For many of us, a vegetarian Thanksgiving means loading up on side dishes. No complaints here; I look forward to mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, and cranberry sauce every year. But there's also something special about having a seasonal main dish, to be enjoyed in place of your relatives' turkey or served to vegetarian friends. In my family, the vegetarians celebrated Thanksgiving with a tofu loaf.
This recipe has been adapted from Brother Ron Pickarski's Friendly Foods cookbook and my mother's handwritten notes and e-mails. Even when we don't make it home for Thanksgiving, my brother and I have tried to carry on the tradition wherever we happen to be at the time.
You can fill the loaf with your favorite dressing, although I recommend one that is bread- rather than rice-based as the texture holds up better in the loaf. Something buttery and sage-y goes especially well with the tofu, and I've included my family's traditional recipe below. Other ideas may be found in the Thanksgiving Stuffing Recipe Roundup.
Serve it with the sauce or gravy of your choice. My favorite is the Vegetarian Gravy recipe linked in our Nutritional Yeast post.
Finally, a note about ingredients: agar flakes and arrowroot powder are thickening agents that can be found at Whole Foods and other health food stores. Look for agar in the baking section or with the seaweed products. Arrowroot can often be found on supermarket spice racks, as well.
Thanksgiving Tofu Loaf (adapted from Brother Ron Pickarski's Friendly Foods)
1 1/2 pounds firm tofu
2 tablespoons arrowroot powder
Vegetable broth base, to taste*
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons agar flakes
About 3 cups stuffing
Preheat oven to 350F. Oil and flour a 1 1/2-quart (6-cup) loaf pan.
Rinse tofu, pat dry, and cut or crumble into small pieces.
Place tofu, arrowroot, salt, white pepper, and agar flakes in a food processor and blend until smooth. Season with vegetable broth base to taste and blend until combined.
Spread a layer of the tofu paste on all sides of the pan, leaving aside 1 cup of paste.
Firmly but gently press stuffing into the pan. Cover with the remaining paste and seal the edges.
Cover the pan with an aluminum foil "tent"; the foil should not touch the tofu.
Bake for 50 minutes.
Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes before unmolding.
Invert pan to unmold. Slice and serve with sauce of your choice.
*The original recipe calls for 3 tablespoons of Vogue VegeBase. I have also used about 1 tablespoon of Better than Bouillon. Any vegetable broth powder or paste should work; just add a little at a time, blend, and taste.
Makes about 6 cups
1 (1 pound) loaf of bread, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
4 tablespoons unsalted butter (can use EarthBalance, oil, or other butter substitute)
1 large onion, diced
3 celery ribs, diced
3 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs (mostly sage, also rosemary, thyme, marjoram) or 1 tablespoon poultry seasoning
About 1/2 cup vegetable broth
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
A few hours or the night before cooking, spread bread cubes out on a pan to dry. (Mom's note: To protect from kitties, place this pan in the closed oven!)
Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onions and celery and sautée until onion is translucent.
Add herbs or poultry seasoning and sautée for another moment.
Remove from heat, add bread cubes, and stir to combine.
Gradually stir in broth until the stuffing is moistened but not soggy.
Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Recipe: Savory Kabocha Tofu Pie
(Image: Emily Ho)