Stuffing has earned a deserved place at the holiday celebration table, and vegetables harvested in the fall make perfect ingredients for your own personal recipe. Compassionate cooks who keep turkeys off the menu may adapt stuffing to a variety of vegetarian main courses, such as filled eggplant, zucchini, squash, sweet peppers or portobello mushroom caps. Alternately, stuffing (also called “dressing”) bakes well on its own or layered with phyllo pastry in a terrine or casserole dish. Bread, broth, aromatics and herbs make up the basic ingredients of any stuffing recipe. Other additions may include seasonal fruits and vegetables or meatless protein selections.
Step-by-Step Stuffing Ingredients
- Toasted Bread Cubes: Start with 7 to 8 cups of cubed bread, such as whole-grain, French, cornbread or sourdough. Toast the bread cubes in the oven at low heat until crunchy (similar to croutons). If your stuffing starts with breadcrumbs or soft bread cubes, it may turn out too mushy. If you wish, you can drizzle the bread cubes with extra-virgin olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper before toasting. Bake at 400 degrees F on the middle rack for about 15 minutes.
- Broth or Stock: Moisten the toasted bread cubes with about 4 cups of vegetable stock or other liquid of your choice. Imagine-brand foods makes a 32-oz. packaged “No Chicken Broth” that is organic, fat-free and handy for making a batch of stuffing.
- Sauteed Aromatics: Saute about 1-1/2 cups of finely diced vegetables to flavor the stuffing base. A mirepoix (pronounced “mihr-PWAH”) is a traditional French mixture of diced carrots, celery and onions (red, yellow or white). Other aromatics include garlic, leeks, shallots, scallions (green or “spring” onions) and chives. A healthful vegan version of this staple uses only a small amount (about 1 Tablespoon) of extra-virgin olive oil, canola oil or non-hydrogenated melted soy margarine. Saute uncovered in a large, shallow pan, stirring often with a spatula, over medium-high heat for about 5 to 7 minutes, adding herbs and other seasonings toward the end of the cooking time.
- Herbs and Spices: Add about 2 to 3 Tablespoons of fresh herbs (or 2 to 3 teaspoons of dried) The French Herbes de Provence makes a flavorful seasoning for stuffing, and it is available dried in pre-mixed jars. The mixture includes sage, rosemary, thyme, basil, oregano, marjoram, fennel and lavender. Other suitable herbs include parsley, chervil (with a hint of licorice), lovage (with a hint of celery) and lemon balm (which is tart and lemony)
- Other Additions: Mix in up to 1-1/2 cups (12 oz.) of other ingredients to make the stuffing recipe your own. Some vegan versions based on traditional stuffing varieties include wild rice, oyster mushroom, and maple-hickory soy sausage with apple. Try Native American-influenced “three sisters” stuffing with sweet corn, lima beans and Anasazi, pinto or black beans. Fall or winter harvest vegetables such as pumpkin, butternut or acorn squash; nuts such as walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts (or filberts) pine nuts or chestnuts; and dark leafy greens such as spinach, kale, collards or mustard greens also make great additions.
Serving Suggestions and Menu Ideas
- Autumn side dishes made from fall harvest vegetables include cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli or Brussels sprouts. Other root and tuberous veggies include sweet potato, yam, celeriac, parsnip, turnip, potato, kohlrabi and rutabaga.
- Autumn salad options include peppery watercress, chicory Swiss chard, endive, arugula, mesclun (pronounced “mes kloon”) baby greens or radicchio (Italian chicory). Toss greens with fall and winter veggies such as tomatoes, cucumber, beets, sweet peppers, wild mushrooms, radishes, zucchini, fennel and runner beans. Throw in some raspberries, blueberries, cranberries, plums, pears or blackberries. Garnish with toasted pumpkin seeds (or pepitas), black walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts or pine nuts (or pignolis).
- Autumn fresh fruits make a flavorful holiday appetizer choice, with grapes, pears and fresh figs. Also try serving fresh fruit with vegan hard brick cheese. Vegan Gourmet from Follow Your Heart, Teese from Chicago Soy Dairy and cheese alternatives from Galaxy Foods are available in natural food stores, food co-ops and even conventional supermarkets. However, the largest variety of flavors comes from Scotland’s Bute Island Foods, available by mail order in different “styles” perfect for a vegan cheese board: Blue, Cheshire, Edam, Gouda, Mozzarella and Cheddar (medium, strong, smoked and with chives).