Tag Archives: Viva Vegan!

Chickpea Pastel de Choclo

Chickpea Pastel de Choclo

When I first flipped through Viva Vegan! by Terry Hope Romero, I had significant difficulty choosing which recipe to try first. From the sheer volume of posts regarding this cookbook, it’s quite clear that I’m slowly making progress, and loving every delicious morsel. One recipe that was initially tagged as a “hm. that’s interesting” recipe was Chickpea Pastel de Choclo. Pastel de Choclo is a Chilean shepherd’s pie, but with a pureed fresh corn topping instead of the mashed potatoes. This particular version uses crumbled tempeh or chickpeas instead of meat, and retains all other flavours of the original.

What made me hesitant about this dish at first was that it includes raisins, green olives, and corn. Three ingredients that I go out of my way to avoid. Put them together? Apocalypse now, baby! Buoyed by all the other successes of Viva Vegan!, I put my faith in Terry one Saturday and tried it out. This very well be my favourite dish of the cookbook thus far! The raisins and olives marry together in a subtly sweet/salty combo that is nothing like I’ve ever tasted before. The other seasonings of oregano, cumin, and paprika round out the stew filling, making the filling utterly irresistible – a definite repeat by itself! I don’t know what sort of magic happens when these ingredients combine in the pot, but it has encouraged me to not be so hasty on judging the demure raisin.

The other real surprise of the dish is the corn topping. I used frozen corn making the topping method that much easier. Thawed kernels are pureed with garlic, salt, pepper, cornstarch, and a heavy cream. I used Almond Breeze, and it worked wonderfully. After the food processor works its magic, you’re left with something that looks like gruel. A quick simmer to thicken the topping (similar to Burmese Tofu), the addition of fresh basil, and it’s ready to pour over the filling. The fresh basil adds such punch to the pie as a whole; it complements the raisin/olive filling wonderfully. The pureed corn topping gets a nice browned crunch layer once baked – something I could never achieve with mashed potatoes. Overall, this dish was a pleasant surprise, and a nice departure from the spicy Latin dishes one comes to expect. It opened my eyes to new flavour combinations, and once again opened my kitchen to the glorious cuisine of Chile. I was greatly rewarded with my choice to expand my culinary horizons – I will remember this deliciousness the next time I see an ingredient list that makes me go “ick”!

The recipe can be found in Viva Vegan! on pg. 144-145, or on Google Book Preview here.

 


Potato Kale Soup with Sizzling Chorizo

Potato Kale Soup

This simple weeknight soup is full of Latin flavour and comfort, another winner from Viva Vegan! by Terry Hope Romero. Somehow, the combination of potato and quinoa isn’t heavy at all and transcends all seasons. Blizzard outside? A cosy night in with this soup is what the doctor ordered. Blistering hot, humid, and you begin to sweat just thinking about turning on any sort of heating element? This soup is delicious cold, and with additional greens could easily be transformed into a “bowl”. This soup is flavoured primarily with thyme and oregano, with a dash of vinegar for some acid. The soup itself is composed of onions, quinoa, potato, and kale. Chorizo sausage, also from Viva Vegan! is sliced and stirred in at the end, like a Latin version of Pizza Soup. I am amazed at how flavourful this soup is with such simple ingredients!

The chorizo sausage is quite quick to prepare, and very similar to the Italian Sausage found at The PPK. Instead of Italian seasonings however, annatto powder (this is the spice responsible for chorizo’s distinctive red hue), paprika, chili powder, cayenne, and cumin are all used to round out the spice profile. The sausages themselves take less than 1h to make, so to make this a quick weeknight meal you could make the sausages first, then while they are steaming prep all the veggies for the soup. By the time the soup is done simmering, the sausages will be ready to go. The sausages can also be made well in advance, and frozen – I had some leftover chorizo sausage waiting for me in the freezer, and it worked wonderfully. If that seems like too much work/thinking ahead, no worries! This soup would be delicious without, and for that extra protein punch and texture large beans such as kidney beans, pinto beans, fava beans, or even lima beans could be easily substituted. To round out the soup flavour, add some of the same seasonings as the sausage, all to taste.

