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Are you seeking a different kind of salad? Salad Samurai Terry Hope Romero helps you free your bowl from store-bought dressings and predictable lettuce combinations with her innovative mix-and-match basics. The hearty plant-based proteins, dairy-free “cheesy” toppings, crunchy croutons, and endless leafy, veggie, and fruit options you crave in a satisfying, lip-smacking salad are all right here — for lunch, dinner, or even breakfast.
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Choose Your Own Salad Adventure
The unmistakably hearty, filling, and entirely vegan salad (and soup) recipes in this book are designed to be enjoyed à la carte. Go ahead and cherry-pick to your heart’s content. A dressing on Tuesday night, a tasty tofu to garnish veggies after work, a complete dressed salad for a chill Saturday night dinner, or just some “cheesy” croutons to drop on your own fast salad or even a soup. My hope is that you’ll create a highly customized salad bar that excites your palate. It’s a DIY salad bar that awaits when you open the refrigerator wondering, What’s to eat? so you can show up for salad every damn day.
First step? Stock the fridge with a few Dressings and Toppings (here). At the store, grab the best-looking greens and vegetables, open the fridge, pull out a homemade dressing, and whip up a zesty flavored tofu in the oven while you wash, spin, and chop the produce. Once the tofu (or whatever topping) is ready, it’s just a matter of dressing it all, piling into big bowls, and maybe garnishing with uniquely tasty croutons or crunchy roasted nuts made by you. It’s that easy.
Ah, but lest you still think, Eh, salad is not a meal, my friend, listen up. Flavorful and filling salad toppings are my specialty. I’m not gonna let you go hungry. Even after a decade of vegan cookbook writing, I still believe that tofu, tempeh, and seitan are the most accessible and interesting ways to include filling and wholesome protein into meatless meals. Pair them with legumes (a.k.a. beans and lentils, a.k.a. the other crucial vegan protein), and you are well on your way to insanely hearty salads. But don’t think that’s all that can top your salad; there’s a whole world of entirely plant-based options (beet prosciutto, parsnip, or carrot bacon…).
And what’s salad without dressing? Dressings enhance, garnish, and enliven. They transform naked, raw, or simple roasted produce into meals. For most of us, a salad is defined entirely by what it’s poured with or tossed with. There are clean and sharp vinaigrettes, and rich and silky seed- and nut-based dressings, and a few in-between concoctions that get their body and substance from helpful ingredients like sun-dried tomatoes or mustards. Once you discover how great and easy homemade dressings are, you’ll find it hard to savor a store-bought dressing ever again.
I know there are days where you don’t want to make it up. You just want a recipe that tells you what to eat. Be still; I’ve still got you covered there too. The “complete” recipes (salad and soup, garnished with small salads) are ones that show up for you—you can make ’em as is; they also serve as inspiration to create your combinations. They are the sum of their parts; choose a dressing, make a topping or two, then toss them together with the main attractions: the greens, the vegetables and fruits, or grains, beans, pastas, potatoes. They can be followed to the letter (or used as maps for off-road adventures, inspirations for your own creations). We will all show up for salad in our own way.
SLAY THAT SALAD
The main salad recipes in this book refer to other recipes (dressings and toppings) to pull it all together. To make the most out of your kitchen time, I suggest preparing those smaller recipes in the following order:
Check the pantry and fridge to see what you already have in stock. Maybe you already invested in great olive oil or have a massive box of kosher salt. Soak any nuts to be used for dressings. Simply cover with about 2 inches of warm water in a covered glass container and set on the kitchen counter for 30 minutes or up to 3 hours until the nuts are soft and plump. Different nuts require different soaking, with raw cashews needing less than an hour and almonds up to 3 or more. Or if you’d rather sleep than ponder soaking nuts, let them soak covered and overnight in the fridge.
MAKE THE DRESSING
After presoaked seeds or nuts, most dressings take just minutes to prepare and can rest in the fridge while you do the rest.
MAKE THE TOPPINGS
Roast or cook the toppings. Bread- and vegetable-based toppings recipes in this book such as croutons make a lot, suitable for many salads, so this step will likely set you up with enough for a few recipes.
