There are some assumption-busting truths about Caesar salad from the traditional kind you get in restaurants to my own healthy, crazy good vegan Caesar salad with quick coconut bacon. Assumptions, about salads? Yep. And it's time to bust a few.
Assumptions are unquestioning truths based on personal beliefs, logical constructs or unconfirmed facts. The Sun rose in the East this morning, it's 4:56 pm because kitty suddenly jumps up and demands her dinner and salad is 'good-for-you'.
I remember when I first started chipping away at that last assumption. Embarrassing as this is to reveal it was on a talk show in the '80s (lots of assumptions going on there). But I was riveted because it was all about weight loss and anything about that quest, my quest, got my attention. After the segment where they revealed the results of the lie detector test, this man who has lost an impressive amount of weight, held up a Cobb salad in one hand and a cheeseburger in the other. His reveal was the amount of calories and fat in the salad. At that moment, I got it (partially, at least) – don't assume that every salad is healthy.
There is a connection between food assumptions and outcomes.
As a professional dieter, I treated salads as 'free food', but there are pounds of difference between a simple salad of greens, beans, and oil-free salad dressing and that festival of fat Cobb salad I saw on the TV.
All this happened in the 'dark ages' or pre-Internet if you will. So, I dusted off my collection of diet books, conveniently only opened to the meal plans because I assumed the 'science' was real, and I started looking at those calorie/fat charts that were in the appendices. Existing assumptions were challenged and replaced them with some hard facts like what's in the salad is far more important than the name. So….
What's in this vegan Caesar salad version anyhow?
Caesar salad was not invented by that Caesar, this revered salad originated in Tijuana, Mexico, so the legend goes. I learned all about it on a cooking show last year and found it fascinating that an Italian-American, Caesar Cardini invented the first recipe in an attempt to attract tourists to his resort. In those days, the salad consisted of garlic croutons, Parmesan cheese, boiled eggs, olive oil, and Worchestershire sauce tossed together with Romaine lettuce. Another assumption bites the dust.
Creamy almond Caesar dressing
Our vegan Caesar salad has little left in common with the original except the croutons and lettuce, but at this point, we should never assume about Caesar salad. Over the years, it's undergone many a metamorphosis and today, it comes down to three main assumptions – lettuce, croutons, and creamy dressing.
Almonds make it happen
The secret to this creamy dressing is simple – ground almonds. I used whole blanched almonds, meaning they were peeled (the white ones). Slivered almonds will also work well because, in the end, we are going to grind them.
Can't find peeled almonds? Don't want to pay the price?
If you can find raw almonds, you can enjoy peeled almonds. And the good news? It's simple:
- Bring a saucepan with water to boiling.
- Add the almonds, being careful not to splash yourself with the hot water,
- Boil the almonds boil for about 1 minute.
- Drain and cool the almonds until you can handle them.
- Take a seat, blare your favorite music and take a few minutes to slide the skins right off the almonds.
- To peel or not to peel, the question
The answer to your question, can I just use unpeeled almonds, is 'yes'. Your dressing might be slightly less creamy unless you have a high-speed blender and it may not be quite a bright white, but you'll have an equally great taste. And even though it's easy enough to peel almonds, you might also be asking, 'why the extra effort?'. When it comes to cooking, I exert no extra effort unless there is value for said effort.
From the outside in
Almonds hold a special place in my heart – they are probably my favorite nut. I consider a few raw almonds the perfect post-workout treat because anything to motivate a workout is good. But I always know when I've overdone it. Not the workout, the almonds.
You don't need to be a scientist or almond expert to know if almonds are difficult for you to digest. Take a close look at an almond and it makes sense. After the shell is removed, unpeeled almonds have a tough outer skin. For the almond, the outer shell and the skin serve as protectors so the softer nut inside can germinate and thus, more tasty almonds grow.
The phytic acid in almond skins, which protects the inner nut, can interfere with enzymes that can inhibit digestion.
