Title: Viva Vegan
Author: Terry Hope Romero
285 pages; Matte Softcover $18.95 US/$24.00 CAN
Publisher: 2010 DeCapo Press, Lifelong Books, Cambridge, MA
Reviewed by: Chef John Vyhnanek, June, 2010

The review--- If you are a vegan and you are bored with the recipes that you make, then try something new! There are all sorts of exciting ideas for the Latin food lover and new discoveries for the traditional cook in Viva Vegan! Terry Hope Romano has put together an array of modern recipes that will give you something new to eat. Recipes range from Sweet Potato-Chipolte Bisque to Cafe con Leche Flan and Tofu Chicharrones to Tostones with Avocado and Palm Ceviche. Most if not all of the recipes are her creation as vegan cuisine is a newly explored lifestyle option in Latin countries and there are no grandmother's traditional recipes to adapt from.

I have some experience with Latin food as friends from Chile, Columbia, Cuba and Venezuela have presented me with samples of some of their countries top dishes. I know how addictive Arepas can be and that dipping Churros in hot chocolate can make you swoon. Cuisines of Mexico, Brazil, Peru to El Salvador are also reflected in the scope of fun recipes. It's nice to see that the author has included some quick start menus in the ending chapter and even was considerate enough to devise shopping lists there too to help out those unfamiliar with this style of cooking.

First I tried the Sancocho a vegetable, roots, and plantain soup. I was sold on the picture alone yet somewhat concerned about all of the ingredients and the possible amount of work I would have to do, but my fears were calmed as I started. In the end it wasn't too bad at all and the final resulting beauty and flavor of the dish made it worth it! The Cuban Black Bean Soup was very good too. I learned to make Cuban Black Bean Soup from Frank Hernandes, a Cuban, some 30 years ago. This was almost as goodnothing beats Frank's but this version of course didn't have any of the ham and chorizo that was in his. So in the end, Terry's version passed the test!

The book's cover has a photo of the author slicing plantains and the back some pictures of plates of her food. The center section of the book has a dozen or so additional full-page pictures of her food. In part 1 of the book you are introduced to some of the different ingredients that you will need for the recipes and thoughts on cooking in a semi-spicy way, although not all the dishes are spicy. There are a handful of spices that may seem hard to find, and ingredients like name, pupusas, seitan and panela that might be unfamiliar. Well relax, most if not all ingredients can be found in most supermarkets Latin food section. So try something new, buy the book, and get cooking with Viva Vegan!

Sancocho (Vegetable, Roots, and Plantain Soup)

Serves at least 6
Time: About 1 hour, most of that being inactive while the soup simmers

Sancocho is a big, comforting soup that features delectable chunks of vegetables, root vegetables, and yuca-long simmered until the broth is gently thickened and rendered sweet and mild. Whole pieces of corn on the cob make this soup visually interesting and fun to eat. A little hot white rice on the side is just the thing, if you're in needof something extra.

There's room for variation when using potatoes, green plantains, or other Latin root vegetables such as name (pronoun nyah-meh) or anything that falls under the huge category of "yam" (yautia in Spanish) In New York City, these tropical root vegetables can often be found in even the most humble supermarket for prices that rivals that of potatoes, making it easy to experiment and try something new.

Tip: For a boost of protein, I like to toss in 1 to 2 cups of reconstituted TVP or sauteeed seitan. Or frozen green fava beans (not traditional, but this large, meaty bean goes with the hearty veggies) or even chickpeas.

2 tablespoons olive oil or peanut oil
2 tablespoons Annatto-Infused Oil
1 hot chile or habanero pepper (optional)
1 large leek, well washed, trimmed, and
sliced into thin rings
4 shallots, sliced into thin rings
1 large red onion, sliced in half and cut into
1/4-inch semicircles
6 green onions, white part separated from green, both parts chopped into 1/4-inch slices
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 pound yuca, peeled and sliced into
1-inch rounds, then into quarters
1 large carrot, sliced into very thin rounds, about 1/8 inch
1 pound calabaza pumpkin, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch cubes
1/2 pound tropical tuber, such as name or waxy or green plantains, peeled and sliced into 1/2-inch rounds
2 tomatoes, seeded and diced, or 1/2 cup crushed tomatoes
2 ears of corn on the cob, cut into 2-inch pieces (a total of 8 to 10 pieces)
6 cups well-seasoned vegetable broth or bouillon
6 sprigs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
1 to 2 cups reconstituted TVP, sauteed seitan, or frozen fava beans, lima beans, or chickpeas (optional)
3 tablespoons lime juice
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup coarsely chopped cilantro

1. In a large soup pot, heat the olive oil, Annatto-Infused Oil, chile pepper, leek, shallots, onions, and white part of the green onions over medium-high heat (set aside green parts for later). Stirring, cook until the onions and leek are tender, about 6 minutes. Add the oregano, cumin, carrots, yuca, pumpkin, tubers, tomatoes, corn, vegetable broth, thyme, and bay leaves. If using fava beans or TVP, add here as well. Cover and bring to a boil, then lower the heat and bring the soup to a simmer.

2. Cook for 35 to 40 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the root vegetables and pumpkin are very tender. Turn off the heat and season the soup with lime juice, salt, and pepper to taste. Stir in the cilantro and reserved green part of the green onions before serving. Include a chunk of corn cob in each bowl of soup; to eat it, just scoop it up with your spoon, grab, and eat!