio or almond extract
Make the Cake
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Prepare a 9-inch round cake pan by spritzing it with vegetable oil and lining with a parchment paper circle, and then spritzing again to prevent sticking.
2. In a small bowl, mix the soy milk with the apple cider vinegar and set aside for 10 minutes to thicken. It may look a bit separated at this point, but that’s normal.
3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the ground pistachios, cake flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda.
4. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter, sugar, sour cream, vanilla extract, and pistachio or almond extract on medium speed until combined, about 30 seconds.
5. With the mixer turned off, add the flour mixture to the mixer and pulse to combine. Slowly pour in the soy milk mixture and mix on low speed to combine until a batter forms, 15–30 seconds.
Bake the Cake
1. Add the batter to the prepared cake pan, using an offset spatula to level and smooth the top. Give the pan a light tap on the counter to reduce any air bubbles. Bake for 35–40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out with only moist crumbs.
2. Let the cake cool completely in the pan set on top of a wire rack.
Make the Simple Vanilla Syrup
1. Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan set over medium-high heat, allowing the sugar to dissolve and the mixture to reduce, 5–10 minutes.
2. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract. Let cool completely before using. The syrup can be stored in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.
Assemble the Cake
1. Remove the cooled cake from the pan. Using a pastry brush or a teaspoon, spread a generous amount of the vanilla syrup across the top of the cake.
2. Dollop a generous amount of strawberry buttercream onto the center of the cake. Using your small offset spatula, frost toward the edges of the cake, leaving a half-inch of bare cake around the edge.
3. Fit a piping bag with a large open star tip and fill the bag with the remaining buttercream. Pipe drop stars in a circle around the border of the cake, working your way inward in circles until the entire cake is covered in piped stars. Alternate between adding sliced strawberries (and any other berry you might like) and whole pistachios to the center of each drop star. Crush up some more pistachios and sprinkle on top. Decorate further with additional berries and mint, if desired.
This cake will taste freshest eaten within a day of making it, but can be stored in the fridge, covered, for up to 3 days.
Excerpted from Plantcakes by Lyndsay Sung. Copyright © 2023 Lyndsay Sung. Photographs by Lyndsay Sung. Published by Appetite by Random House®, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.