All traditions need updates, though strongholds of American culture usually resist change. I’m talking about Thanksgiving, a holiday that has not aged well in the eyes of a modern post-colonial, secular and multicultural citizen. Iffy roots aside, turkey is a real drag. It’s usually too dry, mostly pumped with hormones and always the time suck of preparation — and that’s not even touching on ethical issues. That’s why we here at The Michigan Daily skipped the turkey and tweaked the side dishes, crafting a set of small plates that draw their inspiration from flavors of fall. We kept the flavors of traditional dishes and changed the form — putting roasted squash onto crostini, updating classic green bean casserole with fried shallots and cashews instead of dairy and giving potatoes a new, crispy medium. 

Vegan Green Bean Casserole with Browned Shallots

1/3 cup cashews

2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons water

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1 tablespoon soy sauce

5 tablespoons olive oil

1 yellow onion, diced

3 cloves of garlic, minced

8 oz shiitake mushrooms, sliced

Splash of dry white wine (optional)

5 cups haricot verts, ends removed

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1/4 cup breadcrumbs

2 shallots, thinly sliced

1 tablespoon flour

Step 1

Soak cashews in water for at least 5 hours, preferably overnight. After soaked, blend in a high-speed blender with water, soy sauce and lemon juice until completely smooth.

Step 2

In an 8-inch cast iron skillet or nonstick pan, sauté onion in 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat until softened, about 5-7 minutes. Add garlic, mushrooms as well as salt and pepper to taste. Sauté for an additional 10 minutes, until mushrooms have reduced and browned. Add wine and cook until reduced.

Step 3

Stir in cashew mixture, green beans and crushed red pepper flakes. Sprinkle with bread crumbs and bake in cast iron pan at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.

Step 4

Gently mix shallots with flour. Salt and pepper to taste.

Step 5

Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a nonstick pan over medium-high heat, until oil is glistening and slick. Place shallots in skillet and sauté until brown, about 90 seconds. Flip and let cook for an additional minute or so. Remove from pan, pat with paper towel to remove excess oil, and top the casserole.

Crispy Smashed Potatoes

3 cups fingerling potatoes (or other small varieties)

3 tablespoons olive oil

Coarse salt


Step 1

In a large pot, bring 10 cups of water to boil. Add potatoes and cook until they can be pierced with a knife, at least 10 minutes.

Step 2

Drain potatoes and let cool. Place potatoes on a cutting board, and using a heavy object, gently smash each potato until the majority of interior flesh is exposed.

Step 3

Using a spatula, gingerly place each smashed potato onto a foil covered baking sheet. With a pastry brush, brush each potato generously with oil. Sprinkle salt, generously as well.

Step 4

Bake in 450-degree oven until browned and crispy, about 45 minutes. Serve with salt and herbs.

Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Squash and Goat Cheese Crostini

(Adapted from New York Times)

1 2.5 – to 3-pound kabocha or other yellow-fleshed squash, peeled and roughly diced

4 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes

1 yellow onion, thinly sliced

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

2 tablespoons maple syrup

4 slices country bread, 1-inch thick, toasted

1/2 cup goat cheese

Coarse salt

4 tablespoons chopped mint

Step 1

Toss squash with 2 tablespoons olive oil and crushed red pepper flakes. Bake in oven at 450 degrees until cooked through and soft, about 15 minutes.

Step 2

Sauté onions in 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat, stirring every few minutes until brown, about 20 minutes. Add vinegar and syrup and cook until reduced and jammy.

Step 3

Mash squash and onions together until thoroughly combined, though still coarse. Salt and pepper generously to taste.

Step 4

Assemble by spreading squash mixture on toast, crumbling goat cheese on top and garnishing with mint.

Kale with Citrus and Rustic Croutons

3 slices of rustic bread, sliced 1 inch thick

1 tablespoon + 1/4 cup olive oil

2 lemons

1 head kale, washed and torn into small pieces

1/4 cup shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano

Coarse salt

Crushed red pepper flakes

Step 1

Cube bread into 1-inch cubes. Place on foil lined baking sheet and brush with 1 tablespoon oil. Bake in oven at 450 degrees until crispy and slightly browned, around 10 minutes.

Step 2

Vigorously whisk juice from 1 lemon and 1/4 cup olive oil together. Slice remaining lemon into thin slivers. Toss all ingredients together, including croutons, adding salt and pepper to taste.

Thanksgving Tipple

Mix Prosecco (or another sparkling wine) with St. Germaine in a ratio of 2 to 1. Serve in flutes, garnished with a strawberry.


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