I’ve heard that many restaurant chefs despise making Caesar salads, but I don’t understand why. Who wouldn’t love making lemony-cheesy-black-pepper-salad dreams come true?
So my resourceful little self has always had a solid Caesar salad game going at home. My original recipe was rooted in the classic for years: raw egg yolk, umami-laden anchovies, nutty Parmesan cheese, tart lemon juice. I then top that basic Caesar salad with almost any protein to turn it into a truly satisfying meal. Steak, shrimp or chicken work well, but so do turkey meatballs, roasted pork tenderloin and — my secret weapon — just about every kind of canned fish available.
Over time, I’ve adapted and adjusted my beloved Caesar salad recipe to account for changes in my family. When I was pregnant, I avoided raw eggs. My daughter’s gluten intolerance kicked the sourdough croutons to the curb. And my vegetarian niece and nephew had me searching for a worthy umami substitute for anchovies.
Recently, I faced my greatest challenge: a completely vegan Caesar salad for some dinner guests. No Parmesan cheese? I thought it would be impossible. But you guys, here is the impossible: a totally tasty vegan Caesar salad.
This salad gets its rich umami flavor from a cool combination of miso paste and nutritional yeast (not to be confused with brewer’s yeast). The croutons are back in for this recipe, but I just leave them out for my gluten-free daughter. To turn this salad into a fully vegan meal, top with nuts, seeds, lentils, white beans or tofu. And a note to my carnivore friends: Don’t let the word vegan scare you off this recipe. It’s also great topped with a few ounces of meat.
Start to finish: 20 minutes
1/3 cup raw unsalted cashews
1/4 cup toasted walnuts
1/4 cup nutritional yeast flakes
1/4 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 to 4 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons white miso paste
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
3 tablespoons cool water
3 hearts romaine lettuce, roughly chopped
2 cups bread cubes, brushed with olive oil and toasted
In a small bowl, combine the cashews and enough boiling water to cover them. Let sit for several minutes.
Meanwhile, in a blender, combine the walnuts, nutritional yeast and granulated garlic. Pulse until the mixture has the texture of sand. Pour into a small bowl and set aside.
Drain the cashews and transfer them to the blender. Add the lemon juice, fresh garlic, mustard, olive oil, miso, pepper and cool water. Blend until the mixture is mostly smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings.
In a large bowl, toss the lettuce with the dressing, then top with the bread cubes and the ground walnut mixture.
Nutrition information per serving: 220 calories; 140 calories from fat (64 percent of total calories); 16 g fat (2 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 0 mg cholesterol; 330 mg sodium; 16 g carbohydrate; 4 g fiber; 3 g sugar; 7 g protein.
Food Network star Melissa d’Arabian is an expert on healthy eating on a budget. She is the author of the cookbook, “Supermarket Healthy.”
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