The days of grilling, picnics, and just sitting around on the patio with a giant frozen margarita are upon us. I’ve got the old standards that I bring to gatherings and that I serve to my family. This year, though, I’d like to go a little beyond the same old pineapple salsa and pico de gallo.
While flipping through cookbooks at the bookstore, I ran across Terry Hope Romero’s latest cookbook, Viva Vegan! With a subtitle of “200 Authentic and Fabulous Recipes for Latin Food Lovers”, I knew I had to take a peek. Viva Vegan! offers vegan options for many classic Latin dishes – even a vegan version of chorizo. Likewise, tamales, enchiladas, burritos, and empanadas receive a vegan makeover.
I’ve included two recipes from Viva Vegan! below the fold.
Nothing beats empanadas for delicious and quick healthy snacks or meals. (Okay, that might be just my opinion.) I love the tasty filling wrapped in bread concept. It’s even better than a sandwich because nothing falls out when I bite it. A whole chapter on empanadas includes two dough recipes, five filling recipes, and suggestions for several more variations along with guidance for creating your own mixtures.
Another chapter covers desserts. Terry Hope Romero includes a recipe for “Un-Dulce de Leche” and then how to use it in a Coconut Tres Leches Cake and Crepes With Plantains (recipe below, photo above), one of the best vegan breakfast ideas I’ve come across. She continues with suggestions for using the Un-Dulce de Leche as a dip for fruit slices, drizzling it over sopaipillas or flan and recipes for each, and other ways of enjoying this creation.
Ms. Romero includes tips on handling less-familiar foods, such as how to slice a mango and how to ripen plantains. Every recipe states how long it takes to prepare, whether it’s soy-free or gluten-free – and many recipes are one or both, and how many it serves. Sketches illustrate some techniques, clarifying exactly how one “pinches the dough” to close an empanada and how to fill and fold a burrito. And, rather importantly for busy cooks (all of us), she includes make-ahead instructions and how long the food will last in the refrigerator or freezer.
The back of Viva Vegan! has several appendices with menus, shopping lists (also available on Terry Hope Romero’s web site Vegan Latina), sources for some of the less common ingredients, and descriptions of the techniques she uses in the book.
Viva Vegan! is a good cookbook for novice cooks as well as for those more experienced cooks who want to add a little variety to their culinary repertoire. It works well as an introduction to preparing Latin foods.
Terry Hope Romero is the coauthor, along with Isa Chandra Moskowitz, of three other vegan cookbooks: Veganomicon, Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar, and Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World. Recipes are printed here with permission from the publisher.
• Makes 8 sopes, 2 per serving • Time: About 45 minutes
Adorable Mexican sopes (SO-pehs) are fat little tortillas with a raised edge, served open faced and designed to hold more of whatever you “smother” them with. Here, we pile them with garlicky sautéed spinach and seitan chorizo, but they could be stacked instead with taco fillings such as beans, vegetables, or shredded vegan cheese. Sopes are made by a two-step process: First, they’re cooked like regular tortillas on a dry, hot grill; then they’re lightly sautéed, to crisp the edges. Brushing with oil and finishing in the oven is a nice alternative to frying, for a lightly chewy crust. This filling can be made while baking the sopes, for a manageable and exciting weeknight dinner.
1 recipe of dough from Homemade Soft Corn Tortillas (page 165)
Canola or peanut oil, for oven “frying” or pan-frying
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 links Seitan Chorizo Sausages (page 36), diced small
2 bunches fresh spinach (about 2 pounds), well washed, thick stems removed,
2 tablespoons lime juice
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Cashew Crema (page 51)
Shredded green or red cabbage
Pickled Red Onions (page 43)
1. Preheat a cast-iron skillet over medium heat. If baking the sopes, preheat the oven to 375ºF.
2. Make the sopes first: Divide the tortilla dough into eight equal portions and roll into balls. Cover with a damp, clean kitchen towel to keep moist
3. To form a sope: Pat the dough into a circle 1/4 to 3/8 inch thick and about 31/2 inches wide. Now place the thick tortilla in your palm. Using your other hand, pinch it with your finger and thumb to form a small raised ridge around the edge of the tortilla; it should be 1/4 to 3/8 inch high. Your sope will look like a tiny tart. Place the sope flat side down on the preheated skillet and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until the dough has firmed and the bottom has a few toasted spots. Continue to shape the sopes and place them flat side down onto the skillet.
