Readers of food blogs probably know better, but I suspect that many Americans still consider vegetarian food to be an anemic assemblage of bean sprouts, lettuce and vegetables that you eat because they're good for you, not because they taste like something you would want to eat. Last night, I made my second try at "Pasta with Porcini Mushroom Sauce" from Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home, and I can report that this is vegetarian food with a heft that ought to please any meat-eater, especially one fond of red wine sauces.
The last time I tried this, I didn't cook the sauce down enough, so it ended up way too soupy. Last night, I cooked it down a little too much, because I was alternating cooking the sauce with composing an e-mail to The Lurker. Multi-tasking can be good in a kitchen, but not when it extends itself out of the kitchen entirely.
The basic method: soak some dried porcini in a cup and a half of boiling water. Meanwhile, saute a cup of chopped onion in two tablespoons of olive oil for ten minutes, then add two cups of sliced fresh mushrooms. Also add a teaspoon dried marjoram, four teaspoons fresh sage and a dash of salt. While this is going on, cook some pasta; linguini or fettuccini would be good for this but I used spaghetti last night. When the mushrooms begin to soften, add the porcini, then stir in a tablespoon of flour or cornstarch, 2/3 of a cup of red wine (I used Ravenswood Vintners Blend Zinfandel again) and a tablespoon of shoyu. Simmer until the sauce thickens, then pour over the pasta. Garnish with parmesan and/or fresh cracked black pepper, if desired.
The cookbook says, "This is an earthy, rich-tasting pasta for a hearty fall or winter meal," and that's no lie. The combination of red wine and mushrooms in sauce is classic with beef, of course. It works just as well with pasta, too.