Stuffings for All Seasons

GO TO RECIPES: Vegan Recipes to for the recipes for these dishes.  Mary

Americans love stuffing, as can be seen by touring the “starch” shelves of any grocery store. But why purchase mixes that are full of processed ingredients when you can easily compile your own signature vegan dish? Stuffing (or dressing, depending on where you are; there’s no consensus as to which term is absolutely correct) can be used as the base for a casserole or a side dish. It can stand on its own or be the perfect partner in a shell of squash, eggplant, potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, onions, cabbage, or apples.

Stuffing can stand up to mashing and squashing. Besides fitting into pans and natural containers, it can be rolled up in edible leaves (think cabbage, grape, romaine or tea leaves) or flat breads and fitted into pocket breads. Stuffing doesn’t even mind if you serve it hot or cold. Hot, it can be the star or supporting cast of a meal. Cold, it makes a great on-the-go meal, a midnight snack, or even a quick breakfast. (Perhaps it can be an occasional substitute for that cold pizza you enjoy so much with your morning paper!)

Stuffing is not just a holiday excuse to get away from rice, pasta or potatoes. Stuffing fits into the entire calendar, using seasonal produce, leftover breads and grains, fresh and dried herbs and spices, and even some of your stock of canned and dried vegetables and fruit.

Stuffing preparation can be spontaneous or planned. You can throw open your cupboards and refrigerator and concoct a great stuffing, or you can calculate which ingredients you are going to use by storing leftover cooked grains and breads in the freezer and cooked fruit and vegetables in the refrigerator until you’re ready to use them. Extra sliced bread can be left to dry on top of the oven (if you have space) to make bread crumbs. A great stuffing is made from a balance of dry, moist, and seasoning ingredients. Dry ingredients can include crumbs from all types of bread, or cooked grains such as millet, quinoa, and rice. Moist ingredients are the “glue” of the mixture and can be vegetable stocks or broths; fruit juices or their concentrates; vegetable or fruit purees; vegetable juice; and fresh, frozen, or canned fruit and vegetables. Let your imagination fly with stuffing seasoning, using combinations of fresh and dried herbs.

Experience has shown some sure-fire methods for successful stuffings. The general procedure should be to let grains or breads cool before use (making leftovers the ideal ingredient). Saute or cook vegetables or fruit before combining with the grains (this maximizes flavor and moistness), and always bake the stuffing in a pan large enough to allow for expansion. Be sure to start your stuffing covered in the oven, removing the cover in the last moments to allow for browning (if desired). If you are going to freeze your stuffing for future enjoyment, be sure it is thoroughly cooled before tucking it away (a good method might be to let it cool in the refrigerator in shallow pans and then wrap it for storage after it is cool).

The possibilities for your stuffings are endless. Marinate some tempeh in your favorite seasoning, bake until golden brown and serve with a corn stuffing; stew some peaches and plums and serve with a dried fruit stuffing; make up a hearty veggie stew and serve with an eggplant stuffing; scramble some tofu and serve with an oat stuffing. So, get in the kitchen and start stuffing!

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