Another excellent recipe from Viva Vegan, it made me look at the combination of potatoes, quinoa, and kale in a whole new delicious way!

The Potato Kale Soup with Sizzling Chorizo recipe can be found on pg. 159-160 of Viva Vegan!, or on Google Books here.


Sancocho and Chocolate Orange Dulce de Batata Cake

This Latin feast is compliments of Viva Vegan! by Terry Hope Romero. Once again, Terry delivers massive Latin flavour that will make you exercise all your restraint to not eat the whole thing before making it out of the kitchen. I am a novice to Latin food, but these recipes that I have previously written about (and with more to come!) have me seeking out Latin food wherever I can!

Sancocho

Sancocho: The Latin Sambar.

The Sancocho could be best described as a Latin Sambar – they are so similar in fact I often get the two confused! They are both soothing, spicy, comfort foods in a bowl. Sancocho is coloured the distinctive Latin Chorizo “hue” with Annatto spice, the Latin turmeric. The rest of the seasoning is the standard Latin combination of oregano and cumin, supplemented with some thyme and heaps of onions. The soup is loaded with veggies: carrot, yucca, green plantains, tomatoes, and corn. Lima beans add the protein element, and are deliciously creamy. For those with Lima issues, Fava beans, edamame, pinto beans, or even chickpeas would be a wonderful stand-in. I made some modifications to the recipe – I hate corn. With a passion. Thus I omitted the corn on the cob from my soup, and I think it didn’t suffer from intent at all! Although I will not deny – eating corn on a cob in a soup sounds pretty cool. I also added some spinach at the end, because greens in soups are never wrong! The resulting soup is soothing, delicious, and exotic enough to make you think you can cook any Latin dish you desire. (I may be delusional.) This is the perfect soup to usher in the not-quite-ready spring produce but tired of the winter standards of squash and potatoes.

The recipe can be found on p. 154-155 of Viva Vegan!, or on Google Books here.

Chocolate Orange Dulce de Batata Cake

Chocolate Orange Dulce de Batata Cake: Not too sweet, slightly spicy, and all around delicious!

The Chocolate Orange Dulce de Batata Cake is a surprise all in of itself. The frosting is actually Dulce de Batata, which is an orange-infused sweet potato pudding. Yes – sweet potato! I have never had sweet potato as part of a dessert before (or any non-savoury application after the Mashed Sweet Potato and Marshmallow experiences of my childhood – ick), and so I knew I had to try this cake just for that reason. To make the Dulce de Batata is relatively easy – basically boil sweet potatoes to a mash, and stir constantly to make sure it doesn’t burn the bottom of the pan. A helpful tip: use a lid when you reach pudding consistency, otherwise you will end up with sweet potato splatters all over your kitchen. The aroma from this dish was what really surprised me – it was very difficult not eating the entire pot as soon as it was made. The sweet potato taste isn’t pungent, and the cinnamon and orange pair wonderfully.

The chocolate cake is a typical chocolate cake, but with the addition of ‘spice’ cake spices and orange juice. It pairs well with the dulce de batata, and again isn’t a sweet cake. I used a combination of quinoa and buckwheat flour, and it came out wonderfully moist, and had a great crumb. The instructions say to cook the cake as one layer, and then cut the layers in two. I could foresee that disaster, and instead opted to cook two layers of cake separately, and reduced the cooking time. To “frost”, you smear as much dulce de batata as you can on the top of one half, add the second layer of cake, and frost with the remaining dulce de batata. The combination is phenomenal, and definitely something you could serve to company and bask in the compliments. Not too sweet, slightly spicy, and with the hint of orange, it is a chocolate cake you will crave. Especially so for people who are not partial to sweet desserts, and usually avoid chocolate cakes for this reason. I froze my leftovers and ate the rest like cake pops, and I think I liked that serving style even better than eating it fresh!

The recipe can be found on p. 236-239 of Viva Vegan!, or on Google Books here.

Sancocho and Chocolate Dulce de Batata cake – the latest Latin offerings that have continued to open my eyes to the delicious offerings of the Central and South Americas!


