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:
For the Roasted Squash:
Make the Wild Rice, Cranberry & Lentil Stuffing:
Roast the Delicata Squash:
The lentils cook up a bit softer than normal, to provide some contrast with the grainy texture of the wild rice. If you prefer your lentils firm, just add them to the saucepan about 10 minutes after the rice. Save time by preparing the stuffing in advance and reheating it the day of serving. Just add a few splashes of water and heat briefly in the microwave or in a skillet over medium heat. You can also prepare your squash by cutting and removing the seeds a day or so in advance.
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