The Vegetarian Resource Group Blog

Cold Salads for Warm Months

Posted on July 26, 2011 by Nina Casalena, The VRG Blog Editor

This article originally appeared in Vegetarian Journal Issue 2, 2010. To subscribe, either: Join VRG online with $25, call us at (410) 366-8343 and order by phone with your Mastercard® or Visa®, or complete this form.

Cold Salads for Warm Months

Salads have been eaten in one form or another since humans started eating. The original caveman (or, more politically correct, caveperson) diet was a type of moveable salad bar of wild veggies, tree fruit and nuts, and seasonal berries. The only thing missing was salad dressing!

Segue several millennia to 1920s Hollywood. The movie industry included salads on its list of things to make glamorous. The Brown Derby was the place to be seen, but not with lettuce on your blouse or tomato seeds blotting your lipstick. The Cobb salad (named after the chef who invented it) was the response to a see-and-be-seen Hollywood lunch crowd. Bite-sized lettuce pieces were topped with ribbons of crumbled tomatoes, avocado slices, bacon, bleu cheese, and eggs. Tossed with dressing, the chopped Cobb was easy to eat while diners smiled for the camera.

Create your own vegan Cobb with soy crumbles, smoked tofu pieces, and shredded vegan cheese. To ramp up the nutrition in this salad, sneak in baby spinach, arugula, or romaine with the iceberg lettuce.

The Caesar salad was a south-of-the-border invention for the movie star set. Tijuana was an exotic town within three hours' drive of Hollywood, with the extra-added attraction of legal booze. (Remember that short historical event, Prohibition, was in full swing at the time.) Tony Caesar and his brother ran a Tijuana restaurant frequented by the Hollywood crowd. Caught with an empty pantry one Sunday, when the brothers had assumed everyone had headed north for the workweek, the brothers Caesar created a tableside salad from this and that. Or at least, that's how legend has it. It sounds plausible, as a mixture of Romaine lettuce, egg yolks, anchovies, shredded cheese, and croutons sounds more like an emergency solution than a well thoughtout plan, no? How can anyone tell how salad history will be made?

Create a vegan Caesar with shredded nori (dried seaweed sheets used for sushi) added to your favorite vinaigrette for the dressing and shredded vegan cheese of choice.

CREATING A BASIC SALAD

Classically, a salad consists of an underliner, the main body of the salad, a garnish, and the dressing. You may include all or some of the elements of a classical salad or just ad lib. Whatever you choose, be sure to include texture, color, flavor, and visual interest. A scoop of potato-and-lentil salad may taste great but looks blah; a scoop of potato-and-lentil salad on a bed of shredded green and red cabbage or shredded endive and raddichio topped with a radish rose and sprinkled with capers or chopped red onions says, "Time for dinner!"

Streamline your preparation by having basic 'bed' mixtures (chopped romaine, shredded lettuce, mixed greens, and cold cooked starches, such as couscous, cracked wheat, or pasta) and toppings (smoked or extra firm tofu crumbles, soy crumbles, cooked beans or lentils, shredded vegan cheese, etc.) ready but separate. Then, you can build an entrée salad with no additional preparations and no waste of ingredients.

ETHNIC FLAIR

Every nation has its specialty dishes, and this includes salads:

  • The French have the Salade Niçoise, an artfully arranged platter of cold haricots vert (slender green beans), wedged new potatoes, hard-cooked eggs, cold poached tuna, and earthy, flavorful niçoise olives. Create a vegan version with crumbled extra firm tofu instead of eggs and sliced smoked tofu for the tuna.
  • Leftover bread? Choose the Italian method and create a cold bread salad; large croutons of bread are tossed and marinated with chopped tomatoes, onions, oregano, basil, black pepper, chopped olives, and oil and vinegar. Add your favorite cooked beans of choice and a sprinkle of nutritional yeast, and you have a meal!
  • Salads with a Mexican or Southwestern flair can be served in soft or hard tortilla shells. Traditional green salads can be flavor-accented with fresh cilantro and chopped fresh, canned, or pickled chilies (You choose the heat!); tomatoes; onions; chilled black, white, and red beans; fresh corn (cut it right from the cob into the salad); and avocado. Use tomato, mango, pineapple, squash, tomatillo, or grilled vegetable salsas in place of creamy salad dressings or as an ingredient in vinaigrette dressing.
  • Use raita (plain soy yogurt or vegan sour cream with chopped cucumbers, tomatoes, and onions) and chutneys for an Indian flavor in your basic salad dressings.
  • Go Southeast Asian and add red or green chili pasta and soy sauce to create a new salad dressing.
  • Caponata (marinated eggplant salad, available canned) and tapenades (chopped olive pastes) add a Mediterranean idea to both tossed salad greens and to salad dressings. Prepared pestos (a combination of basil or spinach with pine nuts and olive oil) can be used chilled as a salad dressing or added to a creamy salad dressing.
  • Onions, beets, vegan sour cream in the dressing, and for the big spenders, vegetarian caviar add a Russian accent to mixed greens. Try grating fresh beets or shredding canned beets into a baby green salad for sweetness and color. Turn your Thousand Island dressing into a mock Russian dressing with a dab of vegan caviar.

