Gail Davis

Gail Davis

Posted May 14, 2010

Published in Food

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Book Review: Viva Vegan! by Terry Hope Romero

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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!viva-vegan.jpg

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 fantástico! 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!

Thumbnail image for DSC00972.JPGI 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.Thumbnail image for DSC00961.JPG  

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!