Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Return of the Vegan Ceasar

It's really not so much a 'return' as I enjoy this salad in my rotation all of the time, but I have laid off blogging (laid off, slacked off, tomato, tomato) for so long that enjoying them lately keeps making me feel like others need to be adding them to their salad lineups. (What is with that popular comment, 'What do you eat, salad?' when one confronts a veg diet?  People who come up with that response obviously do not know how to make a good salad. Give those people this recipe!)

This one pictured is my typical go-to. Nothing fancy, just lettuce, sun dried tomatoes, hemp seed (mmmmm....hemmmmmmp seeeeeed), and some super quick almond meal-encrusted baked tofu. When I have them or are hoping to impress, I add some roasted portobellos and some roasted garlicky Brussel sprouts. Oh yeah. So good!

If you're making this for yourself or for two, the extra tofu saves well and is reheated beautifully in a 375 oven for about five minutes. I like the tofu and the dressing and eat one every day until they're gone. True story.

I got this Caesar Dressing recipe from a blog I used to frequent years ago called, Bunnyfoot. It is an amazing vegan version that can stand up against any anchovy-laden variety. I always have the ingredients on hand (one shaker of kelp powder lasts a long time as this is all I use it for), and the dressing comes together really quickly.  I always make a double batch!

Vegan Caesar Salad with Almond-Encrusted Tofu

For Dressing:

3 cloves garlic*
1/2  teaspoon salt
1/2 - 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 Tablespoon vegannaise
1/3 cup olive oil
dash of vegetarian Worcestershire sauce

a few sprinkles of kelp powder (for me a 'shake, shake, shake' counts as one sprinkle. I add three sprinkles)
water, to taste (optional)

*I make the dressing a day ahead and love the added bite of the fresh garlic. My husband prefers it to be a little more subtle so I've been known to roast the garlic in advance and use that instead when serving him or lots of guests. When I'm roasting garlic, I opt for the whole bulb of garlic and double of everything in the recipe.)

I place all ingredients in a tall container and whiz with my immersion blender. You can also microplane or press the garlic and whisk with all the ingredients save the oil and water. Then, whisking constantly, add the oil in a steady stream. Lastly, also whisking constantly, and after tasting the dressing, add water until you've achieved desired saltiness and thickness. I like to use maybe a few tablespoons of water to thin it out as it's super flavorful and rather thick. It will also thicken a bit once it's been in the refrigerator. This dressing should last for a couple weeks in your refrigerator. Not that I would know personally. It gets gobbled up at my house in no time! 

For the Almond-Encrusted Tofu

1 block extra firm tofu, pressed (I drain mine, wrap in paper towel then dish towel and leave in the refrigerator for a day or two until most of the water has been sucked out of it)
3/4 - 1 cup almond meal
1/3 cup almond milk (or any non-dairy milk)
salt, to taste
black pepper, to taste
1/2 T nutritional yeast

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment and lightly mist with olive oil. Season almond meal with yeast, salt, and pepper to taste. It doesn't have to be super salty, the dressing will add some of that. Cut block of tofu in half, lengthwise so that you have two rectangles. Cut those rectangles into 1/2 inch square slices. Leave them this shape or cut the squares in two, creating triangles.
Dip tofu slices in milk just to wet them and then coat with seasoned almond meal. Place triangles (or squares) onto parchment and lightly mist the top with olive oil. I use a Misto, LOVE that thing! Place pan of tofu in oven for ten minutes. Carefully flip each triangle (or square!) with tongs and bake for another ten minutes. The side that is on the pan will lightly brown.

Assemble salad:
Chop washed romaine lettuce, chop about a 1/4 c. of sun dried tomatoes. I buy mine packed in oil and just drain on a paper towel while I'm baking the tofu. Sprinkle liberally with hemp seed (I also sprinkle some nutritional yeast over mine. I am of the opinion that there is no such thing as too much nutritional yeast though, so your call ;).  Add chopped sun dried tomatoes. ** Pour on approx 2 T of dressing per serving and toss until well coated. Serve and top with tofu. ***

**If you are using Roasted Garlicky Brussel Sprouts, add them before tossing. 

***If you are serving with Roasted Portobellos (I roast mine, trimmed and de-gilled, with light olive oil spray, sea salt, and fresh black pepper with the tofu, turning when I turn the 'fu), I like to add them last as well as they tend to cast a dark hue over the salad when you toss them in early. 

While most of the country is warming themselves with big pots of soups, stews, and chilis, it's been unseasonably warm here, even for Florida. I have been enjoying cooling off (I know, your heart bleeds for me, I'm sure!) on the patio with giant Vegan Caesar Salads. I hope that those of you who are also experiencing warmer temperatures are inspired to pile on the green stuff and enjoy this amazing Vegan Caesar! (And what goes better with soup than salad? Nothing wrong with you northerners piling up your salad plates, as well!).