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COOKING WITH KUMAR
Cooking is really fun. Get some beer, wine and friends and it's even more fun. Plus you have much more control over what goes into your food. You can easily avoid ingredients contrary to your philosophy, plus you can focus on adding the ingredients you like the most.
KUMAR'S PASTA WITH TOMATO SAUCE
Ingredients: 1 package pasta 1 jar pasta sauce (optional additions listed below)
OK, so here's an ultra-easy first-vegan-meal type recipe: pasta. You have a wide variety to choose from: penne, penne rigate, spaghetti, angel hair, linguine, shells, horns, butterflies, whatever. Most store-bought pasta is just made of semolina flour and water - which makes me wonder why so many restaurants use eggs in theirs. Anyway, you should probably check the label to make sure but eggless won't be hard to find.
Also check the label for cooking time. I've noticed that some brands - particularly Trader Joe's - seem to underestimate the cooking time by a couple minutes. Boil the pasta (with plenty of water in a large pot) for the recommended time (usually 3 to 14 minutes, depending on the pasta) and then check it for doneness. It shouldn't be chalky or hard but it shouldn't be gooey either. Once it's soft and not chalky, it's probably done. If you're scared, just trust the label. Call the manufacturer and yell if it's gross.
Hope you're reading ahead before starting, because you're supposed to be preparing the sauce while the pasta boils. It's pretty easy to find pasta sauce that doesn't have animal ingredients in it; some have cheese but many do not. Pomi makes a very good marinara sauce; Classico is my favorite of the Albertson's/Vons selection. Whatever sauce you choose, put it into a pot or pan. Heat it.
Once the pasta is done, drain it in a colander. If you don't have a colander, you can just hold the lid slightly open and pour the water out into the sink while holding the pasta in. If this sounds complicated, go to your nearest dollar store and buy a colander. Add salt if you want (some people add salt to the water while cooking, but I think this can kind of mess up the cooking process. Not sure though).
Put some pasta in a bowl (or plate, if you're from Kingsburg) and put some sauce on top of it. Repeat for each additional dinner guest. Voila! You're done! Store leftovers in tupperware and heat in the microwave for an even easier dinner tomorrow.
Important note: Some packages will tell you to rinse the pasta in cold water immediately after draining in order to stop the cooking. Do not do this. It will make your pasta cold.
Of course, if you want to get optional with it, you can wash and cut some broccoli, mushrooms, onions, or whatever other vegetables come to mind. Heat some olive oil in a pan and cook them for a few minutes (I like my onions well done, so I'd say 10 minutes for the onions, then add broccoli for about 3 minutes, then mushrooms for the last 2). Add them to the pasta and you've got a more nutritious and exciting meal. As always, salt and pepper can only make life yummier.
Chopped fresh (or dried) basil is another tasty addition. One hot tip I got from a friend a few years back is to cut up a fresh tomato or two and add them to the sauce when you heat it. Makes it chunkier and tastier; I recommend making sure the tomatoes get cooked for about 10 minutes.
Other "advanced" options: Salad on the side is great. Spring mix and/or romaine lettuce with cucumber, tomato, green onion, and maybe shredded carrots and raisins makes for some tasty business. Olives, celery, kidney beans, and sliced almonds are some other popular ingredients in my salads. I wouldn't try to add too much at once though; 5 or 6 choice ingredients is a tasteful amount.
Garlic bread is purty easy. Spread some olive oil on some sliced french bread and either chop or (if you have a garlic press) press and spread some garlic on it. Add chopped basil if you want. Then put it in the oven or toaster oven. It's a good idea to wrap it in foil so the garlic doesn't get all burnt. Check it often because bread can cook pretty dang fast. In my experience, having pasta and salad and garlic bread makes you really full. So if you're going to go "whole hog," so to speak, make sure you give yourself small portions, at least to start.
I'm no wine connoisseur, but I do know that red wine pairs nicely with red sauce. So pick some up if you're alcoholically inclined. My dad, who is a wine connoisseur, says Penfold's makes some super Australian reds. I say they're as cheap as $7.99 at Trader Joe's! Sweet. You can also jump on the Charles Shaw wagon and get 2 2/3 bottles for the same money if the Penfold's is too rich for your blood.
In the future I promise a variety of easy, tasty, and most of all sophisticated recipes with sexy and informative pictures to help you along.