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THE ESSENTIAL VEGETARIAN

A weekend of vegetarian dining options

By Katharyn Jeffreys

Features Editor

This past weekend was filled with wonderful vegetarian dining experiences for me. On Friday night I went to Buddah’s Delight in Chinatown. I was pleased to be accompanied by solely vegetarians, a treat I rarely have. I had heard good things about Buddah’s Delight from friends and was interested in trying it for some time.

The second floor dining room is a large open space overlooking an adult bookshop. The staff was kind but slightly confused. Our waiter, however, was very patient in explaining what each menu item was and in making recommendations.

The menu consists entirely of vegetarian dishes, so don’t be shocked by the beef, chicken, shrimp, and pork listed on the menu. There is a reason the meats are in quotations, for it is a mere description of the appearance and texture the soy product assumes (shrimp are little pink squiggles and beef is tougher and dark brown).

I tried “chicken fingers” as an appetizer. They consisted of sticks of tofu fried in a corn dog-like batter. Definitely something I had never tried before. The main dishes are large, but the pieces of vegetables and tofu are cut into very small bits (which I didn’t particularly care for). I also found the food to be a little bland, but the flavor and texture were a welcome change to my traditional Chinese food order of “mixed vegetables with tofu in brown sauce.”

The next night I enjoyed a very different dining experience at Tasca Spanish Tapas Restaurant. Tapas are small dishes of food, which grew from the pieces of bread served over drinks in bars to keep the flies out. Tasca has an amazing number of vegetarian tapas -- more than I have seen at any tapas restaurant. The dishes are made of portabello mushrooms, potatoes, tomatoes, cheese, etc. Order two or three of them (at $2 to $5 each) per person and be prepared to sample everyone’s choices.

The menu also has many entrees, desserts, and wines, all which are reasonably priced considering the portion size, quality and ambiance. The restaurant is dimly lit and noisy, with wooden furniture and a wonderful attention to detail (be sure to check out the charmingly decorated bathrooms). The waitstaff was very kind and not overbearing considering how many times they visited our table to deliver fresh tapas.

Be warned, however, that it’s a long ride to Washington St. on the Green Line of the T to get to the restaurant. However, I think it is worth it for what <http://www.boston.sidewalk.com> describes as a four star restaurant.

I would recommend both of these restaurants for vegetarians who are tired of dining out only to find limited choices on the menu.

A Networks update: I visited the restaurant one evening this week for a snack and found the omelet to be the only specific veggie special (in addition to the vegetarian Mexican burger and other fried foods). A baked potato or salad requested without meat would probably also have been an option. I will give them a break as it was late at night and many specials had sold out (including everyday menu item vegetarian chili). They have been offering vegetarian lasagna, burritos, and stuffed peppers. I will have to check back later during regular dining hours.

In celebration of Halloween, I offer a recipe for squash. Please send any comments or questions to <veggie@the-tech.mit.edu>.

Spinach-Stuffed Acorn Squash

2 large acorn squash Salt and pepper to taste

5 teaspoons oil 1 large yellow onion, finely chopped

1/2 cup toasted wheat germ 1 cup cooked spinach, finely chopped

1/2 cup dried currants Generous dash of nutmeg

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Halve squash width-wise, remove stem, and discard seeds. Sprinkle cavities with salt and pepper. Place a teaspoon of oil and a teaspoon of water in each cavity. Set in deep, oven-proof dish. Surround with 2 inches of water, cover, and bake at 375 degrees for 40 minutes or until squash is soft.

While squash bakes, sautÉ onion until clear in 1 teaspoon of oil. Remove squash from pan, cool, spoon pulp into a mixing bowl, making sure to leave some flesh on shell sides. Mix squash pulp, sautÉed onions, spinach, wheat germ, and currants. Add seasoning to mixture.

Refill squash shells with mixture and set in baking pan. Reheat until piping hot.

Serve with brown rice. Serves four.