FIRE AND ICE

This is a dramatic way to enjoy salads containing hot and cold ingredients. Generally the 'bed' is cold (tossed greens, chilled couscous, cold pasta), and the topping ingredient (stir-fried tofu, tempeh, seitan, or soy crumbles) hot. Or both the bed and the topping can be cold and the dressing hot.

Have a bed of baby greens chilling, and add some sizzling-hot marinated tofu at the moment you are ready to eat; serve a chilled mixed cabbage salad with freshly cooked, sliced tofu dogs. The same goes for a vegan Caesar salad topped with baked smoked tofu; a spinach-orange salad with a hot smoked vegan bacon dressing; a cold rice noodle salad topped with fiery, chili-laced Tofurky; or a pasta salad topped with a skewer of grilled mushrooms and tomatoes.

GARNISHES

Asian and tropical ingredients can be used as a garnish or as a salad ingredient for more crunch, flavor, and interest. Toss in fresh, frozen, or canned water chestnuts, bamboo shoots, sprouts (beyond soy with radish, broccoli, and sunflower sprouts), mangos, papayas, citrus (such as Mandarin orange, kumquat, blood orange, and Asian grapefruit), and pineapple. Your iceberg will be delighted with the new company.

Make a selection of croutons, which can be seasoned with nutritional yeast, black or white pepper, chili powder, basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary, and sage. Green, black, and stuffed varieties of olives can be chopped to top salads, as well as other pickled vegetables (onions, carrots, peppers, chilies, cauliflower, and celery, often available as a canned mix).

Chutneys can come to the rescue again for crunch, color, and flavor (mint or mango chutney mixed with vinaigrette). Walnuts, almonds, peanuts, and pistachios can be chopped and used in a salad or as a topping, as can sesame, sunflower, and pumpkin seeds. Cold beans and tofu add flavor, color, and protein.

And if a vegetable can be shredded or diced, then it belongs on top of a salad. Think multi-colored peppers, red and white onions, carrots, cauliflower or broccoli, red and green cabbage, summer squash, fresh herbs, mushrooms, and cucumbers, and those are just to get you started!

LOTS OF CRUNCH AND COLOR SALAD

(Serves 8)

  • 2 pounds cooked spinach or soy small-shaped pasta, such as rotini, penne, or small shells (Start with 1 pound or 2 ½ cups uncooked pasta.)
  • 1 ½ cups cooked edamame (fresh soybeans, available frozen)
  • 1 cup roasted soy nuts or chopped walnuts
  • 2 cups fresh bean, radish, or broccoli sprouts, washed and drained
  • ¼ cup chopped scallions
  • 2 Tablespoons peeled and chopped fresh ginger
  • 1 ½ cups orange juice
  • ¼ cup white vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 Tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 clove garlic, minced

In a large bowl, toss pasta, edamame, nuts, sprouts, scallions, and ginger. Set aside.

In a small bowl, combine the orange juice, vinegar, oil, soy sauce, and garlic. Mix well. Add the dressing to the pasta and toss well to combine. Cover and allow salad to chill for at least 2 hours before serving.

Total calories per serving: 12 Fat: 12 grams
Carbohydrates: 46 grams Protein: 21 grams
Sodium: 85 milligrams Fiber: 4 grams

VIETNAMESE 'BEEF' SALAD

(Serves 8)

SAUCE

  • 1 cup rice vinegar
  • 1/3 cup cold water
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar (Use your favorite vegan variety.)
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper

To prepare sauce, combine all ingredients in a non-reactive bowl and stir well until combined.

SALAD

  • 2 cups thinly-sliced sweet onions, such as Vidalia or Maui
  • One Sauce recipe (See above.)
  • Vegetable oil spray
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 pounds smoked tofu or tempeh, cut into
  • 1-inch cubes (approximately 4 cups)
  • 3 Tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • 2 tomatoes, cut into 8 wedges

Place 1 cup of the onions and all of the sauce in a non-reactive bowl. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours, stirring occasionally.

Spray a sauté pan with oil and allow to heat. Add garlic and sauté for 1 minute. Add tofu or tempeh and sauté for 1 minute. Add soy sauce and remaining onions and stir-fry until onions are soft.

Line a serving platter or individual plates with cilantro. Place tomato wedges on top of cilantro and the sauce over tomatoes. Just before serving, place hot tofu or tempeh on top of vegetables.

Total calories per serving: 231 Fat: 10 grams
Carbohydrates: 13 grams Protein: 23 grams
Sodium: 693 milligrams Fiber: 1 gram

FAST SALAD DRESSINGS

INDIAN CURRIED GRAPEFRUIT DRESSING

(Makes approximately one cup or eight 2-Tablespoon servings)

  • ¾ cup unflavored soy yogurt
  • 2 Tablespoons coconut milk
  • 2 Tablespoons grapefruit juice concentrate
  • 1 Tablespoon grapefruit juice
  • 1 teaspoon maple syrup or rice syrup
  • 1 Tablespoon curry powder
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper

Mix all ingredients together in a non-reactive bowl, cover, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes prior to serving.

