Originally published, November 23, 2010.
I've found that it's possible to have a delicious, crowd-pleasing Thanksgiving dinner without the turkey. Instead, I typically serve wild Alaskan salmon, either whole and baked or grilled. I eat salmon often, not only because it contains heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, but because I love it. You can make a very festive presentation of salmon at Thanksgiving dinner that will make your guests quite happy.
I may also serve a tofu "turkey" or other vegetarian roast especially for my daughter Diana, who is a lacto-vegetarian (no fish). If you want to try one, you can choose from a number of tofu turkeys on the market, or if you prefer to make your own, you can find several recipes online.
My holiday menu typically includes salad, roasted root vegetables, a green vegetable (like broccoli), and braised red cabbage, sometimes with chestnuts. All are easy to make. The latter, in particular, is packed with anthocyanins, powerful antioxidants that give red cabbage its vibrant color. Like other cruciferous vegetables, it provides fiber, vitamin C and cancer-fighting compounds called indoles.
For dessert, I like to serve squash pie. This vegan dish is made with winter squash (such as buttercup, kabocha, or banana), cashew milk, and raw sugar. It's thickened with arrowroot instead of eggs and flavored with brandy, cinnamon, ginger and cloves and topped with chopped walnuts.
You don't need turkey to enjoy the best of Thanksgiving. The deeper meaning of the day transcends any particular food, and instead springs from the gathering of family and friends around a table set with beautiful, satisfying dishes prepared with love and gratitude.
Andrew Weil, M.D.