Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Book Review:Viva Vegan! by Terry Hope Romero

I've been wondering what Terry Hope Romero, the adorable coauthor of the best-selling books Veganomicon, Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, and Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar has been up to lately. Well, apparently she's been busy in the kitchen conjuring up 200 authentic and fabulous Latin food recipes. I couldn't wait to get my hands on a copy of her new book, Viva Vegan!

Like rice and beans, potatoes, tomatoes, corn, pumpkins, chili peppers, and chocolate are all, as Terry reminds us, very much a "part of the soul of Latin American cuisine," and also just happen to be vegan. While she's not attempting to recreate every meat-based Latin dish (you'll find no recipes for carne asada or sopa de mondongo here), this book is a fiesta of mouth-watering meat- and dairy-free recipes for dishes like hearty empanadas, tasty tamales, savory sancocho, and so much more. And if you're cuckoo like me for fried sweet plantains but not so crazy about all that fat, Terry has thoughtfully provided a recipe for roasting them without any oil! (I can't wait until the plantains I bought ripen!)

It is no small accomplishment that Terry has taken some of the meatiest cuisine in the world and made it sublimely vegan. Her Venezuelan roots and experience working at a Latino-owned vegan restaurant in New York City provided her with many of the tools needed to create such an impressive collection of Latin-inspired vegan recipes. Her culinary genius made every recipe in Viva Vegan! a masterpiece. I decided to dive right in and prepare a meal that incorporated four recipes:

Potato-Chickpea Enchiladas with
Green Tomatillo Sauce
and Pine Nut Crema
along with Swiss Chard with Raisins and Capers

My taste buds had no idea they were in for a meal that was going to be so ¡muy fant├ístico! I scored some blue corn tamales at our local Latino market along with every other ingredient I needed. My house has never smelled more delicious than when these tamales were cooking in the oven. They were steaming and beautiful when they were finally done.

Sadly, I didn't have the patience to wait long enough before serving them so that they wouldn't fall apart. I was salivating by the time they came out of the oven and couldn't keep from digging in. So while they don't look all neat and pretty on the plate, I can't even begin to express how amazing they tasted. I have lived in Southern California and New Mexico and have traveled through Mexico, so I've eaten my fair share of enchiladas. But these babies were the most delicious I've ever eaten anywhere! I never would have thought to combine potatoes with chickpeas for a creamy enchilada filling, and Terry's Green Tomatillo Sauce made this dish shine. The Pine Nut Crema made a luxuriously cheeselike and creamy topping giving it another delicious dimension. Unbelievably, these enchiladas tasted even more incredible the next day!

I had been to the farmer's market earlier in the day and selected a beautiful bunch of organic Russian kale from the table seen here.

I'm having a real love affair with greens these days, and I also grabbed a bunch of gorgeous rainbow chard so I could try Terry's recipe for Swiss Chard with Raisins and Capers.

I love the classic Spanish combination of sweet and salty, and have used it in my own recipe for empanadas. (There are four enticing empanada recipes in Viva Vegan!) I chose the rainbow variety of chard to create a dish that is as colorful as it is delectable. Following is the recipe from Terry Hope Romero's Viva Vegan! excerpted by arrangement with Da Capo Lifelong, a member of the Perseus Books Group. Copyright © 2010.

Swiss Chard with Raisins and Capers

1 large bunch chard (over 1/2 pound or a little more)
2 Tbs olive oil
2 cloves garlic (chopped)
2 Tbs capers (drained)
1/4 cup dark raisins
2 Tbs cooking wine, vegetable broth, or water
Salt and pepper

1. Wash the chard, then trim away the dried-out-looking parts of the ends of the stems. Remove and dice the stems into 1/2-inch chunks. Roll up a few leaves and slice into 1/2-inch ribbons. Keep the stems and leaves separate for now.

2. Over medium heat in a large, heavy skillet, heat together the olive oil and garlic until sizzling. Stir in the capers and fry for about 30 seconds, then stir in the raisins and chard stems. Stirring occasionally, cook for 4-6 minutes, or until the chard stems start to become tender but are still firm. Toss in the chard leaves, stirring to coat with the oil, and cook until the leaves start to wilt, about 1 1/2 minutes. Stir in the cooking wine to deglaze the pan and then remove from the heat.

3. Season the chard with salt and pepper and serve immediately, making sure to ladle some of the chardy juices onto the serving plates.

If the sixteen pages of color photographs featuring many of the recipes—like Portobello Feijoada, Pupusas Stuffed with Black Beans and Plaintains, and Savory Fresh Corn Pancakes—don't make your mouth water or your tummy growl, then you have to be gastronomically challenged. Otherwise, get your hands on a copy of this delightful book, and start living la vida deliciosa!


vegeater said...

Great review! I'm dying to know the roasted plantain recipe...

Liliana said...

I haven't had pupusas since childhood! My grandmother used to make them all the time when I was little. I cannot wait to get this book and try Terry's vegan version! Thanks so much for sharing.

Justine said...

Viva Vegan sounds really fantastico! My mouth is watering just reading the names of the recipes. I can't wait to get my hands on a copy of this book.

Anonymous said...

How many more vegan recipe books can I squeeze onto my bookshelf? You've made this sound like one more I simply can't live without. So maybe it's time to get a Kindle.

Those enchiladas may have come out of the pan sloppy, but they sure look good! I think the recipe for fat-free roasted sweet plaintain alone would be worth the price of this book. But it sounds like there are so many amazing recipes, I'll be getting far more than my money's worth with this one.

Anonymous said...

What a great review! I now feel compelled to buy this book. Pupusas? Just the name sounds intriguing!

VeganMarr said...

Wow, looks like you really had fun with this! I too like sweet w/salty so will try that salad. Sounds like Terry has created another hit book!

Gail, I think it's time for YOU to create a cookbook!! ;-)

Helen said...

Your photos and descriptions made my mouth water. Good to know I'm not "gastronomically challenged!" LOL! Guess that means I need to get myself a copy of this book!

cindy said...

I love this book! Wait until you try the sopes and arepas!

The Vegan said...

This book looks like it has lots of recipes I would enjoy and as usual the pictures are amazing!

Jacklyn said...

new book?! i had no idea! thanks for sharing