VIVA LA MEXICO and VIVA ITALIA!
Yes, ladies and gentleman we have both Mexico and Italy to thank for the culinary superstar known as Caesar salad. Caesar salad was invented by Italian American Caesar Cardini while he was operating his restaurant in Tijuana Mexico. Cardini was a restaurateur who had restaurants in both San Diego and Tijuana. He was reportedly in Mexico to avoid Prohibition Era laws.
In fact, Caesars in Tijuana, still remains today.
I for one am thankful to Mr. Cardini and his invention, because in the Rawganic household we are a family of Caesar salad lovers. However, since we don’t eat dairy or olive oil, Caesar salad is something we generally only do at home. Most restaurants use an emulsified bottled version of Caesar filled with preservatives and flavor chemicals. But even at authentic fresh food restaurants, they use the cheese/egg/olive oil version of the salad.
We’ve made many different versions of raw vegan Caesar dressing, and some non-raw versions with roasted garlic instead of raw. And, we always try different “add-ons”. But ultimately, to truly satisfy like a real Caesar salad, there must be some key components including the savory, creamy, tangy, and crunchy combination.
FIRST IS THE LETTUCE
My personal favorite lettuce to use for Caesar is the baby Romaine (Cos). The baby Romaine is so tender, perfectly crisp and has a super bright green-ness to it that can’t be beat. I think Caesar salad MUST be crunchy, and the lettuce is the first step in the crunch. The worst Caesar salads to me are the ones that are soggy and soaked in dressing. But I also like to add in a few leaves of dark Lacinato/Dinosaur Kale for added depth and nutrients.
THEN THERE IS THE SHARP BITE OF THE GARLIC
Again, we have played around with fresh raw garlic versus roasted. I just love garlic whether it’s fresh and raw or roasted and creamy. Garlic to me can do no wrong. It is less time consuming to use raw garlic cloves than to wait for it to roast, but you can always substitute roasted garlic in place of the raw for an twist on the traditional Caesar flavor profile.
CRUNCH AND PROTEIN
Traditional Caesar salads have crunchy, crispy croutons on top made from bread chunks. While this is fine, and still fits into the vegan category, I think it’s boring. Hard-as-rocks gluten nuggets don’t do it for me. At all. So my version swaps out the croutons and substitutes with crispy, crunchy, sweet and garlicky roasted chickpeas. Adding the chickpeas is not only healthier than bread, contains far more nutrients, and tastes better in my opinion, but also puts the salad into the category of a main dish. In many restaurants you see Caesar salad topped with fish or chicken. The animal-free version topped with these sublime chickpeas gives you the sustenance to make it a meal.
LAST BUT NOT LEAST, THE DRESSING
The dressing is often the most significant part of any salad. Really, it can make or break it. I’m picky. I’ve said this before about brownies made with black beans, I just won’t eat something if it tastes like a fake version of what I really feel like eating. When I sit down to a meal, I want to savor every bite, taste every taste, and fully enjoy it. Lots of “healthy” salad dressings fall into that category for me. I don’t want to eat a salad that tastes like I made fruit juice and poured it all over the salad. If I want fruit, I’ll just eat fruit, make a smoothie or make a juice. I don’t want my salads tasting like that.
Traditional Caesar is made with eggs, olive oil, lemon, Parmesan, Worcestershire sauce, and anchovies. So clearly, other than the lemon, all of the other ingredients are not happening. But, we still have to provide the sharp bite of the garlic, the umame that you get from the Worcestershire, the tang and saltiness from the anchovies, the heaviness and creamy mouth-feel of the eggs and the Parmesan, finalized with the bright citrus of the lemon. So, here is my favorite all time Vegan Caesar salad with Maple Garlic Roasted Chickpeas.
My recipe uses creamy cashews and macadamia nuts for the creamy mouth-feel of Caesar, fresh raw garlic, fresh lemon juice, and the umame comes from the Miso. The crunch comes from both the lettuce and the roasted chickpeas! I hope you love this as much as we do.
Ingredients For The Salad:
- 8 cups of baby Romaine (Cos) lettuce (substitute with other greens if you choose)
- 6-8 leaves of Lacinato Kale
Ingredients For The Dressing:
- 1/4 cup raw cashews (soaked 2 hours)
- 1/2 cup raw macadamia nuts (soaked 2 hours) (You can substitute with pine nuts)
- 3 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 2 medium cloves garlic, chopped
- 2 teaspoons miso (I use mild white organic miso)
- 1 tsp Himalayan salt
- 2 dates (pitted)
- 1/2 cup filtered water (to thin as needed)
Using a blender, combine all ingredients until very smooth. You can add more or less water, depending on how thin you like your dressing.
Ingredients For The Roasted Chickpeas:
- 1 (15-oz) can chickpeas (or 1.5 cups cooked)
- 1 Tablespoon coconut oil
- 1 teaspoon maple syrup
- 1/2 tsp Himalayan salt
- 2 garlic cloves chopped finely (can substitute with 1.5 tsp garlic powder)