Vegan Caesar Salad

Vegan Caesar Salad Recipe

I almost spit out my cappuccino the other day when my dad told me he was reading The China Study. I think he even said the V-word. Vegan. I'm not sure why I was so surprised, the number of people wanting to explore a (more) plant-centric and less meat-focused diet/lifestyle is expanding and many people are looking for inspiration. Enter Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero (of public access television's Post Punk Kitchen) with their recently released, and much acclaimed, vegan cookbook - Veganomicon. I'm featuring their Vegan Ceasar Salad recipe today for a few reasons. First, it's a fantastic recipe from a fantastic volume of recipes - a whopping 250 of them. Second, I'd like to point you to a handful of books and studies that make compelling arguments for incorporating more vegan-centric meals into your life. Vegan in this context simply means free of animal products - eggs, meat, milk, cheese, and the like.

There's a growing chorus of accomplished scientists, researchers, and writers documenting the toll our diet (processed, meat-centric) is having on our personal health and the well-being of our environment. There's been something in the air for a while, but as I mentioned before, I knew something was really starting to shift when my dad told me he was reading The China Study. "I'm totally into it," he said. The way the research was presented and explained in the book made sense to him. It should be noted, my dad is a strict meat and potatoes guy. The China Study surveyed death rates for twelve different kinds of cancer in more than 2400 Chinese counties - the most comprehensive study of nutrition in relation to health ever conducted. Read it for yourself, but I assure you - the book puts forth a compelling argument for shift toward a diet that emphasizes vegan meals.

Vegan Caesar Salad Recipe

I also stumbled upon John Robins latest book, Healthy at 100 (recently out in paperback), and a big portion of the book is dedicated to understanding four unique cultures who produce some of the worlds healthiest and longest-living people. The communities are sprinkled around the globe yet one of the things they all have in common is a primarily vegan diet, meaning 90%+ calories coming from plant-based sources in those communities.

We've seen Dr. Ornish offer up the veg-centric Spectrum. And in a stroke of irony, the Minimalist delivered a thousand pages of vegetarian recipes while Michael Pollan offered up seven simple words - Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

So Isa and Terry's book comes at a time of increased awareness, and whether you're a carnivore looking to eat more non-meat meals, or vegetarian, or vegan, or maybe you have an allergy to dairy/eggs - many people will be able to find culinary inspiration in Veganomicon. The recipes are approachable and a good percentage of them have tight, unintimidating ingredient lists. There are plenty of twists on classics, like enchiladas, sloppy joes, baked beans, po' boys, and lasagne. Another thing I love is that they cook from a minimally processed palette of ingredients - this isn't one of those vegan books that calls for a bunch of processed fake meat products. The book incorporates helpful icons alongside each recipe noting recipes that are soy-free, low fat or reduced fat, gluten free, doable in under 45 minutes, and supermarket friendly. The index in the back also breaks the recipes out into these categories which is helpful. The book is two-color with a 16-page color photo insert.

Vegan Caesar Salad Recipe

And onto the Caesar Salad - which was great. I made it for lunch today and ended up topping it with a few heart slices of hickory smoked tofu. Don't get too hung up on the name - whether or not it is an "actual" Caesar salad shouldn't send you into a tail-spin. Naming the recipe this way helps people understand what general realm of salad we are talking about. Use the best, freshest lettuce you can get your hands on to really make this salad shine. And keep in mind, you will have plenty of the creamy, anchovy-free lemony-caper dressing leftover - I'm going to drizzle it over some grilled kabobs this evening. The only remotely time consuming aspect of this recipe was making your own croutons. If you really need to shave of some time, pick up a bag of good quality croutons and use those. I've also found that tearing your bread into bite-sized pieces instead of diligently cutting it into perfectly uniform petite cubes is much more efficient (and oddly satisfying) if you want to D.I.Y. and still save time.

A few lInks:

- Directory of vegan recipes on 101 Cookbooks.

- More recipes to test-drive from Veganomicon.

- Watch episodes of Post Punk Kitchen via Google Video

- Photos tagged Veganomicon on Flickr.

- Portland-based Jess (of Get Sconed!) was one of Veganomicons all-star recipe testers - you can see some of her photos here.

Before I log off, I recognize that many of my readers aren't vegan (or even vegetarian for that matter). And many who are. I want this site to be a place where there is room for everyone and their ideas. Figuring out where you stand in relation to food politics and personal nutrition is an individual journey, please respect each other. Whether or not you believe a strict vegan diet is right for you or others, I think we can all agree that getting more real, plant-based food on our plates is a good thing. A book like Veganomicon is a great source of inspiration on this front (whether you are a hardcore vegan or not).

