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FOOD REVIEW

The Essential Vegetarian

Even vegans can boycott Aramark

By Katie Jeffreys
STAFF REPORTER

I have spent another week as a vegetarian, and boy, has it been great! Let me just start off by saying a few words about Aramark. Now that their contract has been renewed, it seems like they are fair game for any criticism. Well, let me start off by saying that as far as cafeteria food goes, Aramark does a decent job of providing relatively healthy vegetarian options during peak dining hours. However, while the menu items seem appealing in theory, the consistency is sub-par.

One phenomenon noticed among the MIT vegetarian community is Networks’ tendency to mistakenly serve meat to people who have ordered vegetarian meals. One patron, Neil W. Van Dyke G, registered his complaint to the vsg-local@mit.edu mailing list. He was given a chicken wrap instead of the tofu version he had ordered. Another member of the list, Dimitri Kountourogiannis G, then posted that he, too, had recently received the wrong wrap at Networks. “I brought it back and they kindly made me another one, which also had chicken in it. Luckily, the chef got the order right the third time -- my hovering over him helped him focus a bit better.”

I have also experienced this dilemma when ordering a Basil Roma Panini I received a panini with chicken, an error that I did not notice until leaving Networks with my takeout meal. This sort of trend is disappointing, especially since, as Van Dyke points out, “Making a vegetarian [meal] non-vegetarian is generally much worse than, say, giving someone a chicken sandwich when they ordered roast beef.” A vegetarian is not going to eat the meat they did not order, wasting both time and money. The manager of Networks is always quick to remedy any situation such as this, but goodwill towards the restaurant is threatened.

If you have decided to boycott Aramark, either due to the UA boycott or because of their aforementioned carelessness, I have bad news. I cannot offer you any restaurants to go to instead! This is because the restaurant I visited recently, Atasca (located at 279 Broadway, Cambridge) had very little to offer for vegetarians. There were a few small dishes (appetizer or salad-sized) and only two risotto dishes as entrees. The risotto came in broccoli and rabe or mixed seasonal vegetable varieties, which made a tasty, filling meal, costing about seven dollars for the entree. However if you are seeking variety, I would not recommend this establishment.

In closing, I offer you a recipe which was a big hit at a recent dinner party. I served it over rainbow rotini, which made for a festively colored dish. As always, feel free to e-mail your questions, comments or concerns to me at veggie@the-tech.mit.edu.

Herbed Pasta Primavera

* 6 ounces linguine, spaghetti, or fettucini

* 1 cup water

* 2 teaspoons cornstarch

* 2 teaspoons instant vegetable bouillon granules

* 1 tablespoon olive oil

* 2 cloves garlic, minced

* 8 ounces fresh asparagus, cut into 1 inch pieces

* 2 medium carrots very thinly cut on the diagonal

* 1 medium onion, chopped

* 1 6-ounce package frozen pea pods, thawed and well drained

* 2/3 cup sliced almonds or chopped cashews

* 1/4 cup snipped parsley or 1 tablespoon dried parsley flakes

* 2 tablespoons snipped fresh basil or 1-1/2 teaspoons dried basil, crushed

* 1/4 teaspoon pepper

* 1/3 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese

Cook pasta to package directions; drain. Meanwhile, for sauce, in a small bowl stir together water, cornstarch, bouillon granules. Set aside.

Pour olive oil into wok or large skillet. Preheat over medium-high heat. Stir fry garlic in hot oil for 15 seconds. Add asparagus, carrots, and onions; stir fry for 2 minutes. Add pea pods, nuts, and spices. Stir fry about 1 minute more or until vegetables are crisp-tender. Remove vegetable mixture from wok.

Stir sauce and add to wok. Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly. Cook and stir one minute more. Return vegetable mixture to wok; toss to coat. Heat through.

To serve, spoon vegetable mixture over hot cooked pasta. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Makes 4 servings.