19 March 2014

Maggie's Caesar-esque Salad with Garlic Croutons

Tonight we had a friend and her super cute 8 month old over for dinner while her husband was out of town. When making our meal plan for the week, we'd planned on lasagna for tonight. Often, when we make our meal plan and need to supplement a main dish with a veggie or two, we simply write "veggie" on the meal plan and the grocery list. Then, while at the store, we see which veggies are in season, look delicious, and/or tempt our taste buds. This past Sunday, while shopping, I saw some beautiful organic romaine lettuce and something clicked in my brain. I was going to make a vegan Caesar salad!

There are actually quite a few recipes for vegan Caesar salad out there. I combed through my cookbooks at home and found one in three of the first four books I checked! However, none of them were quite what I had in mind, all for some reason or another. For example, one included capers. I've tried to cook with capers before, but it was a disaster (which makes sense as neither of us like briney foods). Another didn't have anything in it that seemed like it would be creamy enough for what I wanted. Thus, I improvised and made something delicious!

Now, to be honest, I'm not sure I ever ate Caesar salad in my pre-vegan days. I know that my dad has a recipe that other people love, but since I've not eaten his Caesar recipe - nor anyone else's, for that matter - I can't even begin to guess if this approximates the taste of a non-vegan Caesar dressing. In thinking about a clever name, I tried to ask my colleague who teaches in Ancient & Classical Studies if Caesar had an assistant or anything, but he was very upset* that I would be referencing the wrong Caesar. But whatever I call this, we all (including the 8 month old) enjoyed our salads! The dressing is a cinch to prepare and the homemade croutons are just as easy but 10 times as good as store-bought.

Maggie's Caesar-esque Salad with Garlic Croutons
Ingredients for dressing
6 oz. silken tofu (fresh or shelf-stable)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 c. water
4 T. neutral tasting oil (I used Extra Light Olive)
2 T. lemon juice
2 T. mild/mellow miso (can use as little as 1 T. if the taste is too strong)
1 T. nutritional yeast
1/2 T. dijan mustard
1 tsp. Bragg's liquid aminos
1/2 tsp. kelp granules (see Helpful Hints)
dash black pepper

Ingredients for croutons
2/3- 3/4 loaf baguette, cut in 1/2 inch pieces
1/2 c. oil (again, Extra Light Olive for me)
garlic powder

Preheat oven to 400.
1. In a small bowl, mix the oil for the croutons with the garlic powder (1/2 tsp.?), salt, pepper, and paprika.
2. Pour the oil over the bread cubes in a larger bowl and mix well to coat every pieces of bread.
3. Make a single layer of bread cubes on a cookie sheet, bake 7 minutes, move/flip them around, then bake another 4-7 minutes until golden brown and dried out. Let cool before using.
before cooking
after cooking
 4. In a blender or food processor, mix all ingredients for the salad dressing, blend. Stop and scrape the sides, then blend again. Use immediately or store in the fridge until ready to use.

Helpful Hints
  • I know this ingredient list has some "weird" stuff in it, like miso and kelp granules. The miso gives it some tang and depth. You should be able to find a mellow miso at a natural foods store or perhaps in well-stocked grocery store. 
  • The kelp granules give this a "fishy" flavor that comes from anchovies in a non-vegan version. Again, a natural foods store should have these. I've also successfully made this by subbing out the kelp for about 1/4 sheet of nori (crumbled and then blended in with all the other ingredients). 
  • If you haven't ever used silken tofu before, try it in a breakfast smoothie! It adds amazing creaminess and will up the protein content of your breakfast considerably. 
  • The croutons are so much better than ones you buy at the store! Plus, you can change them up any way you want! Add some Italian seasoning or oregano or rosemary or nutritional yeast or any other number of things to flavor them to your liking or to a dish you're planning to make. 
  • You can also make these croutons with any other kind of bread you'd like - sourdough, whole wheat, etc. 
* He wasn't really upset. But I did get a few exclamation points with "Wrong Caesar, Maggie!!" He also suggested that I could name this after a henchman, Mamurra, or after Casear's son with Cleapatra, Caesarian.

The post "Maggie's Caesar-esque Salad with Garlic Croutons" first appeared on Maggie's LesVegan Kitchen.

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