Terry Hope Romero’s book “Vegan Eats World” is a resource for vegetarian and meat-loving foodies alike. (Photo from ‘Vegan Eats World”/DaCapo Press)

Cookbooks we love: “Vegan Eats World”

Latin cooking often brings to mind hulking platters of fried pork chuletas, crisp-breaded bistec empanizado and sancocho thick with juicy beef ribs, but whether we Hispanics realize it or not, our cuisine would be nothing without vegetables as its foundation. Bright yellow elotes, smooth-skinned platanos, beans of every color, peppery swiss chard, creamy avocado and tender palmitos are just some of the vegetables widely used throughout Latin cooking. And the preparation of those veggies – as well as many, many more – are the topic of a new cookbook by Terry Hope Romero, a practicing vegan and chef who draws on her Latino heritage to create healthy, delicious dishes that just so happen to be vegetarian.

Romero_9780738214863“Vegan Eats World: 300 International Recipes for Savoring the Planet” is a collection of mouth-watering vegetarian recipes from across the globe, spanning not only Romero’s Venezuelan culture but dishes inspired by Middle Eastern, African and Asian classics as well. From artichoke skillet paella and Greek walnut spice sticky cake to Thai green vegetable curry, recipes suited for breakfast, lunch and dinner are presented in chapter after chapter. And if you raised an eyebrow at the idea of Mexican red posole made completely vegetarian (we wouldn’t blame you!), just think of it this way: Do you really need meat as the centerpiece of every single meal? The answer should be no – after all, an excess of red meat intake (think beef and lamb) just doesn’t have a place in a healthy diet. And that doesn’t mean skipping out on Latin favorites; after all says Romero, rice and beans can easily be made vegan, as can a host of other favorite meals.

But one of the fun things about this book – all 340 pages – is that Romero tackles vegan cooking in a way that persuades even the most skeptical and picky of eaters to try eating vegetarian, just one meal at a time. Romero provides party-ready menus (vegan food, she explains, is perfect for entertaining as “the ultimate fusion cuisine”), highlights her easiest recipes for novice cooks (think less prep and time in the kitchen) and even breaks down her recipes for those on a budget, giving a list of recipes like harissa carrot salad and chipotle tofu cemita sandwiches, whose ingredients are especially economical. And if you don’t know how to dice, mince or shop for grocery staples, Romero gives step-by-step instructions on how to wield a knife and stock your kitchen in preparation for a week of great meals.

Cookbook author Terry Hope Romero

Cookbook author Terry Hope Romero

A great example of Romero’s simple but flavor-packed approach to vegetarian cuisine is her recipe for pistachio date quinoa salad. Composed of quinoa (a hearty staple originally cultivated and consumed in South America), dressed with fragrant cumin and packed with chickpeas, crunchy pistachios, juicy sweet dates and tender green spinach leaves, it’s a multi-dimensional entrée equally suited for a filling lunch or substantial dinner.

Pistachio Date Quinoa Salad

 From “Vegan Eats World: 300 International Recipes for Savoring the Planet” (DaCapo Books)

Serves 4 as an entree salad

Cook’s note: Native to South America, quinoa’s chewy texture and ease of preparation makes it a gluten-free and extranutritious stand-in for bulgur wheat. All dressed up here with Middle Eastern fruits, nuts, and spices, this is one of my favorite warm entree salads. For additional green, I love to toss it with a generous handful of baby spinach greens.

Quinoa and salad

1 cup uncooked white quinoa, rinsed in cold water

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 teaspoon fennel seeds

1 3/4 cups water

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1 small white onion, peeled, sliced in half, and sliced into 1/4-thin half-moons

3 cups spinach leaves or tender baby salad greens, torn into bite-size pieces

1/3 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

1 cup cooked chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1 cup chopped, pitted dates (medjool dates are perfect in this salad)

1/3 cup toasted pistachio nuts, coarsely chopped

4 to 6 tablespoons sumac powder

Dressing

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Freshly ground pepper to taste

1. Pour quinoa into a 2-quart pot and toast over medium heat for 3 to 4 minutes until grains are dry and lightly toasted (you may hear a few grains popping, that’s okay!). Add the cumin and fennel seeds and toast another minute, then add water and salt. Bring to a rolling boil, then stir a few times and cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid. Reduce heat to low and cook for 20 to 22 minutes or until all of the water is absorbed and grains are tender. Use a fork to fluff quinoa, cover the pot, and cool for 5 minutes.

2. While quinoa is cooking, combine the onions, spinach, parsley, chickpeas, dates, and pistachios in a mixing bowl. Prepare the dressing by whisking together all of the ingredients in a 2-cup liquid measuring cup; pour over salad ingredients, toss to coat completely, and let stand while quinoa is cooking.

3. After the quinoa has cooled slightly, transfer it to the mixing bowl and use long-handled tongs to toss the quinoa with the dressing and salad. Transfer to a large serving bowl or divide among serving plates. Sprinkle with the sumac and serve warm or at room temperature.

For easier date chopping, use a sharp knife or kitchen scissors and dip the blade frequently in cold water to prevent sticking.

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