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Oct. 10 2009 - 5:15 pm | 450 views | 0 recommendations | 3 comments

Really, does turkey even taste good?

Though Thanksgiving wasn’t an especially celebratory time growing up, I do have plenty of turkey memories.  Not lovely or precious memories, mind you.  More unpleasant ones, like images of a frozen carcass thawing in the sink under a trickling faucet…. and of my mother cleaning out the insides of a dimply, fleshy, lifeless raw turkey… and more of her trying to lift and manoeuvre that horribly heavy carcass in and out of the oven (she had six girls to feed, plus extended family).  All for what? 

Once the turkey was carved and served, it was surrounded with dressing (our term for stuffing), and smothered in gravy.  Did anyone want to eat the turkey as is?  No.  Why?  Turkey doesn’t taste very good!  There, I said it.  And, my mother was – and still is, – a fabulous cook.  In fact, her turkey dinners tasted far better than the average holiday spread.  Yet, it was the dressing that was coveted (as well as the gravy and other side dishes).  But, not the big ol’ bird.  Turkey itself is rather dry and tasteless.  Sure, you can work flavor into the skin via butter or (egad!) bacon grease… but how much of that are you going to eat?  And, we always hear “eat the white meat not the dark meat” because it is ‘better’ for you.  Sure, the white meat has less fat – until it’s drowned in gravy to mask the fact that it is dry and uninteresting!

Why not try something different?  Just once!  Break away from the stale turkey tradition already and be a Thanksgiving renegade!  Yes, make a meal that is entirely delicious.  And healthy!  And compassionate

Here is one of my menus that is perfect for Thanksgiving.  The Festive Chickpea Tart is relatively simple, incredibly tasty, and can easily be doubled to feed a larger group! 

This year I’ve decided to make my Warmly Spiced Quinoa Chickpea Pilaf with Figs (photo here).  Since I have a young babe to nurse, I’m keeping the remainder of the meal quite simple, with:

  • baby potatoes roasted with olive oil, sea salt and fresh rosemary
  • baked yellow-fleshed sweet potatoes (kept whole, so we can slather on Earth Balance margarine or…
  • Truffled Cashew Cheese (recipe below).  This cheese is also excellent for spreading on crusty breads, or to use more creatively in stuffed pastas or phyllo dishes. 
  • Biggie salad, which my sister is bringing along with drinks and artisan breads for our cashew cheese.
  • Simple dessert consisting of a selection of non-dairy ice creams (store-bought and a homemade Peanut Butter Chai Coconut ice cream), a coconut caramel sauce, and fresh strawberries. 

Truffled Cashew Cheese

Cashew cheese is a favorite for eating on its own with veggies or crackers, or using in entrees where a dairy-cheese substitution is desired.  The addition of truffle oil in this cheese adds a particular sophistication to the flavor of the cheese.  However, don’t shy away from making this recipe if you don’t have the truffle oil – see the note for other options.

 2 ½ cups soaked raw cashews (see note)

¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (see note)

1 small-medium clove garlic (not too big or it will overwhelm the delicate flavor of the cheese)

2 – 4 tbsp water (as needed to thin/smooth cheese)

1/2 tsp sea salt

freshly black pepper to taste

1 – 2 tsp truffle oil (see note)

In a food processor, blend all ingredients until smooth, starting with 1 tsp of truffle oil, and adding 2- 4 tbsp of water to desired consistency (or more if desired to thin).  Stop to scrape down sides of processor as needed, and puree until very smooth and thick.  Taste, and add additional ½ – 1 tsp of truffle oil if desired. 

Notes: 

  1. It is important to soak the cashews in advance so they become very soft and moist for pureeing.  You will need between 1 ¾ – 2 cups of cashews to yield the 2 ½ cups of soaked.  Soak overnight in the fridge if possible, or for 4-6 hours if you haven’t soaked overnight.  I’ve also made this cheese with a combination of soaked brazil nuts and cashews, and that’s another delicious variation.
  2. After pureeing this mixture, test and if you’d like a zingier flavor, add another 1-2 tsp of lemon juice.
  3. If you don’t have truffle oil, simply make this cheese without it, and consider adding ½ – 1 tablespoon of nutritional yeast (to taste).  Other ingredients to consider are a few fresh basil leaves or a sprinkling of fresh thyme leaves pureed into the mixture.

Makes about 1½ (generous) cups.  Recipe © copyright 2008 Dreena Burton.


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  1. collapse expand

    I disagree with you on the tradition change, the substitution, and that turkey doesn’t taste good (I have gone vegetarian for about a year now). Whatever works for you, though.

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    About Me

    I am the author of bestselling vegan cookbooks including "eat, drink & be vegan". I am a stay-at-home mom of 3 young children, and find time to cook, bake, create recipes, and blog somewhere in the day between feeding the kiddos, diapers, nursing babe, laundry, cleaning dishes, cleaning house, cleaning, cleaning, and more cleaning... school drop-offs and pick-ups, and activities. Nap anyone?

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