Way to go: Global, seasonal and spicy



When vegetarians tell me they’re in a cooking rut, I tell them to try one or all of the following strategies: Go global, go seasonal, go spicy.

By going global, I mean to look around at other cultures’ traditions, vegetarian and otherwise, and incorporate their spices and blends (hello, dukkah) and recipes (hello, dal). By going seasonal, I mean to pay attention not only to the vegetables that are freshest in the market but also to the items in your pantry (say, at the end of a loooooong winter) that match the weather and your mood. Finally, it’s obvious what I mean by going spicy: Whenever my palate is fatigued, there’s nothing like some good old chili-fied heat to wake it up.

All of which is to say that in late March, when we had yet another snowstorm in the mid-Atlantic, David Joachim’s new book, “Cooking Light Global Kitchen,” landed like a beacon on my desk. It’s not vegetarian per se, but almost 40 percent of the recipes are meatless (and half of those are vegan), covering such far-flung traditions as bibimbap (Korea), empanadas (South America), stuffed eggplant (Middle East), samosas (India), pizza (Italy) and more.

One particular dish in the Middle East/Africa chapter stood out, because it satisfies each one of the three strategies I mentioned earlier. It’s chef Marcus Samuelsson’s take on pasta saltata, an Ethiopian dish (tied to the nation’s brief Italian occupation) that combines pasta with potatoes and a spicy, tangy, rich-but-light sauce. The sauce includes almonds, lemon, Parmigiano-Reggiano and harissa, the North African chili paste.

The harissa is the kicker, literally; it pulls everything together with a punch. I made the dish twice — once for dinner and again for the camera the next morning. Or so I told myself. The truth is, I couldn’t get enough.

Red Whole-Wheat Penne

4 to 6 servings

This modern version of the classic dish pasta saltata is a result of the brief Italian occupation of Ethiopia. Harissa, a chili paste, can be found at specialty markets. Adapted from “Cooking Light Global Kitchen” by David Joachim.

1 pound (2 medium) Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 cup blanched whole almonds

1 large shallot lobe, thinly sliced

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

2 tablespoons harissa

1 teaspoon fine sea salt

12 ounces dried whole-wheat penne

1/4 cup chopped arugula

1/4 cup chopped basil leaves

Cover the potatoes with water in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over high. Reduce to medium or medium-low and cook until tender, about 15 minutes. Scoop them out with a slotted spoon and reserve the cooking water. Cool the potatoes slightly; cut into 1/2 -inch pieces.

Pour 1 tablespoon of the oil into a small skillet over low heat. Add the almonds, shallot and garlic; cook, stirring frequently, until the almonds are golden brown and the shallot and garlic are tender, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from the heat to cool a bit.

Scrape the mixture into a food processor. Add the remaining 3 tablespoons of oil, with the lemon juice, cheese, harissa and salt; puree until smooth. With the motor running, slowly add 1 1/2 cups of the reserved cooking water; puree until smooth.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over medium-high. Add the penne and cook according to the package directions. Drain; toss in a large bowl with the potatoes and sauce. Fold in the arugula. Divide among plates. Sprinkle with the basil and serve hot.