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The Essential Vegetarian

By Katharyn Jeffreys

features editor

Now that classes have officially begun and, hopefully, everyone is settled in his dorm room, I thought I would give you a few vegetarian resources around MIT and the Boston area. One of the first concerns is where vegetarian groceries can be purchased. I have found that the Harvest Cooperative Supermarket in Central Square is a wonderful source for international, organic, vegetarian and vegan foods. In my hectic college life I take advantage of their packaged easy-to-prepare foods, such as frozen pita pockets, soups, etc. The Star Market on Massachusetts Avenue near MIT also has a large section of health foods, many of which are meat free. Be careful however, for often times a vegetarian entree will be on the shelf next to one with meat.

There are also many support groups in Boston which provide information about events, recipes, and scientific discoveries or facts relating to vegetarian issues. A notable one is the MIT Vegetarian Support Group. They have many e-mail lists as well as an informative web page. For more information, see <>.

After being in the land of pasta and pizza for three months, returning to Boston has allowed me to explore ethnic cuisines once again. While the zucchini curry pasta I had at Osteria Assassini in Venice was delightful, it was not exactly what I had in mind. I was pleased to find an array of tasty, spicy, vegetarian options at Kebab-N-Kurry (30 Massachusetts Ave.) located on the east side of the street just across the Harvard Bridge.

You may recall last spring I visited London, where I had a delightful sampler of breads, sauces, and vegetable curry dishes. I revisited this at Kebab-N-Kurry at a fraction of the cost -- and much closer to home. At the restaurant with me were two friends, one who was along for the company and one for the food. We shared the Veggie Platter which included fried goodies and a cucumber salad with spicy sauces on the side. As my main dish I had the Maharani Thaali, which consists of bread, rice, spinach, lentil puree, and a whipped yogurt blend. The meal also included desert. We were delighted with what was served to us: a cream ball dipped in rosewater and syrup.

Perhaps more important than the quality of the food was the fact that the service was friendly -- we found our water glasses constantly full (always a necessity when eating spicy food), the food was served promptly, and a complimentary dessert was included for the friend not partaking in the dinner. I was quite pleased with the joking, kind staff who offered a welcome change from the unimpressive teenaged waitstaffs of many area restaurants.

Overall, I found my dining experience to be pleasant and the amount of food served was far more than I could consume in one sitting. I would recommend Kebab-N-Kurry as an alternative to take-out, as it is just a short walk from campus and moderately priced.

This week’s recipe is Vegetarian French Onion Soup, as requested by a reader. If you too would like to submit feedback, e-mail me at I have included a recipe for a hearty vegetarian stock because standard vegetable stock does not do justice to the flavors associated with French Onion Soup. As an alternative to the bread and cheese topping, the soup can be ladled into a small, round loaf of bread which has been hollowed out.Place the cheese on top and broil on a cookie sheet until it bubbles.

French Onion Soup

2 cans vegetable broth/stock

8 large sweet onions (sliced)

2 Tbsp butter or margarine

1/2 cup brandy

2 Tbsp cornstarch

1/4 cup water

1 Tbsp onion powder

1 Tbsp parsley (chopped)

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

4 thick slices french bread

4 slices swiss cheese

4 slices Gruyere or Mozzarella cheese

4 tsp Parmesan or Romano cheese (grated)

In a large sautÉ or fry pan, melt butter or margarine. SautÉ onion slices until limp and slightly brown.

In a medium saucepan, heat concentrated vegetable stock over low heat. Add two soup cans of water to onions and stir to loosen pan drippings. Add to beef broth. Mix 1/4 cup water to cornstarch. Add to broth, stirring constantly until broth becomes clear again.

Add onion powder, parsley, salt and pepper. Add brandy. Cover and simmer over low heat 1/2 hour.

On a cookie sheet arrange 4 thick slices of French bread. Cover each slice with 1 slice of Swiss cheese and one slice of Gruyere or mozzarella cheese. Broil under high heat about 3 minutes or until cheese is bubbling.

Pour soup into bowls and place bread slices on top. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon each, grated Romano or Parmesan.

Stock for French Onion Soup (Optional)

1 oz. dried porcini mushrooms

1 cup hot water

1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil

1 onion, chopped

4 oz. fresh crimini mushrooms, chopped

2 carrots, chopped

2 stalks celery, chopped

1/2 cup leek greens, chopped

6 branches thyme

2 bay leaves

6 branches parsley

3 sage leaves

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 teaspoon salt

9 cups water

Reconstitute dried mushrooms in hot water. Heat oil in a soup pot, add onion, and cook it until it has caramelized, being careful not to allow it to burn. Add remaining ingredients, including reconstituted mushrooms, bring to a boil, and then simmer for 45 minutes. Strain and use, or reduce further to intensify flavor.