Total time: 15 minutes
I rarely put the word “vegan” into a recipe because that would get tedious. But the reason I’m using it now is that I want to stress that this is a classic vegan Caesar. Not a classic Caesar, but a salad that vegans have been making for as far back as, I don’t know, the 1980s? The legend goes that some vegan awoke from a long VCR’ed Dynasty marathon, with a yearning for garlic and nutritional yeast… and the vegan Caesar was born.
When translating a Caesar salad, you want to capture the tanginess, the creaminess, the umami and the garlickyness. Vegan versions are all over the map, I’ve even published several kinds of Caesar, but this one is three things that cooks love to hear: quick, easy and simple!
The tahini is the creamy base, lending also an irresistible nuttiness. Nutritional yeast and dijon mustard provide the umami tang, and if your mustard is whole grain you get some texture, too. And then there’s garlic! This dressing is kept easy so that there’s no need to break out the blender, just a coffee mug and a fork will do. Use my tip below for a very lazy method of garlic prepping.
As for accoutrement, well, avocado and chickpeas are certainly my go to. But you can do it up in a gazillion different ways. Here are some of my favorite additions: toasted pine nuts, capers, olives, a handful of cooked quinoa, sliced baked tofu (from a package is fine), sliced warm Chickpea Cutlets (or any chicken-y thing), garlicky sourdough croutons, vegan bacon, (deep breath…ok, proceed), tempeh (Chimichurri or Garlicky Thyme), grilled seitan, grilled asparagus, grilled portobello, roasted squash. See? It’s really fun and versatile. And it will get you totally excited about salad! So crimp your hair, protest Reagan and get ready for some classic vegan deliciousness.
~ If you’re feeling super lazy about peeling garlic, here’s a trick: Grate it on a microplane, with the skin still on. The skin should stay on top of the grater and fall away. You won’t be able to grate the whole clove, but hey, all in the name of laziness! Just be sure not to start at the nub side (you know, that rough spot at the top of the clove) since it’s too rough to grate.
~ And another garlic thing: You don’t have to waste time measuring garlic into a teaspoon, just eyeball it. Since this dressing comes together in a snap, you can adjust to your tastes very easily.
~ Sometimes tahini does this thing where it seizes and looks curdled and stiff when you add water. I don’t know why! I do know that if you give it a minute, it will go back to normal. (Have you ever experience this weird phenomenon?)
1/4 cup tahini
1/4 cup water (plus more for thinning)
2 teaspoons fresh grated garlic (see note)
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes
2 teaspoons whole grain dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 oz romaine (2 hearts), chopped
Handful of baby arugula
15 oz can chickpeas, rinsed and drained (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 avocado diced
Fresh black pepper to taste
Stir together the dressing ingredients in a small bowl, or a coffee mug. Use a fork to blend smooth. Add additional tablespoons of water to thin, as needed. Taste for salt and seasoning. It should be slightly salty, because the saltiness will subside when you dress the salad.
In a large mixing bowl, toss the greens with the dressing. Add the avocado and chickpeas. Serve with fresh black pepper sprinkled on top.