4. Once the sopes are grilled, you can either bake or fry them. If baking, transfer the hot sopes to a lightly oiled baking sheet and generously brush with oil, making sure to brush the sides and the raised edge. Bake the sopes at375ºF for12 to 14 minutes, until firm. Keep warm in a 250ºF oven until ready to serve, but if the sopes are to remain in the oven for longer than15 minutes, cover with foil to prevent their drying out. Alternatively, to fry the sopes, pour ½ to 3/4 inch of oil into a cast-iron skillet and heat over medium-high heat. The oil is ready when a small piece of dough dropped into the hot oil sizzles immediately and vigorously. Some recipes call for measuring the temperature of the oil at a specific 350ºF, but your sopes will be just fine as long as your oil passes the sizzle test. Sauté one or two sopes at a time for 4 to 6 minutes, until their surfaces are golden. Drain on paper towels or crumpled brown paper and keep warm in a 250ºF oven until ready to serve.
5. Make the spinach filling while the sopes are cooking: In a large nonstick skillet over medium heat, heat half the olive oil and fry half of the garlic, stirring, for 30 seconds. Add the diced chorizo and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes, or until the edges of the chorizo are slightly browned. Remove the chorizo from the pan and add the remaining oil and garlic. When the garlic starts to sizzle, add the spinach by the handful and sauté, stirring occasionally, adding more spinach until all of the spinach has wilted and is tender, 6 to 8 minutes. Sprinkle with lime juice, salt, and pepper to taste.
6. To serve: mound a generous portion of spinach in the center of a sope. Top with some of the fried chorizo, then shredded cabbage, avocado, any other goodies, and lastly some Cashew Crema. I like to dilute the crema so that it’s pourable rather than sour cream–like, but that’s up to you. Sopes can be messy eating, so it’s okay to grab and eat these using both hands!
CREPES WITH UN-DULCE DE LECHE AND SWEET PLANTAINS
• Serves 4, two crepes each • Time: About 45 minutes, not including making the sauce
Nothing says “Hey, I freakin’ love you!” like serving your friends or familia or future special someone (no pressure!) some gorgeous Latin dessert crepes with sautéed sweet plantains and drizzled with buttery Un-Dulce de Leche sauce (page 227). Escalate the richness with a scoop of vanilla ice cream (especially a fantastic coconut-based nondairy ice cream).
Tip: For an epic discussion on how to identify and handle really sweet ripe plantains, see page 116.
Make-ahead Tips: There are several components to this recipe, so don’t mess around, especially if you plan on serving these crepes for dessert after a more elaborate meal. Make the crepes up to three days ahead: stack them on a dinner plate, cover with plastic wrap, and chill. Reheat briefly on a preheated oiled griddle, for about 1 minute or until hot, flipping once. You can also make the dulce sauce up to a week in advance; just keep chilled and heat on the stovetop or in a microwave for 40 to 50 seconds, stirring occasionally, until warm. You could even fry the plantains that day, chill, and either microwave or briefly heat on the
Crepe-making Tip: A few items that will make your crepe-making experience all the easier: a silicone basting brush (which can withstand contact with a hot pan), nonstick cooking spray, a crumpled paper towel for wiping the crepe pan or skillet, and a long, thin spatula (like the kind used to frost cakes) for turning the crepes.