WASH, SPIN, CHOP
Wash and spin dry the greens, then seal them in an airtight container and keep chilled. If your greens are very fresh (like plucked from the ground that morning kind of fresh), try this method to keep them lively for a week or more: snugly wrap freshly washed yet dripping wet greens in a clean kitchen towel, then loosely wrap in produce bags and store in the fridge. The towel will dampen, wrapping crisp, fresh greens and protecting them from the drying environment of the fridge.
Dice or slice chunky, hard fresh veggies (broccoli, cauliflower, squash, peppers, carrots, green beans) and remove the seeds (if necessary), and store them in the fridge until it’s time to make the salad.
Tomatoes, potatoes, and eggplants are best sliced just prior to preparing (roasting, serving, etc.), as nightshades brown and get weepy as soon as you slice ’em.
ASSEMBLE AND SERVE
It’s salad showtime! Assemble salad on a platter or a pan for eaters to shovel onto their own plates, or just make one serving at a time for individual servings. Start by layering fluffy greens first, then heap on vegetables, grains, and croutons. Drizzle with a little dressing and toss to coat elements with dressing goodness. Layer the proteins on top and scatter on garnishes like chopped herbs or crunchy nuts and seeds. Drizzle with a little more dressing, and pass around any remaining dressing for people to enjoy as they will. Beautiful salads do taste as good as they look.
CHOOSING & STORING GREENS & VEGGIES
I’ll bet you a hundred baby carrots you can spy a fresh-looking vegetable when you see it: firm, bright color, and relatively heavy. The longer vegetables and fruit sit around, the more water they lose, and they start to look shriveled and feel lighter. Greens of all kinds follow the same patterns: look for firm, sturdy leaves and avoid heavily wilted leaves with many yellow or brown patches.
Buying prewashed salad greens in bags or boxes (they are very convenient and, yes, sometimes the best-looking option in the store)? Look at the bottom of the box or bag, through any writing on the package, and skip packages with limp or crushed leaves clumped at the bottom. Chances are these greens are past their prime. If in doubt about the age of washed, packaged greens at home, give them the smell test! Fresh (or fresh enough) greens should smell clean and sweet; older, on-their-way-out greens will have that certain rotten aroma. Yuck! Time to order a pizza! Or instead of a green salad, make a filling grain- or roasted vegetable–based salad instead.
It happens to everyone. You buy a beautiful bunch of kale on Sunday. In a hurry, it goes into the veggie bin in the fridge. By Thursday, life finally slows down enough to make that kale Caesar salad, and those beautiful greens—while still green—are just tired, flabby, and limp.
A deep soak in very cold water will perk up those sad greens! Kale, collards, even tender leaves such as spinach or arugula will firm up when submerged in a big bowl of very cold water for about twenty minutes. Add a few ice cubes if the water isn’t quite cold enough. Drain and spin dry just before making the salad.
WASHING AND DRYING GREENS
Wash every and all greens with plenty of cold water. Fluffy greens and many fresh herbs (such as basil) often come with plenty of sand, great on beaches but unpleasant when biting into a salad. I even wash “triple washed” packaged greens when they look less than stand-up fresh or if there’s any question they may be starting to get a little soft.
By far the easiest way to wash greens at home is with a large salad spinner; any variety should have a colander-like inside that can be used to swish greens around and drain fast. For easy, fast cleaning, I prefer to chop greens, then wash. No salad spinner? Find a huge mixing bowl and cover greens with cold water, swish for a few minutes, then drain. Transfer to a colander to shake away large blobs of water. See, it’s already double the work without a spinner.
Next, dry the greens. Why bother drying washed greens at all? Dressings and vinaigrettes just slide off wet greens, and all that water just dilutes the flavor of the salad. A salad spinner does it in a flash. No spinner still? Gently spread the greens over a large clean kitchen towel. Now roll up the towel, just like rolling up a jelly roll. Gently squeeze the towel roll and repeat again if the greens are still very wet. (But really, get yourself a salad spinner. Totally worth it.)
