Meatless Mondays: Thanksgiving Vegetable Stew

Why bother with a flavorless, dried-out bird?

(Photo: Ian Knauer)

Nov 24, 2014· 2 MIN READ
Ian Knauer is a regular contributor to TakePart. He has worked for Gourmet and is the author of the IACP Award–nominated cookbook The Farm.

Why meatless on Mondays? Not only is eating less animal protein a healthy diet choice, but curbing your meat consumption can have a significant environmental impact too. In 2006, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization reported that animal agriculture accounted for a full 19 percent of greenhouse gases—more than the transportation sector. Best of all, with recipes like these, going meatless can be a delicious weekly habit.

I’ve always had a problem with turkey. It’s not just the poor conditions that most are raised in or that they are so overproduced that grocery stores practically give them away Thanksgiving week. It’s not that the bird takes up the entire oven for way too long or that the huge roasted beast in the center of the table scares away every vegetarian in my life (although it has to be said that these are all problems unto themselves). No, turkey’s problem is that it just doesn’t taste good. Even under the best conditions, it is dry and fairly flavorless. Yesterday, for instance, I deep-fried a heritage breed, humanely raised turkey to disappointing results. I’d rather eat anything other than turkey on T-Day—or any day, for that matter.

There’s also the point that I mentioned above: Come Thursday, more than a couple vegetarians will be sitting at my holiday table.

In recent years, I’ve been serving a wintry stew at Thanksgiving, one so satisfying and warming that it causes the same kind of tryptophan-induced midday naps that we all associate with that big bird. The real trick to it is the spices, which in their own way are a savory version of pumpkin pie spice. The cinnamon and coriander swirl together with the fall vegetables to create something more flavorful than the sum of its parts.

This Thanksgiving, forgo the oven-hogging, dried-out centerpiece for this vegetarian stew with its melting veggies and warm spices and know that you’re not just avoiding the support of horrid factory-farm practices but serving your guests a much more delicious dish.

Thanksgiving Vegetable Stew

Serves 6

Ingredients

1/2 pound dried chickpeas
3 large leeks, white and pale green parts only
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
5 garlic cloves, smashed and coarsely chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon turmeric
2 cinnamon sticks
5 bay leaves
1 large butternut squash, cut into large chunks
1 small head cabbage, cut into chunks
6 carrots, cut into chunks
8 pitted dates, chopped
3 cups water
1 quart canned tomatoes
3 tablespoons cilantro leaves

Directions

Place the chickpeas in a bowl and cover with 3 inches of water. Let them soak overnight and then drain.

Cut the leeks in half crosswise, then rinse under cold water to remove any dirt. Cut into 1/2-inch pieces.

Heat the oil in a large heavy pot over medium-high heat until hot. Then stir in the leeks, garlic, onion, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and 3/4 teaspoon pepper. Cook the vegetables, stirring occasionally, until they are golden, about 8 minutes. Stir in the coriander, smoked paprika, turmeric, cinnamon sticks, and bay leaves, and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Stir in the squash, cabbage, carrots, dates, water, and tomatoes, and bring to a boil, breaking up the tomatoes with a spoon. Stir in the chickpeas, and simmer the stew, covered, until the vegetables are very tender, about 1 hour. Season the stew to taste with salt and pepper, sprinkle with the cilantro, and serve.