Quinoa Corn Chowder

The best corn chowder you will ever eat!
(Potentially the most unconventional as well)

This hearty, warm soup is like a hug in a bowl. It was the creative inspiration of some potatoes, an ear of corn, one bell pepper, some hot chili peppers, and a glut of tomatoes which I received in my CSA one week. I immediately went online to do some research as to what one could create with such a grab-bag of materials, and decided on corn chowder. This would come to a shock to many, as I loathe creamy soups and have an aversion to hot purees (sorry, potato bisques!). But this is not just any corn chowder – this chunky, scrumptious version loads on the spice and is easy on the crème. Compliments of Viva Vegan! by Terry Hope Romero, this soup is definitely another winner from that tomb of excellence!

The soup base provides a solid backdrop for your fresh produce. The clear broth is simple in its spice composure, and would let any vegetables shine through. I tried to stick as close to the recipe as possible, but I made the following changes with fantastic results:

1) As I had no Aij dried peppers, I added 1T. ancho chili powder, 1t. chipotle chili powder,  and 3 small diced hot chilis
2) Since I only had one ear of corn, I also added bell peppers, zucchini, and extra tomatoes to bulk the soup up
3) I used fava beans instead of lima beans, as they were the closest to a toothsome bean in my pantry

The quinoa adds an extra source of protein and a grain, and soaks up the broth the longer it sits, resulting in a stew when reheated. I used fava beans instead of lima beans as that is what I had on hand, and the fava beans added a nice toothsome quality to the soup. I happily slurped up the whole bowl of delicious late-summer produce, wishing I had enough to make another vat … or three!

The recipe can be found in Viva Vegan! on page 156-157. If you don’t own the cookbook, the recipe can be found on Google Books here: Quinoa Corn Chowder with Lima’s and Aji


Green Posole with Corn Tortillas

Green Posole Stew served with homemade corn tortillas, avocado, and sliced radish

Posole is a slow-cook Mexican stew, similar to a chili. This particular stew is a hodgepodge of interesting flavours and textures ensuring that every delectable bite is a new and interesting flavour profile. This was my first experience with tomatillos and hominy, with varying degrees of success. Tomatillos are like gift wrapped green tomatoes, with a papery husk that you have to peel away before washing. Their skin is sticky, almost soapy when wet, making washing essential. In this recipe the tomatillos are first boiled until they lose some of their bright green colour and start to float like bobbing for apples, then quenched, then pureed in the food processor with onions, roasted jalapenos, and fresh herbs, making a delicious roasted sauce. At this point I couldn’t resist a taste, and their flavour is very different from normal tomatoes – delicious in their own right. I will definitely be using them in the future, perhaps in a roasted tomatillo salsa.

I first heard of hominy on the Food Network when a chef on either Top Chef or Chopped was making their version of “hominy and grits”. I have had grits before (never again!) but hominy … I tracked some down to discover it appears to be corn kernels that have been treated with lime somehow. Out of the can they don’t taste like anything, but in the stew they add a nice texture similar to a bean. My final verdict on hominy is that it’s an interesting ingredient, but not something I will be obsessed with (like jackfruit!).

Now onto the stew … This stew is a recipe from Viva Vegan! (page 137) and has many steps if you don’t have pre-made seitan on hand (which I didn’t). The seitan is the “white seitan” recipe (page 35), meant to replace chicken or pork. I am not a big lover of seitan as I find it too chewy, but I put it in the stew anyway. It was the only disappointing component, only because even though the stew is delicious, I still wasn’t a big fan of seitan. The next time I make this stew (and there will be a next time!) I will substitute the seitan for some tofu or tempeh, both of which I think would soak up the flavours of the delicious broth and add that extra bit of protein. The broth itself is an interesting kitchen adventure. First you roast some pepitas (pumpkin seeds) then grind them in the food processor. This both thickens the broth but also adds an unexpected layer of flavour that I could not get enough of. Then you add this mixture to the pureed tomatillos, resulting in a complex, delicious, and addictive stew base. The oddest combinations often work and this is no exception! The stew itself is then just composed of whatever greens you have on hand, beans, hominy, and the seitan. Delectable, delicious, and when served with homemade tortillas and avocado I wish it was a never-ending soup pot! It is one of the most interesting stews you will ever try, and worth the multiple steps!