FIVE KITCHEN TOOLS FOR SALAD SEEKERS
Good tools are essential for making better salads. No matter if you fancy yourself an artist crafting an elegant repast or a handy person bolting dinner together—these tools are essentials in the kitchen rather than simply nice to have. Yes, you can make some kind of salad without them, but your salad-making game will be so much more productive, fun, and rewarding with a Japanese mandoline or a knife sharp enough to slice a tomato. Worried about breaking the bank for salad? Most of the tools below will last you—and you can get most of them for a reasonable price. And you may already have some version of these essentials lurking in your kitchen!
(ACTUALLY SHARP) KITCHEN KNIVES
Chef’s Knife (8- or 10-inch blade)
If you’ve been cutting vegetables up to this point with an ancient steak knife, get ready to have your mind blown. Chef’s knives, when properly maintained, will transform your slow and tedious country-roads chopping into an express HOV superhighway breaking-the-speed-limit chopping. While you’re at it, get yourself a knife steel (the thing that looks like a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle weapon); this does not sharpen the blade but keeps the knife edge straighter for cleaner slicing.
A great knife should not cost more than a new sofa. Quality knives can run between thirty and fifty dollars, have a blade than runs the entire length of the handle, and feel heavy and balanced in your dominant hand. Chef’s knives are designed to rock on the cutting board. The blade should stay in constant contact with the surface. Scour your local T.J. Maxx or Marshalls for discounted knives, or get a knife from my friends at Misen (misen.co), who have made it their mission to create excellent business-class knives (and cookware!) at economy-seating prices.
After you get that knife, learn how to use it. For the most control of you knife, place your thumb on the base of the blade and not just the top of the handle. YouTube is full of great knife skills videos, or see the Misen site (yet again) for some nice displays of chef’s knives in action.
Santoku are classic Japanese kitchen knives, as effective and ranging wildly in price as chef’s knives. Santoku knives have a shorter, wider blade with a rather flat edge, unlike the curved edge of a western knife. If you would rather chop chop chop chop things up and down, instead of scissor rocking back and forth on the cutting board, then consider a santoku knife. Many santoku knife blades have the handy feature of a granton edge (shallow divots near the blade), which help prevent hard, starchy vegetables (potatoes, carrots) from gluing themselves to the blade while slicing. There are beautiful knives with blades rippled like samurai swords that cost hundreds, but you can attack salad recipes effectively with a budget santoku under twenty dollars.
Sharp Knives Spare the Tomato
A heavy knife with a really sharp edge practically cuts vegetables for you. It’s a pity when a good knife is too dull to effortlessly slice a tomato. Hear me out: You are far more likely to cut yourself working with a dull blade than a sharp blade (dull blades can slide from vegetables onto fingers faster than you can blink). Respect your wrists, your knuckles, and hard-earned produce and learn how to keep your kitchen knives sharp. I use a simple sharpening tool (less than ten dollars on Amazon.com) for knife-edge upkeep about once every few weeks. A few times a year, I take my hardworking knives to a professional knife sharpener for a hard-core sharpening. Your salads will look, and even taste, all the better for it!
Y-SHAPED PEELERS (STRAIGHT BLADE, SERRATED, JULIENNE PEELER)
In the eternal struggle to determine which vegetable peeler is best, the Y-shaped peeler wins every time. Great for tired hands, achy hands, big hands and small, the Y-shaped peeler is much more pleasant to use than the standard stick peeler.
The Kuhn Rikon Swiss peeler is worth the hype and the same peelers have lived in my kitchen for years and still blast vegetables to shreds. Beyond the standard blade, a serrated blade is ideal for skinning hard winter squash or bumpy-skinned roots like celeriac. For salads, a julienne blade peeler (with large grooves) creates long, elegant threads of carrot, daikon, cucumber, and the like that are more attractive on salads than the stubby, flat shreds that fall out of a box grater.
