I’m still making my way through the illustrious taste explosion that is Viva Vegan. With some cookbooks I find myself gravitating towards the same recipes again and again – the tried and true favorites. However, with Viva Vegan I want to try new dishes almost every time. When the efforts are consistently good, why not explore some uncharted territory? So this post offers you some highlights of the trip. (In case you missed it, I’ve already written about Terry’s Latin Baked Tofu, Chipotle, Seitan and Sweet Potato Tacos, Refried Beans, Arroz con Seitan, and briefly, Zesty Orange Mojo Tofu.)
The Creamy Corn-Crusted Tempeh Pot Pie (Pastel de Choclo) is a Chilean twist on shepherd’s pie. This meal would be perfect potluck fare and reheats very well the next day for leftovers. Curiously, no time is listed in the book for how long it will take to prepare (unlike the other recipes). It took me about two hours, including the baking time of 45 minutes.
Sadly, no fresh corn on the cob is available this time of year for the creamy corn topping (instead of Shepherd’s pie’s mashed potatoes). I had to use frozen corn, thaw it, and drain it. I don’t think that I got enough water out of the corn, because the topping was not quite as dense as I was expecting. To save a step, next time I’m going to make my favorite quick-cooking polenta to top the pot pie instead, and I plan on omitting basil from the topping. Basil has a way of overwhelming sometimes, and the filling was so good, I didn’t want anything else taking focus.
When I first read the recipe, I wasn’t so sure about the addition of raisins and green olives in the savory filling, but the blend of sweet and salty really worked. Admittedly, I didn’t have any raisins on hand, and so I used dates instead. The sweetness made it taste as if there were caramelized onions in the dish. In addition to raisins and olives, the filling includes onions, carrots, and potatoes seasoned with cumin, oregano, paprika, and soy sauce. I recommend crumbling the tempeh into tiny bits, so that the flavor and texture is uniform.
Initially I had some troubles with the steamed red seitan that I used in the Seitan Saltado. After combining the vital wheat gluten and liquid ingredients, I was left with some pretty sloppy dough. Because of the extra liquid ingredients of soy sauce and tomato paste, I knew that the red seitan was going to be looser than the white seitan I’d made in the past. However, as much as I tried to develop the gluten, it was too liquidy to make into any kind of loaf. I did some poking around on the internet and discovered that problem was hit and miss with people. Some people were calling the red seitan their favorite ever, and some people were finding it too soft. Some solved the problem by cooking the seitan longer, and some added additional flour. That’s the method I used as well. I added an additional ½ cup of vital wheat gluten flour and an extra ¼ cup of chickpea flour. Then it came together beautifully.
I used the red seitan in the Seitan Saltado, which is described as a Peruvian Seitan and Potato Stir-Fry. And by that I mean a tangy stir-fry that’s served over baked French fries. (Yes, French fries.) I can’t even tell you the levels of yum that this dish met. (It was probably at least three levels.) Satisfying seitan was marinated in tamari and red wine vinegar with garlic, cumin, and oregano. (The recipe also calls for aji Amarillo paste, which sadly, I could not find. It may come down to ordering online at some point…) Then yellow onions, tomatoes, and cilantro are stir-fried and served over crisp French fries. (I also followed recommendations for serving with brown rice, but next time I’ll skip that part. The fries were enough.) This rich and hearty meal was very filling and savory. Once I get tired of making new dishes, it’s one I’ll be returning to again and again.
(Oh, one minor note about the recipe. It lists 4 tablespoons of soy sauce on the ingredient list, and then says to use soy sauce in the marinade. Later on in the recipe it says to use the “remaining” tablespoon of soy sauce just before serving. So when you’re making it, just use 3 tablespoons in the marinade, saving one for later.)
While I’ve already made the Latin Baked Tofu again and again, adding the sofrito con cilantro and achiote took it up a notch. Admittedly, I didn’t use as much oil as the recipe lists, but giving garlic, bell peppers, onions, and cilantro a long sauté in annatto-infused oil gave the tofu better presentation and made it more of a meal when served with steamed greens.
Smoky tofu chicarrones utilizes the freezing/thawing method of preparing tofu. It’s not the method that I use most, but I like the dense and chewy texture that it gives. (Tofu is frozen in its water-filled package. Then it’s moved to the refrigerator or countertop until it’s fully thawed. After that it can be squeezed and/or pressed, used in marinades, etc.) While the tofu chicarrones are loosely torn into bits, this recipe would also work well as tofu bacon by slicing the tofu thinly instead. A little liquid smoke goes a long way with me, and next time I’ll reduce it to 1 teaspoon instead of 1 tablespoon.
I served the tofu chicarrones over calabacitas, a mixed squash sauté. This dish uses a mixture of summer squash and winter squash along with garlic, oregano, cumin, lime juice, tomatoes, and corn. I imagine this dish would be even better in the summer when corn and tomatoes are ripe and in season. (It would be a great way to use up that zucchini that seems to run rampant around the end of summer.) I used carnival squash for the winter squash, but next time I plan on using my favorite squash, delicata. It’s quick and easy to prepare, and I love that you can eat the skin and avoid peeling. Plus, it won my very elite Best Tasting Squash Competition of 1993. (Okay, there was no such competition. But if there had been, delicata totally would have won.)
The Chimichurri baked tofu uses a chimichurri sauce, which reminded me of an Argentinean pesto. Garlic, shallots, parsley, olive oil, red wine vinegar, and dried spices are blended into a food processor and spread over chewy baked tofu. Because my love of cilantro knows no bounds, I swapped out parsley for cilantro. Despite the massive amounts of fresh cilantro, the flavor reminded me of the Latin Baked Tofu, but oilier and with more steps. So while I thought the chimichurri tofu was good, I’ll most likely make the Latin Baked instead.
Other solid recipes that I’ve tried include the classic cabbage with cilantro-citrus vinaigrette and braised Brazilian shredded kale.
After so many dishes, the only failed recipe I’ve had so far has been the corn tortillas, and with only three ingredients (water, flour, and salt), I’d have to say it was most likely my fault as a novice tortilla-maker. I used my handy tortilla press, and it looked like they would turn out beautifully, but I don’t think I had the proper balance of water and flour. Or perhaps the Quaker masa harina (the only masa harina I could find at the grocery store) didn’t do the trick in the way that Maseca might have, if I could have found it. The tortillas were too dense and didn’t take on the right texture, even after cooking them for the allotted time.
So the Viva Vegan exploration continues… Next destinations include empanadas, pupusas, and tamales. I sense much deliciousness ahead! Wish me luck!