The recipe can be found here on the Google Book Preview: Green Posole Seitan Stew with Chard and White Beans. However, if any of my recent posts haven’t convinced you yet (Pupusas, Curdito, and Simple Tomato Sauce; Sweet and Nutty Stuffed Plantains), this stew should be the tipping point for checking the book out at the library!

A note about Homemade Corn Tortillas:

I made my own corn tortillas to serve with this recipe, expanding my flatbread repertoire. Tortillas  as it turns out are very easy to make and super quick – I am not the fastest cook in the kitchen by any means, and even I managed to make 36 tortillas in under an hour! With nothing more than a rolling pin, some parchment paper, and a pan, you can make tortillas that taste so much better than the cardboard store bought ones you will wonder why you haven’t made them before! The dough is nothing more than masa harina and water, and is even on the side of the masa harina bag for you. Mix, play with the PlayDoh dough, roll between parchment to a size of your liking, and cook for ~30s. on each side. That’s all that’s standing between you and a stack of piping hot tortillas! Mine were a bit misshapen, but that is due entirely to rolling technique with an empty peanut butter jar. Still tasty and delicious, they are the perfect scooping vessel for whatever – from guacamole to this delicious stew!

There are different tortilla recipes in Viva Vegan!, but here is a step-by-step guide with pictures: Homemade Corn Tortillas. I don’t have a tortilla press, and just rolled out the dough in a circular(ish) shape between two pieces of parchment paper with my ‘rolling pin’ (aka. peanut butter jar). Even with this rudimentary method, I was slowed down in production by the size of my pan, not the speed of my rolling. I am sure you get prettier tortillas faster using a tortilla press, but for my kitchen my method worked just fine. After all, they only need to look pretty for the 5 seconds on the plate before you eat them!


Sweet and Nutty Stuffed Plantains

Roasted plaintain stuffed with cayenne walnut crumble and topped with Daiya cheese

Stuffed plantains – my first Latin dessert experience. Before this dish, I didn’t really understand the hype of plantains. I had tried them before in a variety of dishes, but they had never wowed me. I am guilty of substituting sweet potatoes for plantains more than once. But what the pupusas started with their plantain contribution this simple dessert finished. Not one for sweet desserts, this dish has a nice bite to it and is a delectable way to finish off any meal – Latin or not! They are also a 5-star way to start your day – I ate one for breakfast to beat the Monday blahs, and successfully beat them all the way to lunch!

The dish itself is very simple to prepare, and as Terry suggests very versatile in stuffing components. First you roast the plantain like you would a baked potato – wrap it in foil and stick it in the oven at 375oF for ~30min. Then comes the fun part – the stuffing! This stuffing is a simple crumble with brown sugar, walnuts, and a dash of cayenne for a nice surprise kick. Slit the plantains lengthwise and stuff to the best of your ability. If some stuffing doesn’t make it into the plantain, leave it in the pan! They crisp nicely and you can sprinkle it over the finished product. Sprinkle with some lime juice for a nice tart flavour, and finally top with Daiya cheese. The cheese is optional, but I couldn’t resist the strange combination of a crumble, a fruit, and melted cheese. Pop the stuffed plantains back into the oven to roast uncovered for ~15min, and you’re done! The plantains take on a sweet caramelization flavour, almost like a subtle baked banana. The lime juice and the cayenne really stand out, cutting the sweetness of the plantain and stuffing nicely. The cheese adds a touch of salt and a different flavour that make the dessert extra unique. I couldn’t get enough of these delicious desserts!

Other stuffing ideas could be a simple crumble like in a rhubarb crisp, or just the cheese, or even just roasted with a sprinkling of cayenne and lime juice. Depending on your sweetness threshold, I imagine chocolate, pie fillings, or even a simple syrup of butter and brown sugar would also be delicious. To store leftovers (if you have any!) I wrapped them in tinfoil and froze. To eat, just unwrap and go! Like a stuffed plantain popsicle, they are even better than frozen bananas topped with tahini and molasses, and I didn’t know that was possible!