Vegan Caesar Salad Recipe

HS notes: If you don't have time to roast the garlic for the croutons, you can use raw - the flavor will be more pronounced, with less depth and mellowness. Feel free to use your favorite multi-grain bread for the croutons. If a salad like this is going to be a main meal for me, I make it topped with something like smoked tofu, something with some protein (for staying power) but use your imagination. If your dressing is too thick just thin it with a bit of warm water.

Caesar dressing:
1/3 cup slivered or sliced almonds
3-4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
3/4 cup silken tofu
1/4 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 heaping tablespoon capers
4 teaspoons caper brine
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon mustard powder
Salt

Croutons:
1/4 cup olive oil
4 cloves roasted garlic
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 medium size loaf French or Italian bread (little less than 1 pound), stale and torn or sliced into bite-sized pieces
1/4 teaspoon salt

Salad:
1 large head romaing lettuce, chopped
Freshly cracked black pepper
Handful or two of spinach and/or arugula, torn into bite-sized pieces (optional)

Prepare the dressing: Pulse the sliced almonds in a food processor or blender until crumbly. Empty the ground almonds into an airtight container that you'll be using to store the finished dressing. Blend the garlic, tofu, and oil in the food processor or belnder until creamy. Add the lemon juice, capers, caper brine, sugar, and mustard powder, and pulse until blended. Adjust the salt and lemon juice to taste. Put into the container with the ground almonds and whisk to combine. Cover and allow the dressing to chill in the refrigerator for a minimum of 30 minutes, optimally 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

While the dressing is chilling, prepare the croutons: Preheat the oven to 400F. Combine the olive oil, roasted garlic, and lemon juice in a large bowl. With a fork or immersion blender, mash orblend the mixture until creamy. Add the torn bread and toss to coat each piece with the oil mixture. Spread onto a rimmed baking sheet, sprinkle with salt, if desired, and bake for 12 to 14 minutes until golden brown. Toss the croutons twice during the baking process. Remove from the oven and cool the croutons on the baking sheet.

To assemble the salad, place in a large bowl 2 to 3 cups of lettuce/greens per individual serving (amount depending on whether it's a side or an entree). Ladle on 1/3 cup of the dressing (or more or less to taste), and use kitchen tongs to toss the greens and coat them with dressing. Add the warm croutons, toss again, and transfer to a serving dish. Sprinkle with a little freshly cracked pepper. If not serving right away, warm croutons in 300F oven for 5 to 8 minutes before adding to the salad.

Serves 4 to 6 as a side, 2 to 3 as a main.

from Veganomicon by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero (Marlowe & Company, 2007) - reprinted with permission.

If you make this recipe, I'd love to see it - tag it #101cookbooks on Instagram!
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Comments

  • I must personally question the China Study based upon my personal belief that diet is not the single contributing factor to health. There is environment, genetics, personal lifestyle, all of which play a role. More pressing is China's record on transparency, that it doesn't exist. While I haven't read the China Study, I will be looking into it to see what evidence they have and how they've used it. One increasingly popular notion to better health, more energy and longevity of life is caloric restriction, and if I remember correctly, advocates vegetarian if not vegan dietary habits. All that aside, the recipe looks fantastic. I am a rather light ovo-laco vegetarian, but my husband refuses to give up his meat a few nights a week. Minimally, he gets it (purchased and prepared of course) from me, in the form of bio meats, where I can be assured that they're free of chemicals and/or hormones, have led a relatively decent life and are slaughtered humanely, as if that's possible.

    Dee
  • Wonderful recipe!!! I'm not vegan and not even 100 % vegetarian as I eat fish, but I like healthy food and I love your blog full of woderful healthy recipes!!!

    Karolina
  • Writer Philip Day's ("Health Wars") take on meat-centric diets isn't exactly for the faint-hearted, but is interesting to read: Here is an exmaple of one of his articles: http://campaignfortruth.com/Eclub/241005/CTM%20-%20meating%20the%20main%20problem.htm Not being a scientist or nutritionist myself, I tend to take everything I read with a tiny grain of salt, but I think it's important to consider diet and ways of improving it, to be as informed as possible, and to explore a variety of foods.

    amber
  • Wow! The recipe sounds scrumptious--I can hardly wait to try it (anything with caper juice can't be bad). I, too, like Sam, liked your "before I log off". (A certain amount of people don't have a sense of humor--a popular game amongst vegans is "I'm a better vegan than you." ) I went vegan for the health benefits. But I've been an unabashed foodie in the past, so I cover the spectrum. My only "beef" with Veganomicon is it's name: I have visions of Howard Phillips Lovecraft recast in cauliflower. What would Cthulu think?

