Once upon a Thanksgiving, vegetarians might not have felt very welcome at the dinner table. With customary sides like giblet gravy-soaked mashed potatoes and bacon-dotted green bean casserole, avoiding the bird was the least of their troubles. Not anymore. Turkey now comes in an easy second to beautifully composed, meat-free side dishes — especially these from talented local chefs, each sure to steal the spotlight from the main course. Or prepare them all and skip the turkey altogether, and you’re set for a vibrant, mouth-watering vegetarian Thanksgiving that will rival any traditional spread.
Executive chef, Café Modern
Meatless is never mundane for Dena Peterson, who goes vegetarian for much of her Modern Art Museum cafe menu and hosted a sold-out vegetarian wine dinner this summer. She gave us a slew of sumptuous sides to choose from, but her Maple-glazed Acorn Squash and Pears stood out as a sweet and savory dish that’s as easy to prepare as it is appetizing and attractive.
Executive chef and owner,
Next Wood Fired Bistro
Tenured chef and caterer Ying Aikens adds Asian influences to these roasted root vegetable-stuffed mini pumpkins by using fresh ginger and sesame leaves. Aikens stresses that the seasonings and vegetable quantities can be adjusted to taste and to what’s available at local markets. Find the kohlrabi, a member of the turnip family with a bulblike stem, chayote squash, which resembles a pale green gourd, and purple sweet potatoes at farmers markets when in season, or at local Asian markets.
Executive chef, Grace
Blaine Staniford, too, hosted a vegetarian wine dinner this summer, preparing eight courses of meat-free wonders. Staniford uses labneh, or strained yogurt, infused with toasted sesame seeds as a thick and creamy accompaniment to crispy, glazed baby carrots.Watch for Staniford to appear Nov. 19 on Food Network’s new cooking competition show, Kitchen Inferno, hosted by celebrity chef Curtis Stone.
Chef de cuisine, Tillman’s Roadhouse
Kalen Morgenstern gained fame this fall as a contestant on the Fox food competition Hell’s Kitchen, enduring her fair share of screams from hellacious host Gordon Ramsay. But Thanksgiving dinner guests will sing nothing but praises for her quinoa-based, fall vegetable-filled side that can easily serve as a hearty main course. Morgenstern says the sage butter, which adds a savory creaminess, can be made days or even weeks in advance, as any herb butter freezes well.
Maple-Glazed Acorn Squash
and Pears with Walnuts
• 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar or sherry
• 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
• 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
• 1/4 cup olive oil
• 2 teaspoons salt
• 1/2 teaspoon pepper
• 1 large acorn squash or 2 small, cut
into 3/4-inch rings
• 4 firm pears, cut into wedges, seeds removed
• 1/2 cup walnut pieces
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine vinegar, maple syrup, rosemary, olive oil, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Stir to combine. Add squash and pears and toss to coat.
2. Spread out in a single layer on a well-sprayed baking sheet. Roast, turning halfway through, until tender, about 30-40 minutes. Meanwhile, toast the walnuts in the oven for 5 minutes, or until slightly browned.
3. Arrange squash and pears on a serving platter and sprinkle with walnuts.
— 3200 Darnell St., Fort Worth, 817-840-2157, www.themodern.org
Fire-Roasted Korean Vegetables in Mini Pumpkins
• Olive oil, as needed
• 6 mini pumpkins
• Salt and pepper, to taste
• 1/2 pound Korean purple sweet
• 1 kohlrabi, stems removed and
• 1 chayote squash, diced
• 1/2 pound fingerling potatoes (or
similar small potato), diced
• 1 clove garlic, minced
• 1-2 tablespoons chopped fresh
• 1-2 tablespoons chopped
sesame leaves (found at local
1. Drizzle enough olive oil on pumpkins to lightly coat. Sprinkle pumpkins with salt and pepper. Roast at 375 degrees for 15 minutes, until soft.
2. Remove from oven, cut off pumpkin tops and reserve. Using a spoon, scrape out the seeds and set the hollowed pumpkins aside.
