I work in a restaurant, and while it isn't the most exciting, challenging, or stable employment, it has its benefits. One of the major ones is that I get to revel in other people's creativity. Our daily specials are created to feature local produce and often pull components from other cuisines - wonderful sauces, from the classic French buerre blanc to the North African chermoula to Greek tzatziki - paired with local squash, house-made falafel, fried green tomatoes, or anything that sounds good to Robert, the creator of our specials. Working with someone so knowledgeable (he recently told me where to find pumpkin noodles) and with such good taste has taught me so much, and if nothing else, I've learned you can put any damn thing on a pizza. Even chili. Even pasta.
But it's not just those of us working in the culinary industry who like to experiment with food; every once in a while I serve someone who comes up with something really interesting to order. The other day, we were serving chili, and an older woman who had come in with her son and his girlfriend asked me timidly if there was any way we could put some of the chili on some pasta....and I thought, yes! Why didn't I think of that?
I did, technically, but not because I was being inventive like she was. A couple of months ago, I found tofu shirataki noodles at the store, and bought them out of morbid curiosity about their strange texture. I was never very motivated to eat them until one day when I was home from work with nothing to eat and quite hungry. I am very bad at waiting to prepare food when I'm hungry, and I often end up eating a course of triscuits dipped in vegenaise while I make dinner, but that night I used my big-girl willpower and looked through my kitchen to see what I had to make. I had noodles, and I had one freezer-burned veggie burger, and some tomato paste, and it just grew into something beautiful
Emily's Bachelor Pad Chili Pasta
Just wing it with the measurements...
Left-over veggie burger(s)
Chopped red pepper
Bragg's liquid aminos or soy sauce
Drain the noodles and set aside. Put a little oil in a saucepan and begin to saute the onion and pepper. Turn down the heat and add the veggie burger and cook, breaking it up as you go. Add olive oil, tomato paste, and some water, and mix slowly. Add balsamic vinegar, Bragg's, liquid smoke, and tabasco to taste and mix, cooking down, and continue to break veggie burger up to the right consistency. Add water if needed to reach the right consistency. Toss with noodles and consume with gusto.
As a side-note, a little sauteed tempeh sprinkled with soy sauce works nicely if you don't have a left-over freezer-burned veggie burger. Tempeh is also a great addition to Cajun-style bean and rice.