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In a recent conversation, a number of friends pondered the correct and polite way to handle vegans at Thanksgiving. Rarely lacking an opinion, I offered my take on the situation, which involved a vegan joining a group of omnivores.

If the host has invited the guest knowing that the guest is a vegan, then I think the host has the responsibility to feed that vegan as well as the other people gathered at the table. It's simple courtesy and pretty much the point of an invitation.

But what if a vegan tags along, perhaps as the "plus one" of an invited guest, which was the case in the situation under discussion? In whose court has the ball landed?

It is wrong, I believe, to expect a host to make last-minute changes to a menu or to whip up something on the spot. Again, this is a matter of simple courtesy. The responsibility rests, I think, with the invited guest, who has an obligation to neither inconvenience the host nor make the vegan uncomfortable.

Work it out in advance and don't make a big deal of it at dinner. Friends should be able to handle this easily.

If possible, the invited guest should give the host a couple of days notice and should also ask the vegan if there are any special arrangements that can be made. If it's a last-minute thing, the vegan should take some responsibility, too, and either offer to discreetly bring something to add to the table or relax dietary restrictions enough that their preferences don't step into the spotlight of the meal.

When it comes to a mixed group planning the meal, it can be but doesn't need to be trickier, as long as everyone is tolerant of their companions' choices. For those who must have turkey or something similar, consider turkey thighs, breasts or both. Another option is to stuff game hens for carnivores and winter squash for vegetarians. Use new olive oil — olio nuovo — in place of butter, make plenty of cranberry relish or salsa and smash oven-roasted potatoes, which have a great natural depth of flavor.

Every meal should include a big salad, and it's a simple matter to ensure that it is acceptable to just about everyone.

With desserts, passions tend to run high. I think the best solution may be to offer a dessert buffet of miniature pies and tarts, fresh seasonal fruit and sorbet.

What I don't do and don't recommend is to attempt to duplicate traditional seasonal dishes using soy, seitan (wheat gluten) and such in place of meat, butter, cream and cheese. You'll never find Tofurky, soy-milk pumpkin pie or soy ice cream on my table, as there are studies that suggest there may be health problems associated with soy, especially with the consumption of large amounts of unfermented soy. Besides, why try to mimic other tastes when there are so many wonderful natural flavors at our fingertips?

But that is a topic for another discussion at another time. For now, it is time to celebrate the glorious bounty of fall, which is abundant enough for all of us, no matter our personal choices.

This dish is a delicious addition to any holiday feast. It is substantial enough to serve as a vegetarian/vegan main course but can also be served as a side dish; to do so, consult the variation at the end of the main recipe. You'll find Delicata squash at most of our local farmers markets at this time of year.

<strong>Roasted Winter Squash with Farro &amp;amp; Walnut-Apple Vinaigrette</strong>

<em> Makes 6 to 8 servings</em>

3 small to medium Delicata squash, cut in half lengthwise

3 large garlic cloves, cut in half crosswise

— Olive oil

— Kosher salt

— Black pepper in a mill

1 cup farro

— Juice of 1 lemon

1/2 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley

1 small minced shallot

3 tablespoons unfiltered apple cider vinegar

3 tablespoons apple cider

1/4 cup shelled walnuts, lightly toasted and chopped

3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more to taste

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Clean the insides of the squash, scooping out all the seeds and fiber. Rub garlic over the interior of the squash, season with salt and pepper and brush lightly with olive oil.

Set on a rack on a baking sheet set in the oven and cook until the squash is tender when pierced with a fork or bamboo skewer. It will take about 25 to 35 minutes, though the time will vary based on the age and size of the squash.

Meanwhile, put the farro into a medium saucepan, cover with water by 3 inches, season generously with salt and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer the farro gently until it is tender but not mushy, about 40 minutes. Skim off foam as it rises to the surface.

When the farro is tender, drain off any excess water and transfer to a wide, shallow bowl. Drizzle the lemon juice over it, add the parsley and toss. Set aside.

While the farro and squash cook, make the vinaigrette. Put the shallot into a bowl or pint jar, season with salt and add the vinegar. Let rest 15 to 20 minutes. Add the apple cider, walnuts and olive oil. Stir well or, if using a jar, close the lid and shake the dressing. Taste, correct for salt and pepper and set aside.

To serve, mound farro into the cavity of each piece of squash and warm in a moderate (325 degrees) oven until heated through, about 15 minutes.

Remove from the oven, transfer to a serving platter and spoon dressing on top of each stuffed squash.

<strong> Variation:</strong> To serve as a side dish, cut each half squash into 2 or 3 crosswise pieces and use the farro as a bed, setting the squash on top of it and spooning dressing over everything.


This salsa has a bit more zip than traditional cranberry relish but can be used similarly, as a condiment with turkey and other poultry, mashed and roasted potatoes, sweet potatoes and more.

<strong>Cranberry Salsa</strong>

<em>Makes 2 1/2 cups</em>

1 package (12 ounces) cranberries, rinsed, soft berries discarded

1 to 2 serrano chiles, minced

1 shallot, minced

— Grated zest of 1 orange

2 tablespoons sugar, plus more to taste

— Kosher salt

— Black pepper in a mill

2 tablespoons cranberry vinegar or cabernet sauvignon vinegar

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon minced fresh cilantro

2 teaspoons minced sage

Put the cranberries in a food processor and pulse until they are uniformly minced. Transfer to a medium bowl, add the serrano chile, shallot, orange zest and sugar and stir several times. Season with salt and pepper, stir in the vinegar and set aside for 15 minutes.

Taste and correct for salt, acid and sugar balance; if it is too tart, add a bit of sugar; if it tastes flat, add a bit more salt. For more acid, add vinegar.

Stir in the olive oil, add the cilantro and sage and let rest for 15 minutes.

Taste again, adjust for sugar, salt and pepper.

Serve immediately or store, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.

<em>Michele Anna Jordan hosts "Mouthful" each Sunday at 7 p.m. on KRCB 90.9 &amp;amp; 91.1 FM. E-mail Jordan at michele@micheleannajordan.com. You'll find her blog, "Eat This Now," at pantry.blogs.pressdemocrat.com.</em>

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