Total calories per serving: 33 Fat: 1 gram
Carbohydrates: 5 grams Protein: 1 gram
Sodium: 4 milligrams Fiber: <1 gram

MEDITERRANEAN CREAMY DRESSING

(Makes approximately 1 ¾ cup or fourteen 2-Tablespoon servings)

  • 1 cup unflavored soy yogurt or vegan sour cream
  • ½ cup crumbled extra firm tofu
  • 2 Tablespoons white vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon minced fresh basil
  • 1 Tablespoon minced fresh oregano
  • 1 teaspoon white pepper

Mix all ingredients together in a non-reactive bowl, cover, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes prior to serving.

Total calories per serving: 34 Fat: 2 grams
Carbohydrates: 2 grams Protein: 1 gram
Sodium: 8 milligrams Fiber: <1 gram

RETRO GREEN GODDESS

(Makes approximately one cup or eight 2-Tablespoon servings)

  • ¾ cup vegan sour cream
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon minced fresh garlic
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 Tablespoon minced fresh tarragon

Mix all ingredients together in a non-reactive bowl, cover, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes prior to serving.

Total calories per serving: 81 Fat: 5 grams
Carbohydrates: 7 grams Protein: 1 gram
Sodium: 143 milligrams Fiber: <1 gram

SOUTHWESTERN CHILI PEPPER DRESSING

(Makes approximately one cup or eight 2-Tablespoon servings)

  • 1 ounce chopped fresh chilies (You determine the heat!)
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 2 Tablespoons minced onions
  • 2 Tablespoons no-salt-added tomato purée
  • ½ Tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Mix all ingredients together in a non-reactive bowl, cover, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes prior to serving.

Total calories per serving: 65 Fat: 7 grams
Carbohydrates: 1 gram Protein: <1 gram
Sodium: 2 milligrams Fiber: <1 gram

CONTINENTAL SHALLOT AND CAPER DRESSING

(Makes approximately one cup or eight 2-Tablespoon servings)

  • ½ cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped shallots
  • 1 Tablespoon drained capers
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper

Mix all ingredients together in a non-reactive bowl, cover, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes prior to serving.

Total calories per serving: 66 Fat: 7 grams
Carbohydrates: 1 gram Protein: <1 gram
Sodium: 48 milligrams Fiber: <1 gram

THAI PEANUT DRESSING

(Makes approximately ½ cup or four 2-Tablespoon servings)

  • ¼ cup fresh orange juice
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 Tablespoons creamy (not chunky) peanut butter
  • 1 Tablespoon orange juice concentrate
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon chopped fresh chilies

Mix all ingredients together in a non-reactive bowl, cover, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes prior to serving.

Total calories per serving: 63 Fat: 4 grams
Carbohydrates: 6 grams Protein: 2 grams
Sodium: 37 milligrams Fiber: 1 gram

CHINESE SESAME-SOY DRESSING

(Makes approximately one cup or eight 2-Tablespoon servings)

  • ¾ cup rice vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon fresh orange zest
  • 1 Tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons sesame oil
  • 1 Tablespoon minced fresh ginger
  • 1 Tablespoon minced fresh garlic
  • 1/8 cup fresh orange juice

Mix all ingredients together in a non-reactive bowl, cover, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes prior to serving.

Total calories per serving: 35 Fat: 3 grams
Carbohydrates: 1 gram Protein: <1 gram
Sodium: 75 milligrams Fiber: <1 gram

CHOPPED VEGGIE VINAIGRETTE

(Makes approximately one cup or eight 2-Tablespoon servings)

  • 1/3 cup red wine or balsamic vinegar
  • 1/8 cup olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon minced fresh garlic
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped Roma tomatoes
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped bell peppers
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped celery
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped onions
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh oregano
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh basil

Mix all ingredients together in a non-reactive bowl, cover, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes prior to serving.

Total calories per serving: 35 Fat: 3 grams
Carbohydrates: 1 gram Protein: <1 gram
Sodium: 2 milligrams Fiber: <1 gram

ITALIAN SUN-DRIED TOMATO-ROSEMARY VINAIGRETTE

(Makes approximately one cup or eight 2-Tablespoon servings)

  • 8 sun-dried tomatoes (approximately
  • ½ cup), minced
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • ½ Tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh rosemary, minced

Mix all ingredients together in a non-reactive bowl, cover, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes prior to serving.

Total calories per serving: 130 Fat: 14 grams
Carbohydrates: 2 grams Protein: <1 gram
Sodium: 94 milligrams Fiber: <1 gram

Nancy Berkoff is The Vegetarian Resource Group's Food Service Advisor. She is the author of Vegan in Volume, Vegan Meals for One or Two, Vegan Microwave Cookbook, Vegan Menu for People with Diabetes, Vegan Seafood: Beyond the Fish Shtick for Vegetarians, and Vegan Passover Recipes.

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