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FOOD REVIEW

The Essential Vegetarian

By Katharyn Jeffries

Features Editor

Myth: Vegetarianism is an eating disorder.

Fact: While in some cases this can be true, vegetarians generally eat a diet as well balanced as their peers. Vegetarianism can be a cover-up for an eating disorder such as anorexia, but vegetarianism itself is not an eating disorder. It is simply a lifestyle choice, just as meat eaters choose to eat meat.

Many parents worry when their teenage children decide to stop eating meat. In many cases this is the child’s first real rebellion and parents do not know how to manage the situation. By maintaining a mixed, low fat diet of grains, fruits and vegetables, and proteins, a vegetarian will not become emaciated or sickly.

It is for this reason that being an educated vegetarian (or an educated consumer of food in general) is important. It is a fine line between an unhealthy diet and an unhealthy mindset about food. According to Vegetarian Times, “on any given day, the average American doesn’t eat a single vegetable.” Or, they use potatoes as their primary vegetable. I personally found my “meat and potatoes” upbringing very boring (and for many people it becomes unhealthy).

It is rare that I get the chance to go to a restaurant classified primarily as “vegetarian.” This week, however, I enjoyed a meal at a restaurant which caters to vegetarians. Zaatar’s Oven, at 242 Harvard Street, a block from the Coolidge Corner T stop in Brookline, provided me with a very satisfying meal. The menu, which is Kosher, consists of sandwiches, soups, salads, and pizzas, as well as many breads, including flatbreads, stuffed flatbreads (sansbusaks), and sweetbreads.

I had a spinach and feta sansbusak, which was much more dense than the zestier vegetable and cous cous sansbusak. The bread was crusty -- basted and baked to a golden brown -- yet chewy inside. In addition I tried the spicy bean soup, which wasn’t all that spicey but nonetheless tasty. To finish the meal I tried a sweet cheese with raisin flatbread and a raspberry swirl pastry. The flatbread was rich, and the filling had a somewhat strange consistency. The raspberry swirl was the clear winner with its jam-like filling.

The atmosphere was not spectacular, but established a sort of yuppie coffee-shop ambiance, with comfortable wooden furniture and counter service. The highlight of the shop is the wood burning stove where the fresh breads are baked. The restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and has ample veggie options for each meal -- many of which can be viewed in the cases along the counter.

Overall I found my experience at Zaatar’s Oven to be very tasty. A full meal consisting of a stuffed flatbread, large soup, dessert, and beverage costs a little over $10. (Plus T fare, of course, but it is worth it to get out to the more quaint Brookline area).

Finally, a recipe for taboulah salad. As always, I am interested to hear from my readers -- vegetarian and meat-eating alike. Send me questions or comments at veggie@the-tech.mit.edu.

Tabouleh Salad

1 to 1-1/2 cups pre-soaked bulgar wheat

2 cups or 1 to 2 bunches of finely chopped, fresh parsley

2 large or 3 small tomatos finely chopped

3 large or 4 small cucumbers peeled and finely chopped

1/4 to 1/3 cup lemon juice

salt

pepper

fresh pressed garlic

pita or mountain bread

vinagrette or light textured italian style dressing

Use a large mixing bowl and mix together pre-soaked bulgar wheat with just enough dressing to moisten. Add chopped parsley, tomato, and cucumber. If you use an electric chopper for the tomato and cucumber, they will be mostly juice and pulp. This is acceptable for a softer salad, however you will get better results from hand chopping, though this can be quite time-consuming.

Add the lemon juice, salt, pepper, and garlic to taste. Cover and chill salad for at least 2 hours... it needs time to soak in its own juices to really bring out the flavor of all the ingredients. Spoon onto warmed pita or mountain bread to serve. The salad will be quite juicy at the bottom of the bowl. Do not remove the juice, as it acts as a marinade, the longer it soaks, the more flavorful it becomes. This juice can later be used as a dressing on potatoes or a leafy salad, or as a marinade for cooking vegetables. Serves: 10-15. Preparation time: 30 minutes.