Feeling quiet this week – thinking of the East Coast, as it slowly restores power and digs out from under the devastation nature wrought and attempts to find a sense of balance again; thinking about change (today is my last day of work); thinking about lots of things. The sun is shining in San Francisco after a fierce storm last night that brought thunder and buckets of rain and windows rattling in their casings. I have a cup of coffee. I dreamed deep and long dreams about Thanksgiving/dinner, and am a little tired this morning.
I also have two article deadlines coming up very soon, and I haven’t done a thing to prepare for them. While this creates the usual amount of slight stress, the reality that I will (hopefully) have a bit more time in my life now that I won’t be logging 8 hours/day in an office soothes me a bit. Still. There is work to be done and I must do it.
But in the meantime we are going East in a few days to remember what a cold fall is, to see friends, to visit my former home city. This wee blog will be, alas, dark next week because of those aforementioned deadlines and also because I am not sure how much Internet access I’ll have with all the to-ing and fro-ing. I typically try to put up some posts regarding vegetarian Thanksgiving, but as it’s only 2 weeks (! how is this possible? !) away I think I will throw in a few links here in hopes that gives some guidance, with apologies for the thinness of the suggestions. I have hardly thought about what my own menu will be (we are hosting, for the first time – and last! – time ever in San Francisco) beyond the turkey, mashed potatoes, vegetarian gravy, and pumpkin pie. I best get crackin’. Perhaps I’ll leave that to the plane trip.
Last Friday, my Final Work-at-home Day, I took full advantage and cooked like mad. A flourless cake with chocolate ganache and salted caramel buttercream; an almond meal apple galette; cauliflower soup; a lasagna with sweet potatoes, chard, and arugula pesto. The first two recipes need lots more work – hence the job-leaving, natch – the third was perfect, the fourth was divine. And it’s what I will leave you with today.
The lasagna is a riff on one my mom makes: a potato-chard-pesto lasagna that I dream about when I’m not eating it (almost literally; it’s really that good). I wanted to incorporate sweet potatoes for a change, and when I remembered that despite the warm weather California was hit with last week summer has truly gone to bed for the year basil pesto wasn’t an option. Enter arugula pesto. (Or as DW said, “pesto.” Either way.)
I think this would be a wonderful vegetarian Thanksgiving option or entree if you’re lucky enough to keep the whole meal vegetarian. It is reflective of the season while being hearty enough to satisfy hungry appetites. If you prefer to save it for a more ordinary weeknight and/or looking for a few more ideas, here are some resources to help prepare your own vegetarian additions to the Thanksgiving feast:
The vegetarian Thanksgiving story I wrote for NPR, November 2008: A Vegetarian Thanksgiving
Vegetarian Thanksgiving in the New York Times: via the Well blog
The SF Chronicle’s vegetarian Thanksgiving round-up: with lots of photos
And for fun, a Thanksgiving piece I wrote for my erstwhile column, “Common Walls,” in the San Francisco Chronicle: A small apartment Thanksgiving with all the fixin’s
Cheers, and catch up with you soon.
I used whole wheat pasta here to up the nutrition factor, though of course you don’t have to if you prefer regular. I might also play around with the greens – kale or spinach would also work fine, and would taste lovely – and the pesto (try almonds or walnut rather than pine nuts, parsley instead of arugula) depending on what you have on hand or what tastes good to you. And the cheese … well, I always love cheese. But in my next iteration I may cut down on the quantities a bit to see how I like that.
1 pound sweet potatoes (about 2 large)
1 bunch Swiss chard, stems removed and leaves roughly chopped
8 ounces lasanga sheets
15 ounces ricotta cheese
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
14 ounces shredded mozzarella
1 cup arugula pesto (recipe below)
salt and pepper to taste
Oven to 350 F. Lightly grease a 13-by-9 inch baking pan and a large cookie sheet with olive oil. Bring a large pot of salted water to a oil.
Put the sweet potatoes in another, medium pot and cover with well-salted water by two inches. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook until tender with pierced with a knife (about 20 minutes). Drain, let cool slightly, then quickly peel and slice into about 1/4-inch thick rounds.
Meanwhile, saute/steam the chard in a frying pan over medium heat with a splash of water. Remove from heat and drain.
Cook the pasta until al dente. Place on the large cookie sheet, cover with wax paper and top with more pasta.
In a medium bowl, combine the cheeses.
To assemble, line the bottom of the baking pan with two sheets of pasta, overlapping a bit. Dollop the top with spoonfuls of half the cheese mixture. Drizzle or dollop with pesto. Cover with the sweet potato slices, placed ended to end, filling in any gaps with half-rounds. Season with salt and pepper. Top with one cup of the mozzarella.
Add another layer of noodles, the remaining cheese mixture, the rest of the pesto, all of the chard, one cup of mozzarella, and the remaining basil.
Add a final layer of pasta and cover with the remaining mozzarella. Bake until bubbly, about 25-30 minutes. Put under the broiler for 5 minutes until golden brown. Remove from oven and let rest 20 minutes before serving.
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 tablespoons pine nuts
4 cups arugula
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
In a food processor, combine the garlic and pine nuts. Pulse until smooth. Add the arugula and oil and pulse until well combined. Add the cheese and pulse for a few seconds more.