3. Combine diced vegetables with minced garlic and ginger and season with salt and pepper. Drizzle with enough olive oil to lightly coat vegetables.
4. Place vegetables on a baking sheet and roast at 375 degrees for 15-20 minutes. Sprinkle with chopped sesame leaves before serving inside mini pumpkins, using pumpkin tops for presentation.
— 5003 Colleyville Blvd., Colleyville, 682-325-4046, www.nextwoodfiredbistro.com
Miso Butter-Glazed Baby Carrots with Toasted Sesame Labneh
• 12 ounces plain yogurt
• 2 teaspoons sea salt
• 1/4 cup toasted sesame
• 2 tablespoons agave
• 3 tablespoons white miso
• 1/4 pound unsalted butter,
• 3 bunches baby carrots,
washed, trimmed, blanched
and shocked in ice water
• 1/4 cup minced chives
1. Place yogurt in stainless-steel bowl and season with sea salt. Add toasted sesame seeds and mix until well-distributed, using a rubber spatula.
2. Place yogurt mixture onto cheesecloth-lined strainer over a stainless-steel bowl. Bring the ends of the cheesecloth together and place a weight (such as a small plate) on top of the yogurt mixture. Refrigerate overnight. Remove from cheesecloth and keep chilled in an airtight container until ready to use.
3. Place the agave nectar, miso and butter into the bowl of a stand mixer and mix on medium speed until butter is creamed and ingredients are emulsified. Keep chilled in an airtight container until ready to use.
4. In a medium saute pan, melt miso butter over medium heat. Add baby carrots and cook until glazed with miso butter.
5. Transfer carrots to serving platter and garnish with dollops of toasted sesame labneh and minced chives. Serve immediately.
— 777 Main St., Fort Worth, 817-877-3388, www.gracefortworth.com
Quinoa with Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Butternut Squash, Pecans, Green Apple and Sage Butter
• 8 cups vegetable stock
• 4 cups red quinoa
• Salt and pepper, to taste
• 2 tablespoons butter
• 3 cups Brussels sprouts,
• Cooking oil, as needed
• 3 cups butternut squash,
peeled and diced
• 1-2 teaspoons ground
• 1/2 onion, minced
• 1/2 Honeycrisp apple,
• Salt and pepper
• 1 lemon
• 1 1/2 cups pecans
• 4-5 slices Sage Butter (recipe
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a large saucepan, bring vegetable stock or water to a boil. Add quinoa and stir. Boil 1-2 minutes, then reduce to a simmer and cover. It should take 10-15 minutes for the quinoa to cook. Once the stock has evaporated, the quinoa should fluff like rice. It should not be watery or sticky. Season with salt and pepper. Add 2 tablespoons butter and fluff with a fork. Set aside.
2. Toss Brussels sprouts in light drizzle of oil, then season with salt and pepper. Separately, toss diced squash with light drizzle of oil and season with ground nutmeg, salt and pepper. Spread the squash and Brussels sprouts on a cookie sheet with minced onion and roast in preheated oven for 12-15 minutes, until browned but still firm.
3. Combine julienned apple with juice from lemon, reserving one squeeze for serving, and set aside.
4. On a separate baking sheet or in a wide skillet, lightly toast pecans for approximately 5-7 minutes.
5. Combine quinoa with the Brussels sprouts, squash and onion mixture in a large bowl. Add pecans and toss. Spread quinoa mixture onto serving dish. Garnish with julienned apple slices, a squeeze of lemon juice and Sage Butter slices. Gently fold in Sage Butter and serve.
Makes 1 pound
• 1 pound butter, softened at
• 1/2 bunch fresh sage, finely
• Salt, to taste
1. Combine softened butter and minced sage in a mixing bowl by hand or using a spatula until sage is fully incorporated. Season with salt.
2. Form butter into a long log and wrap tightly with plastic wrap. Freeze immediately.
3. Pull butter from freezer 10-15 minutes before slicing and serving.
— 2933 Crockett St., Fort Worth, 817-850-9255, www.tillmansroadhouse.com