But there might be something more important to consider when it comes to those crunchy almonds, that I could personally eat by the handful.
Raw versus 'roasted' nuts
There's a good reason why you should always buy raw nuts whenever possible. 'Roasted' usually means added oil and other preservatives. And if you have a problem with digesting the skins, the added oil might not help in that department. Also, the added oil can heighten your nut addiction, meaning you'll eat yet another handful – even when you know you've had enough.
After all this nutty almond talk, you might be asking why on earth I'd suggest making an almond Caesar dressing. I have a good answer – it's delicious. And let's not slag off those almonds. There are plenty of nutritional reasons you should eat almonds (in moderation)
The almond Caesar dressing is one thing that sets this vegan Caesar salad recipe apart from the rest. We can debate it against the coconut bacon and crunchy croutons, but dressing 'makes' a salad. you aren't adding much fat with ¼ cup of ground almonds and the thickness they bring to the oil-free dressing is only comparable to the satiation you'll get once you eat it.
Certainly, Caesar wanted croutons, right?
Vegan or not, I assume that any Caesar salad comes with crunchy, garlicky croutons. But here's an assumption you can break – it's not oil, it's a bit of liquid that allows the herbs and garlic to mix with the bread cubes.
I use a combination of 2 tablespoons of vegetable broth, lemon juice and Tamari (or soy sauce) respectively and just mixed in thyme, oregano, and garlic powder. The trick to getting all your bread cubes covered, as I've learned is the quick stir or shake. Don't combine the liquid to the bread cubes and allow them to linger. Otherwise, a few cubes will hog all the seasoning. The easiest method I've found is to use a bowl with a lid and just seal and shake.
After that, you want to kick them into the oven and allow them to bake up until they are crunchy. The only challenge left at that point is leaving them alone, so you have something left to put on the salad. What is it about croutons? Impossible not to snack on.
Coconut bacon – because anything bacon
This Caesar salad recipe makes no assumptions, but I'm fairly certain that the lovely Caesar Cardini would not have expected coconut bacon to show up on his namesake. Don't assume dear Caesar, don't assume.
A plant-based diet has never deterred me from my love of bacon flavor. And I can't think about dill pickle pasta salad or scalloped potatoes without plant-based bacon. But all those recipes assumed tofu bacon and rightfully, it remains one of our favorites, but bacon is about flavor.
And bacon flavor loves coconut flakes.
Bacon flavor in my book is all about combining Tamari, liquid smoke and maple syrup. That's your foundation – salt, smoke, sweet. I added vegan Worcestershire sauce and hot smoked paprika to give the coconut flakes a bit more depth and spice. And it was smashingly good. Another one of those, 'hide the ingredient before serving' situations. Far too tempting to have those hanging around.
The first time I made coconut bacon before I tweaked the recipe, I knew it would be tasty. How could it not? Bacon flavor meets coconut? And I should have known from toasting bacon for chopped Asian salad that it can get away from you quickly. And the first time it did. I lost a bit of focus, didn't set a time and alas, burned coconut bacon.
Coconut flakes are thin, they burn quickly, like seconds after the last time you check them. So, place them in the middle of the oven, toss them a few times and back them until they brown. Coconut likes to trick you into assuming that it won't crisp up once you take it out of the oven. Don't fall for it. Once they brown, remove them from the oven, spread them on a plate and dare them not to crisp.
We all make assumptions, it's a part of our humanity. Acknowledging that means that we can deconstruct a few from time to time. Challenge our thinking or reconfirm our beliefs. It could be as simple as looking through our salad lens, focusing on the ingredients and discovering healthier ways to reconnect with old favorites like Caesar salad. To quote Lemony Snicket:
Making assumptions simply means believing things are a certain way with little or no evidence that shows you are correct, and you can see at once how this can lead to terrible trouble. The Austere Academy
So whether it's a recipe, something we watched on the tube or read on the Internet, best to do some digging before we arrive at our conclusion and open a new path to assumption. Maybe it's a good time to dust off a few lingering assumptions and check out the appendices rather than just open to the diet plan part of the book. Learning happens everywhere, but only if you are open to the view. Peace.Print
This crazy-good vegan Caesar salad with coconut bacon, crunchy oil-free croutons, and creamy almond Caesar dressing comes with a clean bowl guarantee.
