I was once at a book signing Terry Hope Romero was doing in my hometown in NJ where someone approach her and ask about making salads. Terry said that she’s not a big salad person, and she doesn’t eat them very often. So last year at Vida Vegan Con, I was quite surprised to learn that she was working on a cookbook devoted solely to salads. But she said the book would be about “salads that don’t suck”, and that made a lot of sense to me. When Lisa Simpson decided to go vegetarian many years ago, Homer and Bart paraded around the living room chanting, “You don’t win friends with salad! You don’t win friends with salad!” but if Lisa had a copy of Salad Samurai back then, I’m sure she would have won quite a lot of friends, because the salads recipes found within its pages most certainly do not suck.
I’ve received quite a few new vegan cookbooks to review recently, and Salad Samurai is definitely the standout in the bunch. It’s full of drool-worth photos, creative recipes, and the book design is gorgeous, which, as a graphic designer, I really appreciate. Terry starts the book out with some basics, such as meal planning, recommended kitchen equipment, how to press tofu, and a glossary of ingredients that might not be familiar to the vegan newbie. The first few recipes chapters are full of recipes for dressings and salad toppers, including marinaded tofus, homemade croutons, and even a hemp seed parmesan.
The salad recipes in Salad Samurai are divided by season, which makes total sense, since produce is seasonal. I most certainly wouldn’t want a butternut squash salad in the middle of July, just as a dish featuring blueberries wouldn’t appeal to me in the dead of winter. It also makes it possible to continue with the healthy habit of eating daily salads through the cold months, when lettuce is probably the last thing on your mind. Some of the really creative dishes include Pepperoni Tempeh Pizza Salad (which is on my list of recipes to make this week), Grilled Goji Seitan Salad, and Chimichurri Chickpeas & Chicory.
The first recipe I tried in Salad Samurai was the Asparagus Pad Thai Salad. The combination of rice noodles, baked Lemongrass Tofu and Toasted Shallot Dressing cried out to me when flipping through the book’s pages and I wasn’t disappointed. This dish had a crisp, springtime flavor to it, and was hearty enough for dinner. After that, I made Pesto Cauliflower and Potato Salad. This dish was a refreshingly light spin on the classic potato salad, which can often seem heavy and a little too dense for summer meals, when it is traditionally served. I took this salad on a weekend picnic along with vegan sandwiches, and it was the perfect side dish.
Backyard Buffalo Ranch Caesar Salad was next on my list. There was a bit of buzz in the vegan blogosphere about this salad, so I had to find out what the hubbub was. This salad seems simple, but the combination of spicy tofu, creamy cashew dressing, crunchy croutons, and fresh vegetables is out of this world. Backyard Buffalo Ranch Caesar Salad is the reason I haven’t tried more recipes fromSalad Samurai – I just keep making this one.
Salad Samurai is a great book for everyone who loves fresh veggies and wants to go beyond salads full of limp lettuce, mushy tomatoes and bland vinaigrette. With Salad Samurai, you most definitely will win friends with salad.
Asparagus Pad Thai Salad
Pad Thai Salad
- 4 ounces Pad Thai rice noodles
- 1/2 pound asparagus
- 1 cup mung bean sprouts washed and dried
- 1 cup lightly packed fresh Thai or sweet basil leaves chiffonaded
- 1 cup lightly packed fresh cilantro coarsely chopped
- 2 scallions green part only, thinly sliced
- 1 recipe Lemongrass Tofu
- 1/2 cup roasted peanuts coarsely ground
- Lime wedges and Sriracha for serving
Toasted Shallot Dressing
- 1/4 cup minced shallots
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
- 2 tablespoons coconut sugar or organic brown sugar plus more for serving
- 1 tablespoon tamarind concentrate
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce plus more for serving
Boil the rice noodles according to package directions and cook only until al dente (1 or 2 minutes less than directed). Drain, rinse with cold water, and cover with cold water until ready to use.
Wash and trim the tough stem ends from the asparagus. Trim the heads from the asparagus and set aside. Use a Y-shaped peeler to shred the asparagus stalks into long ribbons and slice into thin strips the remaining pieces that are too awkward to shred. Transfer the asparagus ribbons to a mixing bowl and add the mung bean sprouts, basil, cilantro, and scallions.
In a skillet over medium heat, fry the shallots, garlic, ginger, and oil until the shallots are golden brown, about 3 minutes. Add the asparagus tips, sauté 1 minute, remove from the heat, and cool for 2 minutes. Transfer the asparagus tip mixture to the bowl with the ribbons. Drain the rice noodles and add to the asparagus salad.
Whisk together the lime juice, sugar, tamarind, and soy sauce and pour over the salad. Toss to coat everything with dressing. Mound the salad in serving bowls and garnish with strips of Lemongrass Tofu and sprinkle with peanuts. Devour, but graciously offer wedges of lime, Sriracha, a small dish of coconut sugar, and soy sauce for dining companions to season their own dish to taste.
Zucchini Noodle Pad Thai
Replace the rice noodles with homemade zucchini or yellow summer squash noodles for an even lighter dish. You’ll need a little more than 1⁄2 pound of squash. Use the Y-shaped peeler to create long, thin strands similar to the asparagus “noodles” for the above salad. Proceed as directed.
Plan ahead like a samurai: prepare the Lemongrass Tofu a day in advance and heat up just before serving.
From Salad Samurai by Terry Hope Romero. Reprinted with permission from Da Capo Lifelong, © 2014