Viva Vegan – a cookbook review

July 8, 2010 in cookbook, Food Porn, latino, review, vegetable

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When I was offered an opportunity to review the book “Viva Vegan!: 200 Authentic and Fabulous Recipes for Latin Food Lovers” by Terry Hope Romero I was intrigued. Knowing latino cuisine as I do, the thought of a vegan adaptation of this heavily pork laden foodway boggled my mind. You can see from the traditional Colombian recipes that I have blogged about on this site, meat often figures heavily in our cuisine.

It should not have boggled my mind but it did. One has to banish the thought of chicharrones from one’s mind to be able to grasp vegan latino food and that seemed like too dear a price to pay! (winks)

When I got the book and browsed the recipes I had a huge head-bonking “I get it” moment.. of course! Latino food is at its VERY best when you eat the freshest ingredients and that doesnt really encompass chicharrones but avocados, cilantro, tomatoes, corn, platanos (plantains), yucas (casava), lime, and so much more.

When you remove the pork and replace it with olive oil you still have the beautiful flavors of latino foods. I would not recommend the margarines that the author does but she is trying to recapture some of the magic of butter that veganism bans. Any vegetable fat that is solid or semi-solid at room temperature is in some way modified (hydrogenated) and that is not good for your body. The best solution here is coconut butter – organic only and produced by a company that you trust and KNOW isnt using benzenes to purify their product.

The book consists of two parts and within those two parts a broad array of basic knowledge about vegan cooking and the adapted recipes:

Part One:

  • The Vegan Latin Pantry
  • Kitchen Tools (or How do I slice a mango)

Part Two:

  • A Few Essential Latino Vegan Recipes
  • Salsas and Condiementos
  • Bocadillos, Snacks, and Appetizers
  • Ensaladas
  • Beans and Rice, Los Dos Amigos
  • Vegan Asado: Tofu, Tempeh, and Seitan
  • Complete Your Plate: Vegetables, Plantains, and Grains
  • One Pot Stews, Cassaroles, and Cazuelas
  • Super Fantastico Latin Soups!
  • For the Love of Corn: Arepas, Pupusas, Tortillas, and More
  • You, Too, Can Tamale
  • Empanadas!
  • Drinks
  • Desserts and Sweets

For this review I intentionally chose a recipe that uses a common vegetarian/vegan ingredient that is relatively foreign to latino cuisine – tempeh – so that I can see if the author had been successful at making the translation. I prefer authenticity and loathe fake meat concoctions (tofurky?). I like tofu for its tofu-ness and would never eat it hoping to feel like I am eating meat.

What is tempeh? Trust me the following description might sound a bit – umm – revolting and it kept me from trying it for a long time but also trust me that tempeh is in fact really quite delicious!

“Tempeh, or tempe in Indonesian, is made by a natural culturing and controlled fermentation process that binds soybeans into a cake form. Tempeh is unique among major traditional soy-foods in that it is the only one that did not originate in China or Japan. It originated in today’s Indonesia, and is especially popular on the island of Java, where it is a staple source of protein. Like tofu, tempeh is made from soybeans, but tempeh is a whole soybean product with different nutritional characteristics and textural qualities. Tempeh’s fermentation process and its retention of the whole bean give it a higher content of protein, dietary fiber, and vitamins. It has a firm texture and strong flavor. Because of its nutritional value, tempeh is used worldwide in vegetarian cuisine; some consider it to be a meat analogue.” Source

I bought the organic three grain tempeh for this recipe (in addition to whole soybeans – brown rice, barley and millet). I can highly recommend this product – quite delicious!

Cookbook review: Viva Vegan

Just a quick side note: The notion of “stuffing” an arepa is most popular in Venezuela versus Colombia. In Colombia, generally, arepas are not stuffed but eaten simply with butter and salt. I am sure now a days the propensity to “stuff” them is also spreading into Colombia (its not immune to change!). I qualify the term “stuff” here because the arepa isnt really suited for stuffing because it falls apart. Its not a pita bread. You cant really form a hinge by cutting half way through it and then stuffing it. Its more like you cut the arepa in half and then make a sandwich sort of thing.

Cookbook review: Viva Vegan

The Recipes

For today’s review I worked from the following recipes (with some modifications based on availability of ingredients):

  • Pan-Fried Tempeh with Sofrito (page 112)
  • Basic Onion-Pepper Sofrito (page 32)
  • Black Bean – Corn Salsa Salad (page 72)

Feedback: I can tell you ahead of time, before we go through all the recipes, that my non-vegan chicharron-eating family (3, 6, 13, adults) reveled in the deliciousness of this tempeh dish. I was fully ready for the kids to reject this new food (and I didnt tell them how it is made, they just need to trust me that its edible) but they LOVED it.