I’ve been asked what’s the most-used gadget in my kitchen, and beyond a knife, it may be a salad spinner. Beside drying soft, tender greens perfectly, it’s the ideal thing to wash nearly every vegetable or fruit from kale to blueberries. There are cute little spinners for cleaning 3 lettuce leaves at a time; skip these in favor of the biggest spinner you can fit on your shelf; a 3-quart spinner is the standard for cleaning greens for 3 to 4 servings.
A HUGE STAINLESS STEEL MIXING BOWL (OR A FEW)
I’ve cooked in the kitchens of friends and strangers the world over and often just down the street from my home, and the one thing overall that most people lack (after a suitable kitchen knife) are big mixing bowls! A big bowl, the kind you could cradle a small watermelon starting at about 14 inches wide, is highly effective for making a big salad. They are annoyingly hard to find! I have a set of stainless steel bowls from IKEA’s BLANDA line that after years of cooking look as good as the day I got them, even after making many, many, many salads (and a lifetime of bread and pizza dough for parties too). If you see big stainless steel bowls (or something similar), get them and hold on to them like your salad-making life depends on it.
Another item I can’t find salad happiness without and, like everything else in this list, can be purchased for next to nothing and made out of materials build to last. Pick up a pair or two of stainless steel tongs and get ready to combine salad like a pro!
TOOLS OF HONORABLE MENTION
Not your mother’s or your brother’s French cooking school mandoline! The Japanese mandoline was a revelation to me. I knew well the proper French mandoline—a massive, heavy tool from my ancient cooking school days that cost upward of $300. Hated it. Years later, with a Japanese mandoline in my life, this incredibly useful kitchen tool has changed my salad life unlike any other gadget.
This slim, lightweight, easy-to-store, simple-to-clean device runs about forty dollars. Translucent slivers of daikon or paper-thin slices of zucchini, beets, radishes, and piles of needle-thin cucumber matchsticks slide out of this thing in an instant. The blades are still sword-edge sharp and deserve the same respect as a French mandoline, but cleaning and storing a Japanese mandoline will feel like second nature. Benriner is the brand of choice; steer clear of cheap and flimsy knockoffs. My little “green knob” older-model Benriner mandoline has shredded me through this salad book along with mountains of cucumber and papaya salad meals.
If you’ve ever seen food on Instagram, you know what a mason jar is, but it is worth the mention that quart widemouthed jars are my go-to storage setup. German mason jars are beautiful and interesting, but I find the combination of a rubber gasket, metal clips, and easy-to-chip glass lid too fussy and fragile to bother with.
High-Powered Blenders and Immersion Blenders
Smooth, creamy dressings need a quality blender to get the job done. I love my Blendtec blender with the extremely effective Twister Jar top: The “arms” of the jar lid scrape down the sides of the jar with minimal effort from you. For a more budget-friendly option, consider the Ninja blender. An immersion blender (stick blender) is my sidearm of choice for puréeing soups and making the occasional dressing too. I don’t use food processors often, with the exception of a mini food processor for attacking small batches of chunky dressings or sauces.
THE SALAD PANTRY
Everything but the Veggies
The following pantry items appear throughout recipes in this book. They’re shelf stable and typically sold in generous portions to stretch into many recipes, so grab them on your next shopping trip and don’t be surprised when you find uses for them in many recipes.
Vinegars: Essential for dressing salads. A bottle of apple cider, red wine, sherry, and white wine vinegars will last through many salads.
Oils: Extra-virgin olive oil and grape-seed oil are my preferred oils for vinaigrettes. On occasion, I may use deep green avocado oil or mellow walnut oil in place of grape-seed oil (they are expensive oils but an affordable luxury). Virgin coconut oil and refined coconut oil (coconut oil refined just enough to remove the coconut aroma) show up in a few tofu recipes and soups in this book.
Dried herbs: The standard jars of dried basil, dill, garlic powder, onion flakes, oregano, and thyme are used in many of these recipes.
Spices: Anaheim chili powder, black pepper (ground and whole kernel), cayenne pepper, chipotle chili powder, cumin, curry power, paprika (hot, sweet, and smoked), mustard powder, and turmeric are essential. A few spice blends are also used in many recipes, including Chinese 5-spice powder, Indian garam masala, and Ethiopian berbere. If you can’t find these blends, I’ve included my version of these spice blends too!