- 2 cups coconut flakes
- 1 Tbsp. Tamari or soy sauce
- 1 Tbsp. vegan Worcestershire sauce (optional)
- 1 Tbsp. maple syrup
- 1 Tbsp. liquid smoke
- ½ tsp. smoked paprika
- 5 cups of dry bread cubes
- 2 Tbsp. lemon juice
- 2 tsp. Tamari or soy sauce
- 2 Tbsp. vegetable broth
- 1 tsp. thyme
- 1 tsp. oregano
- 1 tsp. garlic powder
Almond Caesar dressing
- ¼ cup blanched (peeled) almonds ground into a powder
- 1/2 cup plant milk
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 Tbsp. lemon juice
- 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
- 1 Tbsp. rice vinegar
- ½ tsp. ground black pepper
- 1 Tbsp. capers
- 1 head romaine or butter lettuce, chopped (or other lettuce of your choice)
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes halved
- 1 small red onion, cut in half and then sliced into half-moons
Timing tip: start by making coconut bacon first and then prep the croutons. Make the dressing and prepare the rest of the salad while the croutons bake.
- Preheat the oven to 375 and line a baking tray with parchment paper or a baking mat.
- In a small mixing bowl, combine the Tamari, Worcestershire sauce, maple syrup, liquid smoke, and smoked paprika.
- Add the coconut flakes and mix well so they are thoroughly covered.
- Spread the coconut flakes on the baking tray and place them in the oven.
- Bake for 15 minutes, tossing the flakes a few times as they bake so they crisp on both sides. Be careful that they don't burn, they will crisp a bit more as they cool.
- Once they are baked, remove the coconut bacon and spread them on a plate to cool.
- Preheat the oven to 4000 F (2000 C).
- Line a baking tray with parchment paper or a baking mat.
- Cube the bread and place them in a bowl, preferably with a lid.
- In a small bowl, combine the 2 Tbsp. lemon juice, 2 tsp. Tamari or soy sauce, 2 Tbsp. vegetable broth, 1 tsp. thyme, 1 tsp. oregano, 1 tsp. garlic powder and ½ tsp. smoked paprika.
- Be sure all the ingredients are well mixed and then add them to the bread cubes. Immediately toss the cubes or even better, if you have a lid, seal the bowl and shake so the bread cubes are covered.
- Spread the bread cubes on the line baking tray and bake the croutons for 20 minutes until they are hard and crispy. Toss the cubes a few times so they brown on all sides.
- Remove the croutons and allow them to cool.
- Note: you can start the croutons baking along with the coconut bacon – the croutons will just take a bit longer.
Almond Caesar dressing
- Use a spice grinder to break ¼ cup to grind the almonds into a fine powder.
- In a blender, combine at almonds, 1/2 cup plant milk, minced garlic, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, and rice vinegar. Blend until smooth. Add more plant milk if you want a thinner consistency.
- Transfer the blended dressing to a small bowl and fold in the pepper and capers.
Assemble the salad
- To assemble the salad, add the lettuce, tomatoes, red onion, coconut bacon, and croutons.
- Mix in the salad dressing or serve the dressing on the side.
- Nutritional information is based on 6 generous side servings.
- Beyond the cherry tomatoes and red onion, this salad is great with fresh or roasted red pepper slices or even shredded carrots.
- We had good luck dressing the salad and adding the croutons and coconut bacon and keeping the leftovers in the fridge overnight. It was still crispy the next day. That said, if you think you’ll have leftovers, serve the dressing on the side.
- Category: On the Side
- Cuisine: Italian
Keywords: Vegan Caesar salad with coconut bacon