My appreciation of the Caesar Salad began years ago about the same time I went meatless. Little did I know there were anchovies in some form or another in Caesar dressing. A fact I discovered, much to my surprise, after after a salad I ordered arrived with anchovies on top (gag!). So sadly, when eating out, I no longer was able to order this umami bomb and was once again relegated to the mundane “garden salad” when I wanted some greens before (or as) the main course.
It’s still that way in restaurants, but a few years back, I came across a recipe that’s not only vegetarian, it’s vegan, so now I can often enjoy a hearty Caesar salad at home. It’s just as delicious, if not more so, than the traditional recipe, plus, there’s no raw egg to worry about making you sick! Yes, it contains tofu, but don’t let that put you off–you’d never know it. Seriously!
The dressing has that creamy garlicky bite you expect and satisfies like the traditional recipe with no saturated fat to weigh you down. Homemade croutons, where YOU control the fat content, round out the dish and with the protein provided by the almonds and tofu, it’s a full-meal salad. Enjoy!
Vegan Caesar Salad
1/3 cup slivered or sliced almonds
3-4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
3/4 cup silken tofu
1/4 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon capers
1 tablespoon caper brine
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon mustard powder
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 medium sized loaf bread (your choice, Italian, pumpernickel, rye, whole wheat), or your favorite gluten-free variety
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 ½ teaspoons granulated garlic or garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
Salt & freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 large head romaine lettuce, chopped, or a combination of red & green leaf lettuce
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 blender until creamy. Add the lemon juice, capers, caper brine, sugar, and mustard powder, and process until blended. Adjust the salt and lemon juice to taste. Put into the container with the ground almonds and mix 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 400 degrees F. Slice the bread into ½ inch slices and cut slices into cubes. Place bread cubes in a large bowl. In a small bowl, combine the olive oil, garlic powder, onion powder, salt & pepper. Pour over bread cubes and toss until bread is well-coated. Spread croutons on a baking sheet and bake for 12 to 15 minutes until crisp. 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 the greens in a large salad bowl. Top with ½ cup of dressing and toss to combine. Add more dressing as necessary, to your preference. Toss until greens are well-coated. Add croutons (you may not need all of them) and toss salad again. If desired, add a little more dressing. You will most likely have left over dressing (that’s a good thing—more Caesar salad tomorrow!).
Serves 4 to 6 as a side, 2 to 3 as a main.