Nuts and seeds: I use plenty of unroasted cashews, sesame seeds (roasted, unhulled), sunflower, sliced almonds, walnuts, pepitas (hulled pumpkin seeds), shelled hemp seeds, and chia seeds, which are essential for creamy dressings and crunchy toppings, in these recipes.
Canned: Pantry staples of beans and tomatoes boost the flavor and nutritional content of many salads! Pick up a few cans of black beans, chickpeas, black-eyed peas, tomato paste, and diced tomatoes (plain and fire roasted).
Dried legumes: While they require a little more planning, nothing beats the flavor of homemade beans. A bag of cranberry beans, green lentils, black lentils, French lentils, red lentils, and sprouted mung beans go into many recipes in this book.
Condiments: Most are refrigerated, and a little goes a long way. These recipes make good use of Dijon mustard, hoisin sauce, tamari, wasabi prepared paste or powder, white or yellow miso, and sriracha hot sauce.
Salt: I am picky about salt! Diamond (brand) kosher salt is a flaky, crunchy, lightly textured salt I use for these recipes (see A Word from the Salt Box, here).
These pantry items can be found in some larger grocery chains and natural food stores but are sometimes cheaper in ethnic markets.
Black sesame seeds: Black sesame seeds have a firm bite and a slightly smoky flavor, and they look great sprinkled on any Asian salad.
Gojuchang (Korean red pepper paste) and Korean red pepper powder: There’s simply no substitute for the mellow heat of Korean red pepper products. Gojuchang is thick, sweetened paste made from fermented chiles; if you love sriracha, you’ll be a fan of gojuchang! Korean red pepper powder are fine flakes with mild fruity heat. Do not substitute with red pepper flakes.
Thai bird chiles (Asian, Thai): When it comes to really hot Asian chiles, slim red Thai bird wins every time. Full of flavor along with spark, a small bag will last through many salads. One or two chiles is usually enough for an entire dish.
Soba noodles: This ever-popular buckwheat noodle makes for fantastic summery salads. Udon noodles (wheat noodles) also are regularly on my shopping list.
Sumac powder (Middle Eastern): This maroon powder with a unique sweet-and-sour flavor is made from ground sumac berries. A dusting over salads just before serving adds a final punch of flavor.
Vinegar, rice: A mild, versatile white vinegar that’s another staple in my pantry of vinegars. Great for adding tang to Asian marinades and dressings.
As the line between natural and mainstream grocery stores continues to blur, you’ll likely find these items in some mainstream, well-stocked markets.
Nutritional yeast: The essential vegan food that adds umami, cheesy flavor to so many recipes. If possible, buy it in bulk or by the bagful; this is an ingredient and not just a sprinkle-on condiment. For an added boost of B12, look for brands labeled vegetarian support formula.
Seaweeds (also common in Asian markets): There’s a little bit of seaweed in this book, mostly sushi-grade sheets of nori. If you’re looking to add a little ocean flavor to a dressing, look for powdered arame or wakame seaweed.
Tamari: Japanese-style soy sauce that adds salty richness to so many vegan recipes. Grab a bottle of organic or low-sodium or gluten-free tamari, if desired.
Tofu: For the array of tofu recipes you’ll soon dig into, use only firm or extra-firm water-packed (Chinese style). Note: I don’t use silken shelf-stable boxed tofu in this book.
Tempeh: The firm and nutty fermented soybean cake that’s great grilled, baked, or pan-fried. If you have access to fresh, locally made tempeh, then by all means try it with these recipes.
Seitan: The “meat from wheat” is a gluten lover’s best friend when it comes to hearty, chewy meat substitutes. You can make your own simple steamed version at home (here) or use a ready-to-eat, plain, or flavored seitan off the shelf.
"We loved the Salad Samurai in 2014, so we're really looking forward to this sequel. We'll definitely be showing up for this one."
- On Sale
- Jun 4, 2019
- Page Count
- 304 pages
- Da Capo Lifelong Books