Vegetarian Cuisine to Change Your Mind

We were looking out the window. The delivery man got out of his car. He was wearing a turban. "I guess we're not having pizza," my friend said.

Not this Friday. The same hands that nourished vegetarian Michael Jackson on his world tours were cooking for us that night. Every Tuesday and Friday, Akasha, the Hollywood gourmet vegetarian caterer, makes home deliveries.

If your notion of vegetarian food is slightly to the right of Woody Allen, you're in for a surprise. Each night there's a choice of three entrees, a muffin and a soup. The modus operandi is lots of complex carbohydrates and vegetables, no saturated fats, sugar, meat or eggs. Our first meal consisted of mushroom barley soup, eggplant and fresh pea curry, Singapore noodle salad, orange pecan muffins and pinto bean chili with Spanish rice.

Forget every glumpy mushroom and barley soup you've had. Akasha's onion and parsley broth version tasted like a meadow after a rain. And the eggplant and fresh pea curry was superb: spicy and smooth, rich with shredded coconut and tinged with a strong tomato lilt.

The Singapore noodle salad, a subtle cross between pasta primavera and Thai noodles, was thick with perfectly blanched carrots, broccoli and pea pods. The chili-Spanish rice combination was fresh and very plain, nothing you'd serve for party food. The large orange pecan muffins were crammed with nuts and lightly sweetened with juice.

Another meal featured minestrone soup, mushroom lasagna, black beans, poppy seed muffins and tempe vegetable burritos.

Akasha's minestrone was just right for summer, a refreshing squash and fresh corn broth. The big, crunchy poppy seed muffins went well with it.

Black beans and rice, definitely Spartan, were zipped up a bit with cilantro. Dairy-less mushroom lasagna--layers of spinach, garlic, tofu and onions--came covered with a thin fresh tomato sauce.

But the surprise of the evening--something I would never have ordered in a restaurant--was the tempe vegetable burritos, which looked a bit like dried adobe in the pan. (I wonder if Michael J. ate them on tour? Akasha told me she'd located the single Mexican restaurant in Hong Kong and bought tortillas there. Back in Los Angeles, she makes her own.)

They turned out to be crisp, creamy, crunchy, sweet and rich--enough to make you think that this high-protein soy product might just be the tofu of the '90s.

Akasha gets her produce from Chino Ranch (as does Wolfgang Puck) and many other staples from Mrs. Gooch. We're talking Clean and Fresh.

In addition to the delivery service, Akasha caters parties, prepares special diet meals and can make a week of frozen dinners--in advance.

And if you're really set on having a pizza delivered, you might want to know that on July 22 a broccoli, pepper and onion version will materialize.

Akasha's Vegetarian Cuisine, (213) 201-0429. $6 per entree, $4 per soup, $1 per muffin. Westside and Valley delivery, $5-$10 depending on location.

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