Vegetarian Thanksgiving

Right about now – 8:45 p.m. on Thanksgiving eve, I lose my appetite after making three mince pies (I caught a break with the other three), shelling shrimp, and making the filling for my vegetarian dish. We met friends for dinner and drinks tonight during which I managed to eat a salad and half a sandwich. But in the spirit of the all-u-can eat feast tomorrow, here’s the recipe for my main course. Mother and I started making this recipe when it was first published in the NYTimes in 1974. We tried the entire menu, which included Brussels sprouts, homemade crackers, beet soup and pumpkin flan, but only the main course survived. The tab feature doesn’t work so well on this blog, so check notes at the end.



serves 8 to 10

4 tablespoons butter                         1 1/2 cups chopped onion

1 pound mushrooms, chopped       2 large ribs celery, finely chopped

2 1/2 cups cooked soybeans           1 cup raw cashews, chopped

3 cups cooked brown rice                1/3 cup snipped fresh dill weed

1/4 cup chopped parsley                 3 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground          2 eggs, lightly beaten

black pepper                                        3/4 pound phyllo pastry

1/2 pound sweet butter, melted    fine, unflavored dry bread crumbs


1/4 cup butter                                    1 cup finely chopped onion

2 tablespoons flour                             2 cups sour cream at room temp.

vegetable broth or milk                   1 tablespoon snipped fresh dill weed

salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. For the coulibiac, melt butter in a large heavy skillet, add onion, and cook until tender but not browned. Add mushrooms and celery and cook, stirring frequently, over high heat until liquid has evaporated.

2. Stir in soybeans, brown rice, cashews, dill, parsley, salt, pepper and eggs. Mix well and check seasoning.

3. Place phyllo on a damp towel and cover with a second damp towel. Take one sheet of the pastry and place on a third damp towel. Cover remaining dough as you work. Brush the sheet with melted butter and sprinkle with bread crumbs. Place a second sheet on top of the first, cover with butter and bread crumbs. Repeat layering until you have 10 to 12 sheets.

4. Pile half the soy bean mixture along one of the long sides of the phyllo about 3 inches from the edge and leaving about an inch on the short sides. Using the towel underneath, roll the filling in the pastry to make a strudel-like roll, tucking in the sides.

5. Roll the coulibiac onto an ungreased baking sheet, preferably one with an edge. Cover with a damp towel as you repeat the procedure with 10 to 12 more sheets of the pastry and the remaining filling.

6. Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 35 minutes or until the rolls are crisp and well browned. Let stand for five minutes before cutting into thick slices.

7. While the rolls are baking, make the sauce by melting butter and cooking the onion very slowly until it is golden brown and tender. This will take 20 minutes.

8. Sprinkle with flour. Add sour cream and bring to a boil while stirring. Thin the mixture with broth or milk until it is the consistency of a sauce. Add dill, salt, and pepper and serve over the coulibiac.


One cup of dry soy beans equals 2 1/2 to 3 cups cooked. Soak beans over night in water to cover. Rinse and cook in salted water to cover plus 1/4 cup oil for 20 minutes in a pressure cooker or without oil in a covered saucepan for 2 to 3 hours until tender. You can reserve some of the cooking water to thin the sauce. (My experience: if you boil water in a pressure cooker and add rinsed beans, you can omit the soaking and the oil.) Also, the brown rice should be the long grain variety that takes about 50 minutes to cook.

To cut the fat content, I use a combination of olive oil and canola oil to sauté the vegetables and save the butter for the sauce and layering the pastry. I also  substitute lowfat yogurt for the sour cream. I use about half the amount of salt in the main part of the recipe. One year I omitted all salt and it didn’t seem to affect the flavor.

I substitute wheat germ for the bread crumbs.

I often prepare filling the day before. The mixture sits overnight in the refrigerator. It also works to make mix up everything several days ahead and freeze it. On Turkey Day, I heat the filling on the stove before I put it in the phyllo. It smells just like turkey when it’s baking.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

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