For most of us our Thanksgiving menus are probably pretty standard. You know, turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, lots of pie, and so on. This year will be my third time hosting Thanksgiving and I will be cooking a lot of the same things I did the last two years. The only difference is I make sure to check with new guests to make sure the one thing they love most will be on the table.
But I got to thinking about changing up Thanksgiving menus after listening to the podcast Gravy. This podcast is made by the Southern Foodways Alliance, which tells stories about the American South through food. In the episode called “Coming Out Meatless,” part of the episode was about a young man who became a vegetarian and when he went home for Thanksgiving there was only one dish he could eat. And it got me thinking, what would I cook if I were to make a vegetarian Thanksgiving? What I came up with was squash stuffed with lentils.
Once while eating at Eataly in New York I had acorn squash stuffed with lentils and it was the best vegetarian meal I have ever had. I don’t remember all the details about this dish, but I still remember the happy satisfied feeling I felt after the meal. And I think that’s what you really want on Thanksgiving. You want everyone at your table to end the meal feeling happy, satisfied, and very full.
This recipe is great for that full feeling because anything stuffed gives a sense of abundance. It’s easy to pile the squash high with the lentil salad – and even better you can have it spilling out of the squash to make the meal look plentiful. I think it’s also a good vegetarian main dish because you have filling proteins from the lentils, a bit of healthy fats and a nice crunch from the pecans, and just a subtle sweetness from the squash and cranberries.
Thanksgiving isn’t just about eating a lot, it’s also about connecting to the people you love. Sure, you could order a cheese pizza for the vegetarian at your table and they’d be full, but I imagine that would make them feel left out. I think this recipe for squash stuffed with lentils is great because it uses some of the same seasonal ingredients (squash and cranberries) and herbs (thyme) that you’ll have elsewhere on the table. Food is a great way to bring people together and this recipe will fit in nicely with whatever else is on your Thanksgiving menu.
The squash I used for this recipe is called a harlequin squash. I think in the US it might be called a carnival squash. I did some research to try to confirm this but I was unable to find any sentence that explicitly said this. However, on US websites about squash the photos that looked like the one above were labeled carnival squash and I couldn’t find anything on a US website called harlequin squash. Is anyone out there a squash expert that could confirm this? If so, please write it in the comments.
Anyway you can also use an acorn squash for this recipe. In fact, use any squash you like but I think acorn or harlequin/carnival are the best because they look like personal sized portions when cut in half. Do what feels right to you and it’ll be delicious.
Anyway I think this recipe is so delicious that even the omnivores at the table will want some. What will be on your Thanksgiving table? Are you trying anything new this year?Write it in the comments. I’d love to know!
Adapted from Lentils.ca
Messy level: Not very messy at all. The biggest challenge is cutting the squash but that’s hardly messy. I think the only danger is spilling the lentils when pouring them into the squash. And that’s not worth worrying about.
- 3 harlequin/carnival or acorn squashes
- olive oil
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 cup green lentils
- 3 cups vegetable stock (or water, but stock has more flavor)
- 2 garlic cloves
- ¾ cup dried cranberries
- ½ cup chopped pecans
- leaves from 4-6 sprigs thyme
- 1 tablespoon of butter
- Preheat oven to 400°F/200°C.
- Cut the top of the squashes off. Cut the squashes in half and scoop out the seeds. Discard the seeds.
- Cut off a bit of the back of the squash so that it will sit flat on a baking sheet.
- Place the squash on a baking sheet. Drizzle the squash with olive oil, salt, pepper, and the garlic powder. (You can use more than ½ teaspoon garlic powder if you like!)
- Roast squash in the oven for 30-40 minutes or until fork tender.
- Meanwhile, start cooking the lentils. Wash the lentils and pick out any debris you might find.
- Place the two garlic cloves on your cutting board. Take a chef's knife and put it flat (so the blade is parallel to the cutting board) on top of the garlic cloves. Use the heel of your hand to hit the knife and smash the garlic.
- In a large sauce pan combine the stock, lentils and crushed garlic. Bring the stock to a boil then cover the pan and lower the heat so the liquid simmers. Cook until lentils are tender, this can take between 20-40 minutes. It's ok to lift the lid from time to time and test the lentils to see if they are soft and tender. Once cooked drain off any excess liquid and scoop out the crushed garlic.
- In a large bowl mix the lentils, cranberries, pecans, and thyme. Stir in the butter too.
- Taste and season with salt and pepper to your taste.
- Once the squash is cooked, spoon the lentil salad into the squash. Fill until slightly overflowing.