For organic gourmet chef and cookbook author Leslie Cerier, what goes on the Thanksgiving table isn't about the usual foods that define the holiday. It's about what's in season, what's offered at her local farmers' markets, and what might still be growing in her garden. The veteran vegetarian chef also turns to unique grains and even chia seeds for warming holiday dishes.
|For over 25 years Leslie Cerier, the Organic Gourmet chef, has been teaching culinary nutrition and hands-on vegetarian cooking for health and vitality. She is also the author of six cookbooks, including Gluten-Free Recipes for the Conscious Cook: A Seasonal, Vegetarian Cookbook (New Harbinger Publications, 2010). To learn more about taking one of her classes, click here. http://www.lesliecerier.com/classes/|
Making an effort to bring locally produced foods to the table can incorporate a sense of thanking your community for the holiday, according to Cerier. "I think it's really important at Thanksgiving to look at your local harvest. I have a local farmer who has ginger this time of year, so I can think about ginger for a rice dish and it can be a way of thanking him for growing this incredible ginger," Cerier says. If you live in a warm climate, you may be able to get most of your Thanksgiving fixings from a farmers' market. In colder areas it's not so easy, but Cerier suggests shopping at local co-ops or natural products stores that make an effort to stock items from local farmers.
It doesn't get any more local than your own garden. Okay, so you're garden may be buried under snow Thanksgiving week; but maybe it's basking in the sun. Cerier suggests taking a look at what's growing regardless of the weather. "I can usually at least get rosemary from my garden, and sometimes I can find sage hiding under some leaves."
If a cold climate makes for slim offerings, take what you've got and subsidize it with what's in season from the store; or maybe you are lucky enough to have a year-round indoor farmers' market. "Sometimes it becomes a game of mix and match. I might have some local onions, squash and cranberries, and so it becomes a process of making the meal around that," she says.
Showcase Grains and Squash
For Cerier, the Thanksgiving table is an ideal place to showcase grains. Although she's not gluten-free, she's an expert on preparing the foods and loves what the diet has done to bring grains beyond wheat to the table. "The wide world of gluten-free is so exciting to me because of all of the choices it inspires. Most people aren't thinking of bringing teff or quinoa or other exotic grains to the Thanksgiving table, but they should," she says.
Cerier points to buckwheat, or kasha, as an ideal wintertime holiday grain.
"It's a warming grain and also quick cooking; I don't think you need to be cooking all day on the holidays. It goes really well with all of the vegetables and flavors of the season, like squash, onions, garlic and sage. I had never thought of cooking it with sage until recently it was all that was in my garden, and so I added it to the kasha and it's wonderful."
Squash is also an ideal fit for Thanksgiving and complements many grains and the spices associated with the holiday, such as sage, marjoram, cinnamon and ginger. Cerier suggests a roasted root medley for the table. "I might do butternut squash with quinoa and the different roots that grow around here, like beet, celery and sweet potato; add some garlic and rosemary, roast the whole thing and you're done."
For Cerier's recipes for savory stuffed winter squash with buckwheat and sage, and gluten-free pie crust made with the Ethiopian grain teff, click here.