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Illustration by SERENA SACHAROFF

s an immigrant, I have mixed feelings about Thanksgiving as a holiday. On the bright side it is a neutral, secular, and a family-oriented holiday with food and gathering of people as the central theme. There is no obligation to buy gifts, no deities to focus on, and no church to attend. Most people of the world mark the harvest season with some ritual to thank a god or goddess, nature, or their loved ones, so why not enjoy this holiday?

Raised in a tolerant Hindu family, I am always looking for an excuse to celebrate and to give. However, on the sad note, the Native Americans with whom the pilgrims marked this holiday may have little to celebrate, since they certainly got short changed. And the turkeys—they have even less to celebrate. So here are some Thanksgiving recipes to honor endangered people and to save animals’ lives. The following dishes can work around other traditional or seasonal entrees.

Vegetarian Pot Pie

This “Indian” flavored version of pot pie may not be what pilgrims had at their Thanksgiving dinner table, but it can be a welcome new addition to other traditional dishes. After all, a pot pie is prepared with whatever you have in the pantry and tucked into pie crust to transform the humble ingredients into a more festive entrée.

Note: Omit butter and cheese for the vegan (non dairy) recipe replacing them with oil (or oil spread) and tofu. Your pie will be still delicious!

For the Crust:
1¾ cup unbleached flour
6 tablespoon of chilled butter or oil
6 tablespoons chilled water
For the Filling:
2 cups peeled and cubed potatoes
1 cup grated carrots
1 cup corn kernels, fresh or frozen
1 cup grated cheese or cubed firm tofu
1 cup finely chopped tomatoes
2 tablespoons corn oil or any vegetable oil
¼ cup chopped scallions or onions
¼ cup chopped bell peppers
½ teaspoon each turmeric, cumin and coriander powder
¼ cup water
salt and pepper to taste

First make the crust by combining ingredients gently in the food processor or by hand. Do not overwork the dough. Gather the dough into a ball and chill for a few minutes only.

Prepare the vegetable and other ingredients for the filling as described in the list.

Heat the oil in a frying pan and stir fry the onion and pepper for a few minutes until they are soft. Then add the rest of the ingredients for the filling, except for the cheese if you are using cheese. Sautee the mixture for ten minutes. Add the water, and cover the pan. Cook the mixture over a moderate heat for l0 to 15 minutes until the potatoes are cooked but still very firm. Transfer the cooked filling to a platter to cool off for l5 minutes or longer. Then add the cheese for non vegan version. Set the filling aside.

Preheat the oven to 350°. Now make the crusts by first dividing the dough into two parts and then rolling it out into two thin discs. Oil a pie plate and line it with one pie crust. Fill the pie shell with the filling ingredients spreading them evenly. If the filling looks too dry, sprinkle few teaspoons of water over the surface. Cover the pie with top crust. Pinch the edges of the two crusts to seal the pie. Prick the top crust all over with a fork. Brush the top crust with oil or butter and bake for an hour or longer until the pie looks golden. Serve with your favorite sauce, or Cranberry Chutney (recipe below).

Cranberry Chutney

We usually celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday with our friends who spend two days preparing many food items for the dinner. I am expected to bring a vegetarian entrée and my cranberry chutney. As far as I know, this my own creation as I had never cooked with cranberries before coming to the U.S. My friends tell me that it is a good alternative to the traditional cranberry sauce.

3 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
1 cup water
2 cups honey, sugar, fructose or maple syrup
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
½ teaspoon each ground cloves, cardamom and cinnamon
¼ teaspoon cayenne powder (optional for spicier chutney)

Chop the cranberries coarsely using a food processor, a blender or a knife. Transfer them to a pot with the water and cook for a few minutes until berries are soft. Then add the sweetener and the spices and cook for 10 or 15 minutes until the chutney looks jam-like and glazed. It will further solidify as it cools.

This chutney keeps for months if refrigerated and makes a wonderful holiday gift!

Pumpkin Brownies

This is a nutritious alternative to chocolate brownies for those who cannot tolerate chocolate. It is quick to prepare and easy to transport for a pot luck dinner.

1 cup pumpkin puree (fresh or canned puree)
½ cup butter or oil
1 cup brown or raw sugar
½ cup yogurt (or soy yogurt)
2 cups white flour
½ teaspoon each baking powder and salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon powder
½ cup chopped pecan or walnuts
Preheat oven at 350°. Mix the pumpkin, butter or oil, sugar and yogurt together in a food processor or using a fork.

In a separate bowl, sift the flour with baking powder and salt. Add the cinnamon and nuts. Mix the wet and dry ingredients together gently.

Oil a square baking pan (about 8”x 8” x 2”). Pour in the batter and spread it out evenly. Bake for about 30 minutes or longer until golden.

Shanta Nimbark Sacharoff, author of Flavors of India: Vegetarian Indian Cuisine, lives in San Francisco, where she is a manager of Other Avenues, a health-food store. Serena Sacharoff is a chef, illustrator, and art student. Visit Shanta’s Vegetarian Ethnic Kitchen