The tempeh has a unique nutty flavor (a stretch for our family too, we have extreme nut allergies here) and had a great mouth feel. My 13 yo said it tasted sorta like meat (likely with respect to the texture). They also gobbled down the corn-black bean salsa.

It was a definite hit here! I hope you give it a try and see for yourself. You do not need to be vegan or vegetarian to love these foods, they are a way to expand your own personal food habits and expose you to new flavors!

Pan-Fried Tempeh with Sofrito (page 112)

Ingredients:

  • 1 (8-oz) cake of tempeh
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • vegetable oil, for pan-frying
  • 1/2 cup Basic Onion-Pepper Sofrito (pg 32)
  • 2 plum tomatoes, seeded and minced
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 cup white wine, vegetable broth, or beer
  • olive oil for pan-frying

Directions:

Slice the tempeh cake in half lengthwise, slice into thirds (I cubed it). You now need to steam it in a steamer basket, a covered saucepan with 1 cup water or in a microwave (covered dish, 1/2 cup water, nuke about 5 minutes). Drain all the water and then sprinkle with the soy sauce (I also sprinkled with lemon juice). Set aside.

Make your sofrito (see below).

Pan fry your tempeh on medium high in small amount of oil until golden on all sides.

To the hot pan add the following: sofrito, tomatoes, wine vinegar, cilantro, cumin; fry all until tomatoes are soft – 6-8 mins. Add in the tempeh and stir to coat and warm, ~ 5 mins. Pour the wine over this until almost absorbed, some sauce remaining. Serve in arepas, as shown.

Note on my modifications: We do not drink so we have no wine on hand, didnt add that. I also didnt add vinegar but added a splash of lemon juice.

Cookbook review: Viva Vegan

Tempeh before preparation.

Cookbook review: Viva Vegan

Steamed tempeh on to toast.

Cookbook review: Viva Vegan

Golden tempeh

Basic Onion-Pepper Sofrito (page 32) (note – I made a few key changes to this recipe for this review)

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 6 cloves of garlic, chopped coarsely
  • 2 pounds green bell peppers, seeded, chopped finely
  • 2 pounds yellow onions, diced
  • generous pinch of salt
  • freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

Saute peppers, garlic, onions, salt and ground pepper in a heavy pan on medium heat for about 10 mins. Lower heat and continue to cook for some 20 – 30 mins until all is soft and reduced to a 1/3 original volume.

Use immediately or cool and store in the refrigerator as a condiment.

Note on my modifications: In Colombian cuisine, we call the analogue to this “Hogao” and it doesnt include peppers or black pepper and would NEVER be made without cumin or cilantro. I had no peppers on hand so I made more of a traditional hogao versus this version. This means I also added cumin and tomatoes. Green onions are also especially good in this.

Cookbook review: Viva Vegan

Cookbook review: Viva Vegan

Arepas

Ingredients:

  • 1 C “La Venezolana” or “ArepaHarina” precocida masa harina (extremely fine precooked corn meal – you simply can not use any substitutes here, find this ingredient)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 C boiling hot water

Directions:

Mix arepaharina with salt and hot water, mix well. Set aside for 5 – 10 mins. Shape into small balls (larger than a golf ball, smaller than a baseball) and then flatten into pucks (smooth edges).

Cookbook review: Viva Vegan

Toast in a hot pan until brown on sides, put into 350 F oven until ready to serve. Poke holes on top and slather with butter and sprinkle with salt or prepare as per desired recipe.

Cookbook review: Viva Vegan

Cookbook review: Viva Vegan

Black Bean – Corn Salsa (page 72) (I am leaving out the salad part as I only made the salsa portion)

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups roasted fresh corn
  • 1 (14 oz) can organic black beans (2 cups cooked black beans)

Directions:

Drain the can of beans, add the roasted corn.

Note on my modifications: I added 1 tablespoon chopped vidalia onion (raw), 2 plum tomatoes (chopped), salt, good sprinkle of cumin, 1 teaspoon minced garlic.

Cookbook review: Viva Vegan

Bring all of this together for a delicious meal! In a traditional latino home, this would not be served without rice (I recommend organic brown rice) but we are dealing with a nasty heat wave here in the Northeast (104.7 in the shade the other day, 109 with heat index) so cooking and eating rice was the LAST thing we wanted or needed. As it was, making these arepas and hot hogao and roasting corn – it all made my kitchen hot and I was POURING with sweat – not a happy picture, that.

Cookbook review: Viva Vegan

There are MANY more very delicious recipes in this cookbook. I recommend it for all – vegan or not. I also especially recommend it to the Latino/a who is considering or is a vegan and would like a taste of home with not so much pork in it!

Product Details:

  • Viva Vegan!: 200 Authentic and Fabulous Recipes for Latin Food Lovers
  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Lifelong Books; 1 edition (April 27, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0738212733
  • ISBN-13: 978-0738212739