Cooking For Compost: Thanksgiving

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We started our Cooking For Compost series this year with the intention of only creating a couple of back-pocket recipes for three waste-free meals. But after rave reviews from readers, we decided it would be silly to ignore the biggest meal of the year.

For the Thanksgiving Edition, we called on the award-winning chefs of Candle Cafe and Candle 79 to design a completely waste-free Thanksgiving meal especially for Earth911.com. Based in New York City, Candle 79 offers an upscale dining experience with an artful menu.

While Candle 79 is a vegan restaurant, it has garnered an impressive celebrity following and has earned top reviews from die-hard meat eaters. As a local hot spot, it’s not unusual to see lines of patrons waiting to be seated, even on a weekday night.

This Cooking For Compost menu was carefully selected by co-owner Joy Pierson and COO Benay Vynerib. The base recipes for these dishes can be found in the Candle Cafe Cookbook, but the Candle crew has added some special touches for this Thanksgiving meal.

Prepared by Chef Eugenio Miranda, we sampled these recipes for ourselves and were truly surprised to find just how easy it is to create a five-star dinner at home with little to no waste.

Recipe: Wild Rice Salad with Cranberries

Chef Miranda added leafy greens to the original recipe for this salad to give it a true appetizer feel. This dish can also be used as a stuffing later (see the Stuffed Winter Squash recipe below).

Serving size: 4-6 people

Your shopping list:

1 cup black long-grain or wild rice
1/4 cup unsalted sunflower seeds
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup chopped red onion or scallion
1/4 cup tamari soy sauce
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons grated orange zest

How to make it:

1. Boil 1 1/3 cups of water. Add wild rice, cover and simmer for 50-60 minutes.

2. Mix together cooked rice and sunflower seeds, toss in cranberries and onion. In a separate bowl, whisk together tamari soy sauce and lemon juice, and slowly whisk in oil until well combined. Pour over rice mixture and toss. Sprinkle orange zest on salad.

Chef’s tip: Add salad to mesclun greens and top with thinly shaved Gala apple slices.

Recipe: Pecan-Crusted Seitan

Tofu is one of the most well-known meat substitutes in vegan dishes, but don’t ignore seitan. Its firm texture makes it great for breading, and it’s a tasty substitute that even meat-eaters will enjoy.

To accompany this dish, Chef Miranda selected bright green Brussels sprouts with cashews for a crunch. He also topped cabbage with a side of traditional yams.

Serving size: 4-6 people

Your shopping list:

8-10 seitan cutlets (about 1 pound)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup ground pecans
2 tablespoons finely chopped rosemary
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Marinade:

3/4 cups tomato paste
1/4 cup umeboshi vinegar
1/4 cup red wine
1/2 cup orange juice
1/4 cup tamari soy sauce
1/4 cup minced garlic
1/4 cup chopped parsley
2 tablespoons minced tarragon
2 tablespoons minced rosemary

How to make it:

1. Blend together ingredients for marinade and pour over seitan. Marinate in the refrigerator for at least three hours or overnight.

2. In a shallow bowl, mix together flour, salt, pepper, pecans and rosemary. Dredge the cutlets.

3. Heat the oil in a sauté pan and sauté cutlets until golden brown, about 2-3 minutes on each side. Serve immediately.

Recipe: Stuffed Winter Squash

For additional sides, Chef Miranda paired this dish with blanched green beans and grilled tofu. His tip to really hitting a home run with this dish? Top the tofu with toasted sage, and don’t forget the gravy (see separate recipe below).

Serving size: 4 people

Your shopping list:

4 winter squash (such as delicata, butternut or acorn)
3 tablespoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound white mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon tamari soy sauce
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 cup chopped parsley
1/3 cup fresh sage
Extra-virgin olive oil for brushing
Ground black pepper to taste

Wild Rice Stuffing:

2 quarts vegetable broth
3 cups wild rice, rinsed
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Pinch of salt
6 large shallots, chopped

How to make it:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Cut squash in half, and scoop out the seeds. Brush with oil and maple syrup, sprinkle with cinnamon. Bake for 20 minutes, until tender.

