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 and recipes. 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 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 good old chili-fired heat to wake it up.
All of which is to say that in late March, David Joachim’s new book, “Cooking Light Global Kitchen” (Oxmoor House, $29.95, 320 pages) 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).
One particular dish in the Middle East/Africa chapter stood out, because it satisfies each of the three strategies. It’s chef Marcus Samuelsson’s take on pasta saltata, an Ethiopian dish 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.