vegetarian clam sauce

early in my years as a vegetarian, i came up with this recipe to mimic my real clam sauce recipe. i'm sure it must have been out of desperation for a bona-fide-herbivorian-entrée.

in the late 70's, ordering a vegetarian main course at most midwestern restaurants, meant eating a baked potato with cheese for dinner. just asking "was the pea soup made with ham?" or, "can i please have a plate of vegetables without meat?" produced raised eyebrows and questioning glances. in fact, choosing to eat a plant based diet became a keen motivating factor in my ambition to cook gourmet dishes at home.
       in this faux-sauce, the dense tops of crimini mushrooms chop into little clam-looking-shapes, and soak up the flavor of the sea from dried, toasted seaweed. i use nori, the same kind of sea vegetable that wraps a california roll, to simmer a seafood flavor into my pretend clams. the result spoons a kinda-fishy-tasting-almost-fooled-you sauce over a heap of pasta that will even satisfy meat-eating guests.
toasted nori flakes blend in with the minced parsley once they're both cooked down in this sauce.
ingredients (serves four)
• olive oil
• 6 cloves of garlic, minced
• 1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
• 1/2 cup of minced parsley
• 1 and 1/2 tbl. dried oregano
• about 3/4 lb. of crimini mushroom tops, chopped
• 24 oz. of plain tomato sauce
• about 16-20 oz. of water
• 2 sheets of nori, torn into little shreds
• pinch red pepper flakes 
• sea salt
• parmesan cheese
1. heavily coat the bottom of a med. saucepan with olive oil, and heat it on med-low until shimmering.
2. add the garlic, bell pepper, parsley and oregano. stir well and simmer until the garlic and pepper just start to soften, and the fragrance of the herbs is released. don't let it brown.
3. add the chopped mushroom tops and stir to coat.
4. add the tomato sauce, and stir in the water a few ounces at a time. it should be relatively thin but not runny.
5. stir in the nori flakes, the red pepper flakes and about 1 tsp. of salt.
6. bring the pot to a boil and reduce to a simmer. allow it to cook for about 45 minutes to an hour, stirring occasionally, until it has thickened considerably and the flavors have had time to blend.
7. taste for salt. adjust accordingly.
8. serve over a heap of pasta with a generous shake-shake-shake of parmesan cheese.

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