November 30, 2021

For Thanksgiving, our host asked that I bring a vegan main dish. While I’ve always depended on parmesian rinds to add umami to my decades-old ribollita recipe, this time I relied on nutritional yeast for the oomph. I brought the dish, deconstructed, the slightly roasted pumpkin on a large serving platter, the ribollita in a heavy pot that could reheat on the stovetop or in the oven, depending on where there was room. It was a hit. Here’s the recipe, along with the steps that got me there. (Ingredients are BOLD)

4 days ahead

Soak 1 pound dried white beans overnight

3 days ahead

Drain the beans. Add them to a large Dutch oven or other heavy pot with one chopped onion, a few sprigs of thyme, a handful of parsley stems, a bay leaf, 8 black peppercorns, and cool water to cover. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer the beans until tender, anywhere from 45 to 75 minutes. The beans should smush against the side of the pot with little resistance. Add 2 teaspoons kosher salt. Cool, transfer to a refrigerator container, and store.

3 days ahead

Methodically slice a large sourdough loaf into 1-inch cubes. Spread out on a baking sheet and allow the bread to stale.

1 day ahead

Dice 3 medium carrots, 2 stalks of celery, 2 yellow onions. Stash in a ziptop bag and refrigerate. Take two large bunches of dinosaur kale. Remove the ribs and slice the leaves across in 1/2 inch slivers. Stash in a ziptop bag and refrigerate.

The day you plan to serve the dish

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Carve the top lid of a 7 pound Cinderella pumpkin making a wide opening to easily serve the dish. Scrape out the stringy parts and the seeds and do what you will with those seeds. Trim the bottom of the lid of any strings and seeds. Make the insides as clean as you can. Line a baking sheet with strips of foil crossed both widthwise and lengthwise to help move the pumpkin to a serving dish later.

Place the pumpkin in the center of the foil strips. Rub the outsides of the pumpkin and lid with vegetable oil and loosely bring the foil around the pumpkin. Roast for around 30 minutes. The inside should be drier than before and still quite firm. If over roasted, the pumpkin can collapse and breach when the hot foods are added later. Not good.

While the pumpkin is roasting, start the ribollita. In a large heavy 5 quart pot, heat 1/4 cup olive oil. Add the carrot, onion, celery mixture and cook until the onions are transparent, about 5 minutes. Add 3 tablespoons tomato paste and cook until it darkens to the color of bricks. Salt the vegetables liberally and grind a few twists of pepper, too. Add the kale, stir to coat with the oil and vegetables. Cover and cook for 5 minutes.

Stir in 3 cups vegetable stock, the drained white beans and 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves. When combined well, add two-thirds of the bread cubes, around 4 cups. Stir well. If the mixture seems dry, add another cup of vegetable stock or water. If it seems very wet, add more bread. Add salt. Add plenty of pepper. Stir and stir and get the stew simmering and bubbling. Cover and cook for one hour.

Uncover the pot, taste the kale. Is it sweet and tender? Stir in the remaining bread, 1/2 cup chopped parsley, and 1/3 cup nutritional yeast, stir well, and simmer very slowly on low heat for another 30 minutes, stirring all the time. It will want to stick. Taste for salt and pepper. Spoon into the pumpkin to serve. Use the lid to keep it warm.

There’s no need to wait until Thanksgiving to have this. It’s a lovely winter dish and if there are no pumpkins? A soup tureen will do.

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