Like the majority of all the vegans of the world, I have been eagerly anticipating the release of Terry Hope Romero's new book, Salad Samurai, for the past several months. I'm so glad it was released in early summer, since it's salad season. I keep saying that I'm going to eat only salad, wake up early and exercise every day, run after work, and be the most fantastic vegan of all time, and I'm going to totally dive in starting July 1st-- but that's big talk from someone who ate two cookies for breakfast this morning...
Seared Garlic Chickpeas, Spinach & Farro (and Arugula)
The release of Salad Samurai has helped me at least begin to get on track for my planned month of healthy eating habits and exercise. I've been making tons of salad, and all of them taste totally amazing. I want to eat all of them, so kudos to someone making me crave salad, my arch-nemesis. Most vegans go out to eat begrudgingly to some random chain restaurant with their friends and look at the menu, anticipating the worst, and then seeing their only option-- the garden salad; with no cheese, please. People assume that vegans really like to eat salad, and only salad, as if it fills us up and makes us love our lives. Disclaimer to all non-vegans: Maybe your vegan friends smile and grin and bear it when you suggest Buffalo Wild Wings as a good place to go when you get together, but inside, your vegan friend is like WTF?!?
Left: Smokehouse Chickpeas 'n' Greens Salad, Right:Pepperoni Tempeh Pizza Salad
And listen, it isn't like we HATE salad, we just don't appreciate your run-of-the-mill, average, pathetic bowl of rabbit food that is placed in front of us while we watch all our friends eat slices of pizza. Salad, for a meal, needs to have a little something going on. It needs to hit all the bases for flavor, texture, temperature, and nutrition. A bowl of iceberg lettuce is neither nutritious nor satisfying. We need lots of players on our salad team! We need chickpeas for protein, peas for snap, avocado for creaminess, and cucumbers for crunch! Arugula for pepperyness, Soy-glazed tofu or mushrooms for saltiness, raisins for sweetness, capers for tanginess, lemon for zing, and tahini dressing for mmmmmmmm. The salads in Salad Samurai deliver all of these required features and more.
Pesto Cauliflower & Potato Salad
If you're thinking of how long it takes to make a salad, you're probably thinking, "not long!" And you'd be right. To make the salad really sing, a few items need to be prepped, but if you are comparing it to how long your average Sunday Dinner takes you to make, well then you could probably have 10 gourmet salads made with their personal effects and all, for every lasagna you crank out.
Some farro, cooling, and seared garlic chickpeas
We really loved all the salads we made, but the first two especially so. The Pesto Cauliflower & Potato Salad, and the Seared Garlic Chickpeas and Spinach Salad were really perfect. We decided to make them in the morning, and pack them up and take them to McCarren park for a Sunday Picnic lunch! It was quite adorable. Alex made the croutons, even though neither recipe called for them, just 'cause. He likes being on "crouton duty." :)
A very adorable picnic lunch
She has a "breakfast salad" chapter at the end too, which interested me, after having fallen into a smoothie rut.. I actually got sick from a bunch of bananas I bought and froze, and haven't smoothied since! I'd been curious about trying overnight oats, and this recipe came the the right time. I really dig the oats! The creme is definitely necessary for sweetness, though. Good thing it's easy to make ahead, and it lasts for 3-4 days.
Overnight Oats with Mexican Chocolate Creme
Inside, you will find a cure for every craving; something creamy, something spicy, something crisp, crunchy, sweet, salty, savory, hearty, chewy, tender... Everything you want is in this book.
Left: Mexican Roasted Corn Salad with Avocado (Esquites), Right: Italian Wedding Farro Salad
This book has a really great variety of salads, all separated by the seasons, to help you utilize the produce that's in season all year round. Each salad is definitely well thought-out, with no throw-aways. I've made a whole lot of salads that were really meh, but all these look like they were made by someone who's sick of eating "meh" salads. She talks about how her palate is growing up alongside her-- for example, she doesn't really crave cookies and cupcakes the way she used to, now she craves more healthful things like smoothies, and even salads! I think I'm experiencing a similar shift, too. I mean, I don't really bake cakes for myself the way I used to all those years ago. I'm trying to do better by myself, my body, and my mind. What I'm looking for is my own version of "soul food", and I don't mean "comfort food." Food that I can feel like I am eating to improve myself. I want to wake up and feel like I helped prepare yesterday for today by eating, behaving, and practicing habits that will contribute to my well-being. Too many mornings of my life have I woken up thinking, "I need to eat better." I'm old enough now that I feel it's really time for those habits to begin. So in my own way, I feel like I really "get" what Terry is trying to say with Salad Samurai. It's time to do right by ourselves, and damn, is it delicious.