3. Meanwhile, prepare your stuffing. In a stockpot, bring vegetable broth to a boil. Add the rice and salt to the broth. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 35-45 minutes, or until water is absorbed. Remove from heat.

4. Sauté shallots and garlic with oil, and cook for 10 minutes. Add the mushrooms and continue to cook, stirring occasionally until mushrooms release their juices. Add tamari soy sauce, thyme and pepper to taste. Cook until liquid evaporates. Transfer to a bowl with the rice. Toss in parsley and sage.

5. Spoon the stuffing into the baked squash halves and return to the oven. Bake for 15 minutes and serve with Wild Mushroom Gravy (see next recipe).

Extras: Wild Mushroom Gravy and Cranberry Relish

What would a Thanksgiving meal be without condiments? Pierson chose to include the Wild Mushroom Gravy and Cranberry Relish recipes for their robust flavors and versatility. The gravy is an easy addition for the seitan, grilled tofu and stuffed squash.

Wild Mushroom Gravy

6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 cups finely chopped mushrooms (shiitake, oyster, chanterelle or portobello)
1 cup brown rice flour
1/2 cup tamari soy sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons dried sage
1 1/2 teaspoons dried rosemary
1 1/2 teaspoons dried tarragon

How to make it:

1. Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in large skillet. Sauté the onion and mushrooms until tender, about 10 minutes. Set aside.

2. In a medium saucepan, heat the remaining oil and sauté rice flour over low heat to make a roux. Stir 2 cups of water, tamari soy sauce, sage, rosemary and tarragon into the roux and mix well. Bring to a boil over medium heat, and simmer until the gravy is thickened and smooth, about 10 minutes.

3. Stir in mushroom-onion mixture and cook over low heat until warmed through. If gravy is too think, add 1 tablespoon water at a time, until desired consistency.

Cranberry Relish

1 bag or box (16 ounces) of cranberries
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup orange juice
1/4 cup agave nectar
1 teaspoon orange zest

How to make it:

1. Rinse fresh cranberries. Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer, stirring occasionally for about 25 minutes. When sauce has thickened, set aside.

2. Serve warm or refrigerate and serve chilled. Refrigerate and store for up to three days. This makes a great addition to post-Thanksgiving sandwiches!

Dessert: Pumpkin Pudding

Photo: Adobe Stock

One key thing to remember when composting at home is that dairy will not mix well in your bin and will often cause a rotten odor. If you’re truly looking for a compostable dessert recipe, go for one without dairy. As pumpkin is a Thanksgiving favorite, we thought this smooth pudding was exquisite.

Your shopping list:

1/2 cup arrowroot powder or kuzu
4 cups vanilla soy milk
3 cups canned pumpkin purée
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

How to make it:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. In a large mixing bowl, dissolve arrowroot powder in soy milk. Add the pumpkin purée, maple syrup, cinnamon and salt. Mix well to combine. Transfer to a large greased glass or ceramic baking dish, and bake for 1 hour, until lightly browned and bubbly.

3. Remove from oven and let cool for about half an hour before serving. If the pudding has developed a skin on top, skim it off before serving.

Why it’s a waste-free holiday

The recipes chosen for this article were selected for their fresh ingredients and compostability. A typical home compost system allows for vegetable peelings, coffee grounds, egg shells, grains and more.

To get even more mileage from your meal, Pierson suggests saving your leftover potato cubes, Brussels sprouts, onion peels or any other vegetable scraps for a hearty stock that you can use for another week!

Simply throw scraps into a large stockpot, cover with water and boil for about an hour. Pour your stock into a reusable container and compost the remains. You get the most bang for your vegetable buck without wasting precious nutrients that may have otherwise been tossed.

Candle Cafe and Candle 79 are avid composters and send as little waste as possible to the landfill. According to Pierson, the restaurant saves its leftover cooking oil to send out for recycling into biodiesel fuel with a local company. Candle Cafe and Candle 79 have earned three out of four stars from the Green Restaurant Association and consistently rank as a favorite for New Yorkers and tourists alike.

Related articles
Cooking For Compost: Autumn Salads
Cooking For Compost: Breakfast
Cooking For Compost: Lunch
Cooking For Compost: Dinner

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