(Originally posted 11/24/06)
Happy Thanksgiving! Well, Happy 2nd day of Thanksgiving to be exact. We are spending Thanksgiving with my in-laws who have moved their big feast to the day after Thanksgiving to better accommodate everyone's holiday family expectations. Now my sister-in-law can feast with her in-laws in Oblong, Illinois, on Thursday and feast with her parents in Terre Haute on Friday. This creates a defacto 2nd seder for Thanksgiving. My in-laws aren't Jewish, but they have a better understanding of Jewish ritual than do most Jews.
This creates a new tradition for the Thanksgiving meal: lasagna. Although the 2nd seder always has the traditional turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, etc., the 1st seder for the last two years has been vegetarian lasagna and garlic bread. It makes for a great Thanksgiving meal, but it's a little difficult to slice into sandwiches for leftovers.
Many have asked me, “Just what do vegetarians EAT during Thanksgiving?” I suspect many have an image of my family meagerly scraping the last of the mashed potatoes and corn onto our plate while the rest of the extended family, omnivores all of them, greedily gorge themselves on turkey and giblet gravy and toss half of their crescent roll to my hungry children to watch them scuffle over the buttery roll, all the time taking bets on who will end up with the black eye.
Although I have experimented with many vegetarian main dishes in the past on Thanksgiving, nowadays we just create a balanced meal of side dishes rather than a hierarchical meal of main dish and back-up singers. Having said that, some side dishes do get elevated to the status of “signature dish.” The wild rice pilaf with tofu has become a new tradition (three years running). Although it doesn't slice into sandwiches like turkey, it makes a great tortilla wrap for the week after Thanksgiving.
Wild Rice Pilaf with Tofu
1 lb. (1 block) of extra-firm tofu, Chinese style
3 cups vegetarian broth (I recommend Rapunzel Vegetable Bouillon)
1 cup brown rice
1/2 cup wild rice (make sure it's Minnesota-grown)
1/4-1/2 cup chopped onion
1 Tbs. vegetable oil
1 15 oz. can mandarin oranges, drained, syrup reserved
1 cup chopped pecans
sprig of rosemary
Preheat the oven to 400oF. Drain the tofu and press out the excess water on 2-3 paper towels. Cut the tofu into cubes. Marinate the tofu in 1-2 cups of broth for 30 minutes at room temperature or for several hours in the refrigerator. Remove the tofu from the broth and bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes. Turn each piece of tofu over and bake for another 10 minutes until tofu is firm and light brown, but not burnt.
In a large sauce pot, saute the onions in the oil. Add the brown rice, 1 cup broth, 1/4 cup reserved mandarin orange syrup, and 1/4-1/2 cup water and cook until rice is tender. In a separate pot, cook the wild rice in 1 cup of water.
Mix together the brown rice, wild rice, chopped pecans, and tofu. Serve on a large platter, garnished with mandarin orange slices and a couple of sprigs of rosemary (optional).