1 1⁄2 cups soy or almond milk
1⁄3 cup cold water
3⁄4 cup all-purpose or whole wheat
1⁄3 cup chickpea (garbanzo) flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
Nonstick cooking spray and/or softened
nonhydrogenated vegan margarine
Brown-Sugared Sweet Plantains
4 very ripe plantains (most black
with dark yellow–streaked skin,
should feel soft when gently
4 tablespoons nonhydrogenated vegan
4 tablespoons brown sugar
4 teaspoons lime juice
4 tablespoons dark or spiced rum
Nonstick cooking spray
1 recipe Un-Dulce de Leche (page 227),
gently warmed on the stove or
1. For the crepes: In a blender jar, combine the soy milk, water, flour, chickpea flour, sugar, and salt. Pulse until you have a smooth, thin batter. Pour into a container, cover, and chill for at least an hour or overnight. When ready to cook, stir the batter briefly if the ingredients have separated. Heat a 10- to 12-inch crepe pan or skillet over medium-high heat; the skillet is ready when a few drops of water flicked onto the pan sizzle. Spray with nonstick cooking spray. For additional buttery flavor, dab a silicone brush into softened nonhydrogenated margarine and brush along the bottom and sides of pan, but you can skip this if you use plenty of nonstick spray for each crepe.
2. Ladle 1/3 to 1/2 cup (use the larger quantity for a bigger pan) of batter into the center of the pan. As the batter starts to sizzle, immediately begin to tilt the pan (use your wrist) in a circular motion to spread a thin layer of batter to the edges of the pan. Continue to tilt the pan as the batter spreads and then sets. If you’re new to crepes, you’ll find you get better the more you make them; often your first crepe isn’t nearly as nice as the last one in the batch.
3. Cook the crepe is until the top looks dry and the edges appear firm, 1 to 1 1/2 minutes. Gently run the spatula (a long, thin one works ideally here) under the crepe to loosen it, carefully flip the crepe, and cook it on the other side for 30 seconds. Slide the crepe onto a dinner plate. Spray more oil or brush more margarine onto the crepe pan before starting the next crepe; if the crepes start to stick, give the pan another hit of nonstick cooking spray. If bits of batter collect on the pan or the pan seems too oily, quickly swirl the crumpled paper towel across the surface of the pan to remove the crumbs. Cook the rest of the crepes, stacking them one on top of another. If not serving immediately, cover the entire batch with plastic wrap and store in the frigerator.
4. For the fried sweet plantains: Preheat a cast-iron or nonstick skillet over medium heat. On a cutting board, use a very sharp paring knife to slice both ends off a plantain and run a shallow cut—only deep enough to slice the skin but not the flesh—from one end of the plantain to the other. Peel off the skin and slice on a bias into 1/2-inch-thick slices.
5. Spray the preheated pan with nonstick cooking spray and melt a tablespoon of margarine on its surface. Slide one-third of the plantain slices into the pan and fry for 4 to 6 minutes, flipping a few times until the plantains are soft and turning golden. Sprinkle with one third of the brown sugar, lime juice, and rum and sauté for another 2 to 4 minutes to gently caramelize the surface of the plantains. Remove from the pan and repeat with the remaining plantains. If the surface of your pan gets too sticky, wipe with a paper towel before frying more plantains. Cover the cooked plantains with foil, or warm them in the oven or microwave
(remove foil first if microwaving) if they start to get too cold.
6. To assemble: Lay a crepe on a serving plate, drizzle half of the crepe (a semicircle) with some Un-Dulce de Leche, and layer that part with three or more slices of plantain. Fold the crepe in half, drizzle half that surface with more sauce, add three or more slices of plantain, and fold again so that now you have a
curvy triangle. Top with another plantain slice and more dulce. Repeat on the same plate if you’re serving two at a time.
Crepes à la Mode: Top a crepe with a scoop of favorite vegan vanilla ice cream and, you guessed it, drizzle with more dulce sauce!