Sunday, June 16, 2013

Fancy Vegan Caesar Salad

My family is very patient when it comes to all the exotic cuisines, strange flavor combinations, ingredients they’ve never heard of and just plain excessive, gratuitous unconventionality I bring to the dinner table. A reasonable amount of the time they even like the results. But nothing quite brings out their enthusiasm like familiar, long-loved favorites that have been successfully re-imagined—going from rare comfort food indulgences into healthy foods you can eat on a regular basis.

And this particular salad received a level of raves that is normally reserved for dishes involving copious amounts of gravy.

It would certainly be more creative to invent a new salad with all kinds of unusual ingredients and methods (and I often do). But some combos are classics for a reason, and this made for one of the nicest, most  restaurant-quality salads that I’ve had in some time.

This dressing was quite a satisfying facsimile—the capers, which I have seen in some other recipes, do indeed make a very good substitute for the traditional anchovies. The tofu lends creaminess and a neutral enough background for the traditional lemon and garlic flavors to shine through, and the other seasonings round out the flavors without requiring too much salt or fat. Which means you don’t have to be too stingy with the dressing—always a good thing.

The homemade croutons were easier than I though they would be. And with whole grain bread, they’re not too bad for you either.

Vegan Caesar Salad with faux chicken and homemade croutons

Fancy Vegan Caesar Salad

1 12 oz package soft silken tofu
2 Tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp capers, drained
2 tsp minced garlic
¼-½  tsp soy sauce
½ tsp Italian seasoning
½ tsp mustard powder
¼ tsp garlic powder
¼ tsp onion powder
¼ tsp lemon pepper seasoning
1/8 tsp salt
2-3 tsp olive oil (optional)
1-2 tsp sugar or sweetener

3-4 thick slices of whole grain bread
1-2 tsp olive oil
1 tsp Italian seasoning
½ tsp garlic powder
½ tsp lemon pepper seasoning (or salt & pep)

Vegan parmesan substitute (can use store bought if you want):
3 Tbsp nutritional yeast
3 tbsp sesame seed, slivered almonds or cashews
¼ tsp lemon pepper

Vegan faux chicken strips OR baked tofu or seitan, 4 servings worth

1 14 oz can artichoke hearts, drained and coarsely chopped

Enough greens for 4 salads (8-12 cups), romaine would be traditional but iceberg, spinach, kale, mixed greens, etc would work too

Tossing bread cubes with spices

First make the croutons: Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Slice bread slices into 1 inch squares, and toss with oil and seasonings. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and spread bread out in a single layer. Bake about 12 minutes, stirring and flipping halfway through. Let cool.
Croutons, hot out of the oven

Vegan parmesan sub

Next, make the faux parmesan: place nutritional yeast in blender with lemon pepper and sesame seeds or nuts. Grind until powdery. Scrape out into a bowl.

To make dressing: Without washing the blender after making the faux parmesan, puree all dressing ingredients together until completely smooth. Taste and adjust salt, lemon and sweetener to your taste. Can be thinned with water or soymilk if desired.

To assemble: Place a pile of greens on each plate. Drizzle with a little dressing. Arrange
artichokes, faux chicken or tofu and croutons on top. Drizzle with a little more dressing,
then sprinkle with vegan parmesan sub. Enjoy!

Serves four (with leftover dressing & parmesan sub)

Vegan Caesar Salad


Any fresh vegetable that you like on similar salads could be added, such as tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, onions, peppers, radishes, sprouts etc. Fruits such as pears might be interesting as well.

Olives, wholes capers, sun-dried tomatoes, roasted red peppers and sautéed mushrooms would all make highly flavorful add-ins as well.

Cooked sliced potatoes might create an interesting, nicoise-like effect, particularly if combined with green beans and olives.

Toasted or spiced nuts could be sprinkled on top for flavor and crunch. So could toasted nori.

Making the croutons with homemade bread, as I did using this recipe, is a nice touch. And the leftover bread can be served at the table with the salad.

Piled onto a whole wheat tortilla

This recipe is also very nice in wrap form. Just arrange all the components, sans croutons, on your favorite flatbread and roll up.

Caesar Salad in wrap form

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