The Washington Post

Vegetarian pasta with potatoes: Global, seasonal and spicy

Red Whole-Wheat Penne. (Deb Lindsey/For The Washington Post)
Food and Dining Editor

When vegetarians tell me they’re in a cooking rut, I tell them to try one or all of the following strategies: Go global, go seasonal, go spicy.

By going global, I mean to look around at other cultures’ traditions, vegetarian and otherwise, and incorporate their spices and blends (hello, dukkah) and recipes (hello, dal). By going seasonal, I mean to pay attention not only to the vegetables that are freshest in the market but also to the items in your pantry (say, at the end of a loooooong winter) that match the weather and your mood. Finally, it’s obvious what I mean by going spicy: Whenever my palate is fatigued, there’s nothing like some good old chili-fied heat to wake it up.

Joe Yonan is the Food and Dining editor of The Washington Post and the author of "Eat Your Vegetables: Bold Recipes for the Single Cook." He writes the Food section's Weeknight Vegetarian column. View Archive

All of which is to say that in late March, when we had yet another snowstorm in the Mid-Atlantic, David Joachim’s new book, “Cooking Light Global Kitchen,” landed like a beacon on my desk. It’s not vegetarian per se, but almost 40 percent of the recipes are meatless (and half of those are vegan), covering such far-flung traditions as bibimbap (Korea), empanadas (South America), stuffed eggplant (Middle East), samosas (India), pizza (Italy) and more.

One particular dish in the Middle East/Africa chapter stood out, because it satisfies each one of the three strategies I mentioned earlier. It’s chef Marcus Samuelsson’s take on pasta saltata, an Ethio­pian dish (tied to the nation’s brief Italian occupation) that combines pasta with potatoes and a spicy, tangy, rich-but-light sauce. The sauce includes almonds, lemon, Parmigiano-Reggiano and harissa, the North African chili paste.

The harissa is the kicker, literally; it pulls everything together with a punch. I made the dish twice — once for dinner and again for the camera the next morning. Or so I told myself. The truth is, I couldn’t get enough.



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