Being the only vegetarian at a Thanksgiving table full of non-vegetarians can be a bit awkward. I know, because I’ve been that vegetarian at the table for most of my Thanksgivings. In the past I’ve been pretty insistent that I do not need a main course. There are generally plenty of meatless sides and unless you make your own vegetarian holiday entrée, you really don’t know what you’re getting into. Veggie dogs, pizza bagels and turkeys sculpted out of seitan are all possibilities. Yup, awkward.
At some point I realized the way to avoid all that awkwardness and have a delicious main course was to get off my butt and craft one on my own. The key to doing this without making things even more awkward is this: create a dish that even the meat-eaters at the table can appreciate, and maybe even enjoy as a side. No, they’re not into the whole seitan sculpture thing, but neither am I, for that matter.
Sweet, delicious, melt-in-your-mouth winter squash is something everybody can get on board with, and delicata squash is just that. In case you aren’t familiar, I’ll just let you know that delicata is basically the ultimate winter squash, in my humble opinion. It’s got all the sweetness of butternut, but comes in a nice little package that’s way more convenient. You also don’t have to peel it! Cook it with the skin on, then eat it that way. You won’t even remember that you left the skin on, once you start chowing down.
Since we’re talking a vegetarian Thanksgiving dish, and squash halves have a neat little boat shape that's perfect for holding stuff, I went ahead and cooked up a stuffing for my roasted delicata squash. In lieu of traditional bread stuffing, I went with wild rice, because I love how the grainy texture pairs with the softness of the squash. Lentils add a bit of protein, dried cranberries a bit of sweetness, and dried herbs give it some nice savory flavor.
For the Wild Rice, Lentil & Cranberry Stuffing:
- 2 cups vegetable broth
- ½ cup uncooked wild rice
- ¼ cup dried green lentils
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 medium onion diced
- ½ teaspoon rubbed sage
- ½ teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 garlic clove minced
- ½ cup dried cranberries
- Salt and pepper to taste
For the Roasted Squash:
- 2 medium delicata squashes about 1 pound each
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
Make the Wild Rice, Cranberry & Lentil Stuffing:
- Place the broth into a medium saucepan and place it over high heat. Bring to a boil, then stir in the wild rice and lentils, and lower heat. Cover and simmer over low heat until the rice and lentils are tender, about 50 minutes. Drain any excess liquid.
- Coat the bottom of a large skillet with olive oil and place it over medium-low heat. Add the onion, sage and thyme to the skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion softens and just begins to caramelize, about 15 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute more. Add the wild rice and lentil mixture and cranberries to the skillet and raise the heat to medium-high. Cook 1-2 minutes, just until the mixture is heated through. Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Roast the Delicata Squash:
- While the rice and lentils cook, preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Using a sharp knife, trim the ends from each squash, then carefully slice them in half lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds using a spoon. Rub lightly with olive oil and place each half, cut side down, on the prepared baking sheet. Bake until tender, about 30-35 minutes.
- Stuff each squash half with wild rice and lentil stuffing, then serve.