If you have the time to explore her recipes, the results will speak for themselves.
When thinking Mexican food, it’s easy to think ‘meat’ despite the rich and varied nature of the cuisine, and the commonality of beans in so many dishes.
Kate Ramos’ cookbook offers not only a plant-based alternative to Mexican food, but one that derives from her American upbringing. As she admits in her introduction, some dishes are merely inspired by Mexican food or use Mexican flavours rather than being authentically Mexican.
Her advice to find a Latin market or store is a good one because not all the ingredients are easy to find. In both recipes I tried, some alternatives had to be found with a quick Google search.
The festive design of the book by Tanya R Jacobson goes well with Ramos’ bright, colourful photography and her very personable style of writing. She introduces each chapter with some personal insights and suggestions while many of her recipes come with highlighted boxes of additional techniques, information, or tips.
Many of her 70+ recipes are vegan or easily adaptable. All are vegetarian. The five main chapters focus on cooking style: Low Cook, From the Stove, Instant Pot, From the Grill, and Out of the Oven, with a final chapter on extras, including homemade tortilla chips, rice, and slaw recipes.
Plant Powered Mexican is an exciting find because it offers such a fiesta of interesting and delicious Mexican and Mexican-inspired dishes to try. Its only two faults are the need to find alternative ingredients sometimes, and that Ramos doesn’t estimate any prep or overall cooking times, which is important when a recipe is fiddly or new. If you have the time and the drive to explore her selection of recommended dishes though, the results will speak for themselves.
BLACK BEAN ENCHILADA CASSEROLE (PAGE 111)
This recipe stole the show at two dinner parties. It looks great and tastes even better although I did make two noteworthy changes. To save time, I committed sacrilege by not making my own enchilada sauce, and I was forced to swap the chayote squash for zucchini after finding most shops I entered hadn’t even heard of it. With a final result that still lingers in my memory as one of my great successes, I have no doubt that Ramos’ homemade enchilada sauce would take this dish to the next level again. For this recipe, Ramos uses a pressure cooker, but the cooking method is easily adapted to a stove top and oven for those without an appropriate kitchen gadget. It serves up to 10 people and the leftovers taste great for days to come.
GRILLED ASPARAGUS AND BROCCOLINI WITH PEPITA PESTO AND RUNNY EGGS (PAGE 141)
Perhaps the most complicated salad I’ve ever made, it’s a unique addition to the table and full of flavour regardless of whether your eggs are runny or hard boiled like mine. The salad is built in stages–boiling the eggs, making the pesto, grilling the vegetables, etc–then comes together in an impressive platter that’s sure to surprise guests with both the sight and taste. There are quite a few ingredients to gather, from the fresh herbs to a variety of nuts and the greens. As someone who doesn’t enjoy his food biting back, I de-seeded the chillies before adding them to the dish, providing the flavour and colour without the heat. This is a salad to serve on special occasions or at a better-than-average dinner party as it’s sure to impress everybody.
Reviewed by Rod Lewis
This review is the opinion of the reviewer and not Glam Adelaide.
Distributed by: Murdoch Books
Released: November 2021