Terry includes in her book Viva Vegan! a 4-page Ode to the Plantain (pages 115-119). How to ripen (like an avocado), which plantains work best for what cooking method, how to roast, how to stuff, how to make crisps, fries, and so on. After tasting this dish, I understand both the hype and the lengthy review and will be guilty no more of substituting with sweet potatoes!

The recipe can be found on page 117-118 on Google Book Preview here: Sweet and Nutty Stuffed Plantains. However this dessert alone is worth checking out the book at the library!


El Salvador Feast: Black Bean and Plantain Pupusa, Curdito, and Simple Tomato Sauce

Components: Curdito in the bowl; Pupusa topped with Simple Latin Tomato Sauce and sliced avocado sprinkled with chili powder on the plate.

 

The hot weather made me do it. I finally got around to trying Terry Hope Romero’s cookbook Viva Vegan! a tomb of 200 Latin American recipes. I quickly learned in my 3h read through of the book that what I thought was Latin American was actually Tex-Mex, and everything I hate about Tex-Mex has no bearing in authentic Latin American food. It was one of the more expensive library trips for me – what started as a 20-recipe ‘must try NOW’ list plus an additional 20-recipe ‘must make within the month’ resulted in me purchasing the only copy of the cookbook in my city. And thus began the Latin Cooking Extravaganza!

 

I will be honest, I didn’t know much about Latin American food, aside from the aforementioned Tex-Mex. Tacos, Enchiladas, and Mole sauce and I was out. This is just the tip of the iceberg, with plenty more to be explored! Viva Vegan! is a fantastic resource for the uninitiated and adventurous – such as myself. It has recipes from all over Central and South America, with plenty of tips on how to properly roast chilies, when to use the special ingredients and when you can get away with substitutions (especially important for chili powders!), as well as well written step-by-step instructions on how to make your own Latin kitchen staples, such as tortillas. The best part of cooking Latin was that with my pantry stocked with Middle Eastern, Indian, and Asian spices, I could cook almost every recipe in the cookbook without a special trip to the grocery store. But where is the fun in experimenting if it doesn’t come with a trip to the ethnic market? Three kinds of chili powder, two kinds of dried chilies, a bottle of habanero hot sauce, and a Mexican spice called Epazote that smells like gasoline later and I was set.

 

Opening the fest was Black Bean and Plantain Pupusas (pg. 162), Curdito (pg. 79), and Simple Tomato Sauce (pg. 46). Pulled together in under an hour, Latin weekend opened with a bang of flavour! The Curdito is the same as the coleslaw recipe for the Baja Tacos in Veganomicon, and my favourite coleslaw recipe ever. The Simple Tomato Sauce is exactly that – simple and delicious. It amazed me how something with such few ingredients could taste so fantastic! I used green onions and garlic scrapes from my CSA vegetables which made the sauce fresh and bright even though I used canned tomatoes. I ate the sauce straight from the saucepan, until I deployed some measure of restraint to serve it with the pupusa.

 

The Pupusas are very easy to make, and require no time at all to cook! The dough is just masa flour and water, which turns into the consistency of homemade PlayDoh making the pupusas very easy (and fun!) to shape, mould, stuff, and close. The filling for this batch was the suggested black bean and plantain filling with a sprinkling of Daiya cheese. This combination was heavenly, and when served with the tomato sauce tasted like a Latin Pizza Pocket, only 100x better! So successful were these pupusas they have inspired my creativity, and I am planning a future themed evening of other variations – including a dessert pupusa. Cocoa powder added to the dough, and stuffed with a cinnamon-nut crumble with plantains. Mmmm… The leftover pupusas froze very well, and were very travel-friendly for meals-on-the-go. Of course, they didn’t hurt with a quick warm-up in the microwave/pan and served with some more sauce!

 

If you do not have the cookbook, I strongly urge you to check it out of the library. For a taster, the recipes for this delectable meal can be found here: Pupusas, Curdito, and Salsa Rojo. Previews of the cookbook are also available on Google Books, found here: Viva Vegan!  You will be surprised at how easy and delicious this seemingly complex dish is. Plus, you get to play with ‘PlayDoh’ dough. So roll up those sleeves, get creative with the stuffing, and enjoy!


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