I love to throw a good party. Tea party, holiday party, dinner party, you name it, I love to host it. I love to pick out the right outfit, research the perfect music, set a beautiful table, and make tons of delicious food… the only thing I don’t love is spending so much time in the kitchen, that you miss your own party. With that in mind, I decided to throw a Cookbook Supper Club: a kind of orchestrated potluck. Working out of one cookbook to set the tone of the dinner, my guests each picked a dish or two (or three if you happened to be my guest who is also a professional chef), and voilà – a dinner party was born!
For my first Cookbook Supper Club, I decided to pick a cookbook that I’d been dying to crack open from my shelf: Viva Vegan! from bestselling cookbook author Terry Hope Romero. A cookbook so exciting, it comes with its own exclamation mark in the title. I figured out which recipes I wanted to take on, and then headed to the store. We’re lucky enough to live near a Fiesta Mart (Austin has a few), which has an a huge latin and international section, so we figured it would be one stop shopping, and we were right. While there, we even ran into another party guest searching for ají amarillo paste. We found everything that we were looking for, and more. We even left with some cactus, though we had no intention of making anything with nopales, and some dulce de batata, which we ended up serving with dessert.
- Drinks: Mojitos (pg. 220), Sangria (pg. 219), Horchata (pgs. 213-214) and Topo Chico
- Starter: Cuban Black Bean Soup (pgs. 150-152)
- Main: Quinoa-Corn-Peanut Salad with Aji Amarillo Dressing (pg. 82), Latin Shredded Seitan (pgs. 106-108), Brazilian Braised Shredded Kale (pgs. 121-122), Taquitos with Chorizo and Potatoes (pgs. 168-169), Tostones (pgs. 118-119) and Homemade Soft Corn Tortillas (pgs. 165-166)
- Dessert: Coconut Tres Leches Cake (pgs. 230-232) and Dulce de Batata (sweet potato dessert)
With the menu finalized, music picked out (a mix of Cuban, Brazilian and Spanish songs), and table set, my husband and I started to work on our food contribution: mojitos, sangria, horchata, Cuban black bean soup and tortillas. I quickly realized that while I have a well-stocked liquor selection, I did not have a light rum for the mojitos, or brandy for the sangria, both totally necessary for those drinks, and both completely unobtainable, because it was a Sunday in Texas. So I scrambled to look up alternative recipes, and decided to swap tequila for rum, and gin for brandy. They weren’t the worst substitutions, but let’s just say I won’t be making that mistake ever again.
With our black bean soup simmering, and our fruit for the sangria soaking, I threw on a fabulously festive frock I found at Fiesta Mart and started to greet my guests as they arrived one after another with humungous plates full of delicious food. We muddled mint for the mojitos, and served up the first course of Cuban black bean soup with the suggested garnish of cashew crema (pg. 51) and some minced onions. The mojito (or Mexican mojito as it is known when made with tequila) was refreshing, and the Cuban black bean soup was incredibly tasty. I picked up the taste for Cuban black beans while traveling there, so I tend to make them a lot, and while this recipe was not as vinegar heavy as my version usually is, I thoroughly enjoyed it.
With our first course tucked away, I mixed up the sangria, while my husband led the party in a tortilla making expedition. With the tortillas fresh off the griddle, everyone dove into the main event. Our plates were overflowing, as we clearly had enough food to feed a dinner party twice the size (note for next party: have everyone bring tupperware for leftovers). Everything was fantastic. My surprise favorite of the night was the quinoa spinach salad with the ají amarillo dressing. It had a unique, sweet, subtle quality that was not at all spicy as I was expecting. I’ll definitely be picking up a jar for my own kitchen cupboard.
With our bellies full, we almost didn’t make it to the dessert course, but with coconut tres leches cake waiting, we trudged forward. We plated up the tres leches, with a side of dulce de batata and a glass of horchata. The cake was moist, the dulce de batata (think, hard sweet potato jelly) was strange but delicious, and the horchata was good, but it could have been better, as we did not allow it nearly enough time to cool. It turns out warm horchata is kinda meh, but we devoured the leftover chilled horchata the next day.
If my hangover the next day is any indication, the party was a huge success, and I can’t wait to throw another one (Vegan Brunch anyone?). A huge thanks goes out to my delightful guests who were willing to spend a chunk of their day in the kitchen to make it all happen. Without their help and their company, there would have been no party at all.
Thanks also goes to this lovely lady for making an amazing cookbook, full of delicious recipes. I now know how to make fresh corn tortillas, where to shop for random latin spices, and why I should probably buy the de-thorned cactus next time. If you’re interested in learning some mouthwatering veganized latin recipes, pick up your own copy of Viva Vegan! by Terry Hope Romero.