by Zel Allen
I don’t know if Thanksgiving is wild and crazy to the max at your house, but it sure is in mine–in a good way, that is. It’s our family reunion time so I have family flying in from all parts of the globe for this nutty feast. All the bedrooms are full and the kitchen is in a constant state of activity. It’s been our thing for years so we really look forward to Thanksgiving week—a time that’s filled with lots of cooking going on, great aromas drifting through the house, lots of eating, and lots of laughing.
On the big day—Thanksgiving day, the frenzy picks up to get everything ready for that special dinner when we literally pile a ton of colorful, fabulous tasting dishes onto the buffet table that I refer to as the groaning board. And we attack with fervor!
Front and center on the table is the totally nutty Thanksgiving Torte, our annual feast specialty that I want to share with all who aim for a kind and gentle Thanksgiving.
The recipe is from my cookbook, The Nut Gourmet and is pretty darned impressive looking—even if I have to say so myself. It’s real good looker, especially when I serve it on a footed cake plate and garnish the heck out of it with sprigs of fresh herbs and orange slices.
The Torte makes the ideal vegan Thanksgiving dish with its varied textures and savory flavors from the combination of wild rice, mushrooms, nuts, and sage. Served with a robust Mushroom Sauce on the side, the Torte makes a very hearty main dish and goes well with all the typical side dishes like cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, chestnut stuffing, and a few veggie combinations. For dessert, it’s pumpkin and apple pies, of course. To ease the feast-day preparations, I usually make the Torte the day before, store it in the fridge, and reheat it at 350 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes before serving.
One little hint, the Torte preparation comes together more quickly if you cook the wild rice before beginning the torte or even the day before.
Yield: 6 to 8 servings
2 cups water
2/3 cups wild rice
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 pound red or white rose potatoes, unpeeled, scrubbed, and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 cup water
1/8 teaspoon salt (optional)
1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans
1/4 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
1 (14-ounce) package vegan ground sausage
3/4 pound portobello mushrooms, chopped (about 4 large mushrooms)
1 large onion, diced
1/3 cup water
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons poultry seasoning
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon hickory liquid smoke
1 1/4 teaspoons salt or to taste
2 ripe tomatoes, sliced
1/2 pound sliced button mushrooms
1 3/4 cups plus 3 tablespoons water
1/4 soy sauce
1/4 cup dry red wine
2 tablespoons lemon juice
3 tablespoons cornstarch
3 tablespoons water
1. TO MAKE THE TORTE, lightly oil a 9-inch springform pan, line the base with parchment paper (for easier cleanup), and set it aside. Combine the 2 cups water, wild rice, and salt in a 2-quart saucepan. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Turn the heat down to medium-low and steam for 45 to 50 minutes, or until the rice is tender. Drain off excess liquid and set the rice aside.
2. Combine the potato cubes, 1 cup water, and salt in a 2-quart saucepan. Cover, and bring to a boil over high heat. Turn the heat down to medium and simmer for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the potatoes are fork tender. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the potatoes to a medium bowl, mash them, and set them aside.
3. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Toast the pecans and walnuts in a 10-inch skillet over high heat, stirring constantly for 1 to 2 minutes. Immediately transfer them to a dish to cool.
4. Combine the vegan sausage, mushrooms, onion, the 1/3 cup water, olive oil, poultry seasoning, and pepper in a large, deep skillet. Cook over high for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the onion is transparent, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon or paddle to break up the sausage chunks. Drain and reserve any excess liquid. Add the salt and hickory liquid smoke to the sausage mixture and mix well.
5. Add the mashed potatoes to the skillet along with the toasted nuts and cooked wild rice. Mix well to combine the ingredients thoroughly. Adjust seasonings if needed.
6. Press the mixture firmly into the prepared springform pan, and attractively arrange the tomato slices over the top, covering most of the surface. Bake uncovered for 1 hour. Allow the torte to stand for 15 to 20 minutes before removing from the pan.
7. TO MAKE THE MUSHROOM SAUCE, prepare it while the torte is baking. Combine the mushrooms, water, soy sauce, red wine, and lemon juice in a 2-quart saucepan and bring to a boil. Turn heat down slightly and simmer for 5 minutes.
8. Combine the cornstarch and water in a small bowl and stir with a spoon to make a runny paste. Add the paste to the bubbling sauce, a little at a time, stirring constantly, for about 1 minute, until the sauce has thickened to the desired consistency.