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The Essential Vegetarian

Who are the vegetarians in your neighborhood?

By Katie Jeffreys

Features Editor

Last week I included a quote from Plutarch which addressed animal rights. He asked why man originally chose to eat a dead animal; what the appeal of flesh was. I heard some very violent responses to the passage, which was sort of the point.

One friend said she was eating lunch while reading my column, and grew nauseous. That was the same reaction I had, only I felt better knowing that I did not have to justify my dietary habits. It is so frequent that I must defend my choice to abstain from meat. It is the ideas presented by Plutarch that turn the tables and remind the average meat eater that they too should make conscious, informed decisions of what they put into their bodies.

On a related note, I would like to address the highly touted Atkins diet. According to the Atkin’s Center <>, the Atkins diet promotes “a lifetime nutritional philosophy, focusing on the consumption of nutrient-dense, unprocessed foods and vita-nutrient supplementation.” More significantly, “the Atkins diet restricts processed/refined carbohydrates (which make up over 50 percent of many people’s diets), such as high-sugar foods, breads, pasta, cereal, and starchy vegetables.”

I personally think this diet is, for most people, overrated. Of course if you are going to restrict your diet in any way (be it meat or carbohydrates) it will change your health. For example, by eliminating carbohydrates (which includes all simple sugars, even those from fruits) will increase the amount of meat and dairy consumed, thereby increasing saturated fat. Such a restriction will also probably lead to less calories being consumed. So of course whoever follows this diet strictly will lose weight.

Of course, many of the same criticisms can be made about vegetarianism, so I would advise anyone making these choices to ensure that they consume a nutritionally balanced diet.

Good Mexican food is hard to come by in Boston (not surprising since it is nowhere near Mexico). Yet this fall Cambridge was graced with Austin Grill, a fun, vegetarian friendly restaurant which offers a wide range of Mexican favorites. I sampled a wide range of their menu, and found the choices to be a bit hit-or-miss.

The Lake Travis nachos, topped with black beans, Monterrey Jack cheese, and grilled vegetables were outstanding. Likewise, the grilled vegetable burrito was delicious and bursting with vegetables and beans. The cheese enchilada came off as corn tortillas buried in a sea of oily cheese. The daily soup, vegetables and rice in a tomato-based broth, was also not stunning. Rumor has it that the portobello mushroom fajitas are outstanding.

The atmosphere of the restaurant, located in University Park at 350 Massachusetts Avenue, is very festive. The umbrellas over the tables, lights strung around the perimeter of the room, and the amazing sparkling fiber optic ceiling add to the general picnic ambiance. Service is prompt and friendly, and the staff is primarily young and enthusiastic. Overall I found that Austin Grill was clearly superior to its competitors (Chili’s, Picante, etc.) in Boston.

To close this week, I would like to mention that if you have read Daniel J. Katz’s absurd column this week, you may be interested to know that his, to quote him, “SSO” (somewhat significant other) has been a vegetarian for over six years. TouchÉ.

As always, e-mail me comments and questions at <>. This week’s recipe is for vegetable enchiladas. Enjoy.

Vegetable Enchiladas

4 Corn tortillas

1/2 cup Cubed eggplant

1/2 cup Salsa sauce

1/4 cup Grated zucchini

1 tsp. Olive oil

1 tbs. Sherry, optional

1/3 cup Thinly sliced onions

1/4 can Diced green chilies

1 Garlic clove, sliced

2 tbs. Minced cilantro

Place tortillas in shallow pan. Spread salsa over them to soften them. Let sit for 5 minutes. Turn tortillas over & coat the other side.

While the tortillas are softening, heat oil in a skillet and sautÉ the onion for 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Add garlic, eggplant, zucchini, and sherry if using. Cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes or so, until the eggplant begins to stick. Remove from heat and stir in chilies.

Pre-heat oven to 400°F. Lightly oil a baking tin. Remove each tortilla from the sauce and fill with one quarter of the sauteed vegetables.

Roll up tortillas and place seam side down in baking tin. Top with the rest of the sauce and cilantro. Bake for 15 minutes, until evenly browned.

Yield: 4.