By Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now

The Thanksgiving feast. It evokes such fond food memories. Even vegetarians and vegans are often pleased with the variety of veggie sides that cover their plate on this commemoration. (Not to mention the pumpkin or pecan pie that precedes the well-deserved, holiday nap.)

Still, this is a meal firmly and conspicuously arranged around a meat. Vegetarians aren’t necessarily getting a well-rounded dinner. Not to carb about it. Chances are they like whipped potatoes as much as the next person. But there’s a lot more a home chef can do to accommodate non-meat diners at the holidays by simply putting a veggie dish on the table that packs more heft, and a little more protein (not that we want to resurrect any debates over protein at this time).

So to accommodate the vegetarians and/or vegans at your holiday buffet, here are five hearty, seasonal dishes that rely on locally grown veggies gathered from real chefs around the country. (The first four are vegan.)

For those of you who want to try eating a more plant-based diet, these recipes will work on the day after T-giving as well. In fact, they’re just good fall and winter entrees.

Sunchoke Gnocchi with Swiss Chard and Pecans

recipe by Chef Didi Emmons, courtesy Evelyn B. Kimber at the Boston Vegetarian Society
Serves 3-4

1.25 lb sunchokes (also called Jerusalem artichokes)
1 1/2 cups flour (I use white whole wheat)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 large clove garlic, minced
½ teaspoon or more to taste, salt
1 tablespoon fresh chopped herbs such as a mixture of two of following: rosemary, parsley, oregano, and thyme. Plus a bit for sprinkling at end.

4 tbs extra virgin olive oil
4 tbs chopped pecans
1 leek, cleaned and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 bunch Swiss Chard, chopped
2 cloves garlic
Clean the chokes with warm water, breaking apart any pieces that may have dirt lodged increases. Using a steamer to lift the chokes above the water, pressure cook on high for 5 minutes. They can also be straight steamed for about 20 minutes, or until tender.

1. Place the chokes in a bowl and with a fork mash them well. Add baking powder and mix well. Add the salt and stir. Now add the flour, ½ cup at a time. Add the herbs. Stir. The mixture should be soft and sticky, like muffin batter.

2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium heat, heat the olive oil, adding the walnuts. Stir well until they are toasted. Remove with a slotted spoon. Add the leeks and garlic and cook for 4 minutes or so, stirring. Then add the chard and continue to stir until the chard is wilted and cooked through, about 2 minutes. Take off the heat.

3. With an oiled spoon and your finger, take small pieces of the sunchoke dough and drop in to the boiling water (this is more in the style of making dumplings, if you make gnocchi with more flour, they aren’t as good). Continue until all the dough is used. As the dumpling rise to the surface, drain them with a slotted spoon and place them with the chard mixture.

4. Finally, heat the mixture up again. Spoon onto plate and top with herbs.