Every time I hear about a new vegan cookbook, a little thrill runs through me. My family would tell you that I have an obsession (it’s all I ask after for birthdays and holidays, and my kitchen shelf overfloweth). I would simply tell you that it’s good to have a full arsenal of vegan recipes at hand. You never know who will stop by that you need to impress!
One of my recent acquisitions came about after listening to an episode of Victoria Moran’s Main Street Vegan podcast, in which it was casually mentioned that there was a cookbook in print composed solely of recipes for salads. Intrigued, I ran out a few days later and got my hands on a hot little copy of Salad Samurai – 100 Cutting Edge, Ultra-Healthy, Easy-to-Make Salads You Don’t Have to Be Vegan to Love.
I confess – I hesitated a little bit at the purchase as I flipped through the book – would I really use a cookbook dedicated to nothing but salads? I often pack an awesome rainbow of salads into my lunchbox for work – it’s one of the key ways I ensure I get my fill of veggies in a day. So I can already pour on the protein and whip together a homemade dressing with the best of ’em. What could this book teach me that I didn’t already know?
Hint: I got over myself and purchased the book anyway. I have never been so happy to be so wrong.
Salad Samurai is a book that gets you excited about salad. Like, take-extra-time-in-the-evenings-to-prep&pack-for-tomorrow excited. Or spend-a-Sunday-evening-planning-every-night-from-this-book excited. Flipping through the pages, I find myself having a hard time penning down what I want to try next, and I’ve had it around a few weeks!
First off, this is a cookbook packed with page-after-page of gorgeous color photos – it certainly ups the standard for gorgeous vegan cookbooks. The first pages are filled with helpful tips for planning ahead, keeping produce fresh, a walkthrough of several lesser-known ingredients, and tips for serving and styling salads. Terry Hope Romero then takes you through a chapter each of dressings and vinagrettes – 13 of them, with additional variation suggestions for each – and self-proclaimed “seriously hearty” salad toppings. I spent my first weekend in these first few chapters, making Back At the Ranch dressing, 5-Spice Tamari Almonds, Classic Croutons, Red-Hot Saucy Tofu, Coconut Bacony Bits, and Tempeh Bacon Bites.
Following the toppers, the recipes are divided by season – Spring, Summer, Winter, and Fall – to make prime use of the vegetables, fruits, and greens that are available. (If you live at your local farmer’s market like I do, you’ll appreciate this extra step!) The spring salads make use of juicy berries, fresh tender spring greens, and even take kale for a spin on the grill! There’s a Strawberry Spinach Salad with Orange Poppy Seed Dressing; Seared Garlic Chickpeas, Spinach, and Farro; and a Couscous with Snap Peas & Za’atar Dressing.
Diving into summer (the thickest section, of course), you’re introduced into an East-West Roasted Corn Salad, Pepperoni Tempeh Pizza Salad, and one of my current favorites, Backyard Buffalo Ranch Caesar Salad (pictured below – the red hot tofu is the best!). Fall brings on hearty umami flavors including a crowd-pleasing Smokehouse Chickpeas ‘N’ Greens Salad (This! Everything about it – SO GOOD), a Grilled Miso-Apple & Brussels Sprouts Salad, and even a Monday Night Red Bean & Rice Salad. One thing to note – Terry takes a wide view of what goes into a salad – recipes include grains, soba or sesame noodles, and even rice paper wrappers. These are a few of the tools she uses to transform the salad from a dainty side-dish to a mouth-watering meal. Her winter salads incorporate hearty produce (cabbage, beets, sweet potatoes) and warming proteins (Seitan Steak Salad with Green Peppercorn Dressing, anyone?) – some others I intend to try are the Gingery Beets & Lentils with Tahini and Agave Nectar, Pomegranate Quinoa Holiday Tabouli, and Tempeh Taco Salad Bowl.
This cookbook does not end with salads. The last section is dedicated to sweet and savory breakfast dishes (yes, salad for breakfast!) This includes a Coconut Carrot Cake Salad (I NEED this in my life soon), Apples ‘N’ Quinoa Bowl à la Mode, and Overnight Oats with Mexican Chocolate Creme. (There is no excuse – NO EXCUSE! – for having a boring vegan breakfast with this book around!)
A couple of other notes:
- Several of the recipes in the book build off of one another (a single salad recipe may point to a recipe for a dressing, and a separate recipe for marinated tofu, for example). None of the recipes are particularly time-consuming on their own, but it may take some planning ahead to make sure you have all of your ingredients lined up – there are tips in the front of the book on how to best time prepping of dressings, toppings, and greens.
- Some of the dressings make use of unroasted cashews. It’s recommended to soak these in advance in hot water for 30 minutes, such that they are blended completely smooth to form the base of the recipe. Again, not a hard step, but something to factor in to planning a meal. (If you have a high speed blender, you probably don’t have to worry about this. Also, can I come over and look at your blender?)
- Most of the ingredients in the book are easy-to-find. There are a few that are harder to find, especially if you live in a rural area (e.g., goji berries, 5-spice powder). It’s recommended to look for such items online if they aren’t available locally.
- Recipes are marked as “Raw Ready” or “Gluten-free”. Many of the recipes call for oil, sometimes in larger amounts. I’ve had no trouble scaling back the oil used – everything is still flavorful.
- Accessibility Notes: Most recipes call for chopping, shredding, or grating things up, some deal with hot skillets and require energy for cooking grains, and others rely on blender power. A sharp knife, box grater, julienne peeler, or mandoline is recommended. As noted above, some recipes are linked to others and should be scoped out to determine the full physical load.
All in all, I consider Salad Samurai to be a solid addition to my cookbook collection; it’s already one that I turn to regularly. The recipes are highly creative and full of flavor, and there’s lots to experiment with here. I highly recommend you get your hands on a copy – vegan or not, there’s something here for nearly everyone to enjoy.