    Pookha
  • My first professional cooking job was creating lowfat vegan recipe for a cooking school run by a doctor who ate an extremely strict diet, a la John McDougall (a notch more extreme than Dean Ornish). I thought the diet was crazy but, as I started eating the foods I cooked for the recipes I was developing, I realized I felt incredibly energetic and mentally focused. I am not a vegan, but cooking wholegrain vegan meals gave me new insight into vegetarian power foods. Now I always cook with vegetables and whole grains as the focus of my meals. I'm truly grateful for being exposed to the vegan philosophy.

    Laurie Gauguin
  • Dear Heidi, A heart-warming post. I am truly delighted to see a write-up about vegetarianism /Veganism books accompanied by a fabulous recipe. The salad looks simply irresistible, will be trying it out soon. Pratibha at Pritya.

    Pritya
  • Nice pictures! The greens are so vibrant. Great post as well, nicely written... I defintely see a trend of pushing even the most devout meat and potato eaters to eat vegetarian at least once a week. I have been on all sides, meat eater, vegetarian, and vegan and I love all the food and love vegetarian food and vegan food (if cooked well and seasoned properly) but i also like dairy and meat... but I do know how much better I feel when I'm eating more whole grains and veggies (thus making less room for meat and dairy in the diet) so I guess I'm a meat eater with vegetarian tendencies

    Emma Nowell
  • I hate to point out typos, but this one made me laugh. I "pout" into my blender all the time!

    anne
  • Your Vegan and Vegetarian recipes are excellent but they are too elaborate. Can you feature some that are not so elaborate? Thanks.

    UCD
  • Just heard about this book on NPR. Thanks for sharing this super sounding salad —particularly the excellent dressing. Looking forward to tasting it soon! And thanks for pointing out the China Study to your readers and also M. Pollan's great advice: Eat food, not too much, mostly plants! AMEN.

    Joyce
  • Was pleasantly surprised to find this recipe in my reader. I've been a vegetarian for 32 years. In 2001, I was on a vegan diet for 9 months - felt and looked the best I ever did in my life. But I found that it was a very limiting lifestyle - recipe and meal planning, shopping - I just didn't want to "think" so much about what I eating and meals just didn't excite me. But, lately I've been giving serious thought to eating vegan again and this time being more creative w/meals. I just remember how great I felt and looked - the change from vegetarian to vegan made a significant difference. More vegan recipes, please.....great blog! Thanks!

    Patti
  • Right on. I will take another look at this book. While I can't imagine that I would ever limit myself to a vegan diet - I love to eat sides of pig and juicy burgers now and then - we always make room for weekly vegetarian meals at our house. We can all do the planet a huge favor if even the most dedicated carnivores among us go all-out veggie for at least one meal a week.

    Karen
  • I think veganism gets a bad rep because many people's first forays into the way of eating are trying dishes that impersonate their familiar meat-based favorites. Foods that try to be anything other than themselves (meat substitutes, etc.) I nearly always find disappointing. I mean, I like mushroom gluten as much as the next person, but it is simply different than beef, and I like them for different reasons. Eating mushroom gluten but expecting beef (for example) can lead to a person feeling like they're depriving themself, and consequently they become less receptive to enjoying all the other delicious and unique vegan dishes out there. I'm looking forward to receiving my copy of Veganomicon (ordered after hearing the NPR bit), and I hope that it contains recipes that simply celebrate being themselves. Also, that's something I love about your website--your recipes that are gluten-free, vegan, etc. do so by highlighting delicious combinations of ingredients rather than by trying to imitate something else.

    Jen
  • I've been a long time reader of your blog - I love it. I'm not vegan - but I did pick up veganomicon last week and I LOVE it. The recipes are amazing. Definitely worth looking into.

    Kirsten
  • Fabulous article; thank you. I've not heard of the China Study before. Another delicious vegan caesar is in the RFD cookbook - can't wait to try this version for comparison.

    (another) Heidi
  • I just don't think I can embrace Caesar salad without anchovies or parmesan...

    msassi
  • This looks like a great recipe. I heard the ladies from Post Punk Kitchen on the radio and their new book sounded great - thanks for the preview. I have been using the non-egg but with anchovy recipe for Ceasar's Salad from Cooks Illustrated for awhile now and I love it but I am looking forward to this new recipe. And I do love the idea of *tearing* the croutons instead of cutting!

    ksulis
  • YUM--thanks for the inspiration, sis!

    courtney
  • I read your blog for many months before I realized you were vegetarian and so were your recipes. It's not all about who claims what label; it's about really good and healthy recipes, and that's what you deliver. Thank you.

    Mrs. Mordecai
  • Heidi. have I ever told you how much you rock? I love your "before i log off" paragraph. Well said! Now - when you are you going to bring your dad to the Ferry building for a glass of champagne?

    sam
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