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Published: Tuesday, 12/5/2000

Holiday meals a vegetarian will enjoy

Curried Grape Salsa can be a festive vegetarian appetizer. Curried Grape Salsa can be a festive vegetarian appetizer.

Many Americans can remember when the first vegetarian in the family came home for the “holiday” dinner.

Someone among the family's inner circle would decline meat, poultry, or fish, whether it was the revered Thanksgiving turkey or the traditional ham for Christmas dinner.

For the hostess with the mostest, a.k.a. mom, the holiday dinner that was once so predictable became new culinary terrain. Vegetarians could load up on the traditional side dishes such as sweet potatoes, Thanksgiving stuffing, vegetables, and those heavenly breads and desserts, or the cook could add a vegetarian entree to what already was a bountiful table. New possibilities are:

  • Start with an elegant appetizer. Serve Curried Grape Salsa in a martini glass with toasted pita triangles for added flavor and crunch. In 1 teaspoon vegetable oil, saute 2 tablespoons chopped red pepper with 1 teaspoon curry powder. Mix with 1 cup red and 1 cup green seedless grapes, 2 tablespoons mango chutney, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon grated gingerroot. The pita bread is cut in 8 triangles, brushed with oil, and baked at 375 degrees for 6 to 8 minutes.

  • Serve a luscious soup. For White Bean and Sweet Potato Soup with Cranberry Coulis (from 1,001 Low-Fat Vegetarian Recipes by Sue Spitler), use a large saucepan coated with vegetable spray. Saute 1 cup chopped onion, 1 pound peeled and cubed sweet potatoes, 1 large, tart cooking apple (peeled, cored, and chopped), and 11/2 teaspoons minced gingerroot for 5 minutes. Add 2 15-ounce cans navy or Great Northern beans, 3 cups basic vegetable stock, 1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram leaves, and salt and pepper to taste; cook for 10 to 15 minutes. Process the soup in a food processor until smooth. Pour into bowls and swirl 2 tablespoons of Cranberry Coulis on top. The coulis is made by heating 11/2 cups fresh cranberries and 1 cup orange juice for 5 to 8 minutes until tender. Add 2 to 3 tablespoons sugar and 1 to 2 tablespoons honey and process until almost smooth. Serves 6.

  • Consider an additional entree such as Tomato and Goat Cheese Quiche from Joy of Cooking: All About Vegetarian Cooking by Irma S. Rombauer, Marion Rombauer Becker, and Ethan Becker. It's colorful, festive, and can be an entree accompaniment for non-vegetarians.

  • Build a beautiful salad. To your choice of greens, add fruit such as crisp apple slices or sliced orange, and grated mozzarella cheese or crumbled goat cheese. Top with nuts such as almonds or pistachios.

  • Don't overlook the simple dishes. Even green beans can be flavored with boursin cheese or goat cheese, advises Paula Lambert in The Cheese Lover's Cookbook and Guide.

  • Kick up the flavor by adding a Southwestern dish. Caramelized Onions Stuffed with Sweet Potato-White Bean Ragout is from Stephan Pyle's Southwestern Vegetarian. The onions are roasted for 11/2 hours, then peeled; one inch of the tops are cut, then they are filled with beans and diced sweet potato, ingredients similar to those used in the soup above.

    Pick recipes that you have time to prepare and room for in the oven or on the stovetop. Then, don't be surprised when everyone around the table samples each dish. It's the stuff of new traditions.

    Kathie Smith is The Blade's food editor. E-mail her at food@theblade.com.

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