I originally bought this book my Mother for Christmas. She said she wanted to eat more vegetables, so I thought this would be a great book for that. At the time my Mom was living with my sister while looking for a new home, so my sister ended up flipping through and liking a few recipes. So she bought the book for herself.
Funny thing is for awhile my Mother and my sister would tell me to make a recipe from the book, and I keep pointing out that I don’t own it. I still don’t. I’ve been checking out from the library. I think I was afraid because the book is so small. Did I REALLY need a whole book on salads? Answer- yeah- I really do.
After reading Jenny Marie’s cook-a-long monthly challenge, I thought it would be fun to share some posts reviewing the book as well. If you have a blog with a review (specifically of the recipes), leave a comment and I will add you to the list.
Not a big fan of the black side bars. Although I LOVE how visually it is different from other cookbooks, it is easy to leave marks on it. I think the biggest issue is the fact that it is a salad cookbook, meaning you are using oil for dressings, and I left quite a few greasy finger prints on the side (right where you touch to turn the page!). And since this is a library book, I could easily see which recipes other patrons made (hello Fiery Fruit and Quinoa Salad!) Naturally my vegan mind is racing- are they vegan? Are they omnivores diving into the vegan world? Did they like it?!
As always I love the photos in the book. They are done by my second favorite food photographer (my main man will always be Ted *insert winkie face*) Vanessa K Rees. I’ve mentioned it in other reviews, but she has worked with Romero before for Protein Ninja and Moskowitz for Isa Does It. You will recognize her signature style photographing from above. If you want a preview of the sexy photography there are some on her website.
What I do love about the photos is that the images aren’t unrealistic. Nothing bothers me more than inaccurate photos. I’ve caught a few photos in other books where CLEARLY different vegetables are in the dish, or the color is unattainable. What I like about these photos is the dishes are shown as a reasonable end result. The green apples are big chunks for the Reubenesque salad for example. And there notes when they are being fancy, like in the Mermaid salad (no, I sadly didn’t make this) They spiralized the beets instead of julienned them.
The book is divided up by the introduction/information, dressings, side salads, salad toppers, spring, summer, fall, winter, and then breakfast ‘salads.’ The last chapter is clearly bending the definition of a salad, and frankly the easiest to ignore. Sorry. But I am glad she divided the recipes up by seasons. Yeah, sure you can make a winter salad in the summer (or vise versa) but if you have a CSA share, you would much rather wait till the summer when the produce is super fresh, knowing it will taste better. This is also why I have tried mostly the winter and fall salads, I keep making salads during this time of the year.
I feel a little crazy writing this- but Romero’s writing is a little bland in this. Sure there is a lot of wit and spunk in the introduction, but not as much personality in the descriptions. Maybe I am just imagining that? Regardless, I think my favorite part of the book- no diet talk. No talk about gurl you gonna be so thin with this salad talk.
Vegans have a love hate relationship with salads. So many times we know in the back of our minds that if we go to a restaurant there will “always be a salad option.” A lot times it is sad and pathetic- iceberg lettuce, oil and vinegar, and subpar veggies cut in large chunks. I had a similar issue when living with my in-laws. Although they are great cooks, every single dinner included a side salad with oil and vinegar. I think they genuinely enjoyed this, but I couldn’t help but think of better uses of the lettuce.
Salads have been morphed into the pinnacle of diet culture and clean eating. It has been called out for being an excuse to starve yourself, and for being overrated. Most salads in American culture are either heavy fat-calorie bombs (pasta salad, chicken/tuna/egg salad and the like) or watery-crunchy-vegetable based meals that are so bland you need to drench them in dressings.
But if you ever got a salad from a higher-end restaurant, you will know they are so much more. It is a delicate balance of flavors as you only have a few ingredients, they need to work with each other. There is also the question of quality, if your produce isn’t at it’s peak quality your salad is lacking. And this is what Romero addresses in her book. She wants you to use produce when it is fresh- and that’s why she organizes everything by season. She wants people to eat well thought out, flavorful salads that are more than lettuce, cucumber, and radishes.
Pretty much Romero wants to take salads away from rich white women who are littering their wellness Pinterest boards with expensive fancy looking salads, and trying to democratize them. They are filling, full of flavor, and pretty affordable. Salads, at least in this book, are for everyone. And I love Romero for being able to accomplish that.
As with all my cookbook reviews, I try my best to leave links with recipes that are online BUT are up there with the publishers permission. I also won’t link recipes that might stray too far away from the recipe (which some bloggers do) I also made sure I provided at least one recipe from each section of the book.
Avocado & Tofu Breakfast Bowl with Carrot Ginger Dressing
Section: Sweet & Savory
This recipe is from the Breakfast section- though it isn’t very breakfasty. Well.. I guess I should be eating my words because while reading this recipe I couldn’t help but think “this is really similar to the salads I ate while working at Animo.” Yup around 10-11 I usually ate a big ol salad before the lunch rush, and it was pretty similar to this. No there wasn’t any tofu, or corn, but I usually put a big wallop of guac and salsa and tossed it all together.
So, this was really easy to put together, the longest part is the pressing of the tofu. I used extra firm tofu so that helped. It probably took 15 minutes total. I didn’t like the rub that much for the tofu, and I used salsa since I ran out of carrots so I couldn’t make the dressing. I also forgot to add the avocado, so oops. This is a really big salad, and probably best to divide (with the avocado) into three meals. I was pretty stuffed by the end.
Back to the Ranch Dressing
Section: Dressed to Thrill
To say this dressing isn’t yummy would be a lie. But it isn’t ranch. I feel like Romero was trying to make a light dressing so you can be very generous with the dressing. The end result is a dressing that prevents a dry salad, but isn’t as tangy or rich as a normal ranch dressing. I also understand that she was probably trying to avoid non-dairy substitutes. The best ranch dressings I’ve made usually have a little vegan mayo. BUT I know my sister tried to use this dressing for the Caesar salad, and it just didn’t compare to the Oh She Glows recipe. So I wish she made it more like real ranch.
Backyard Buffalo Ranch Caesar Salad
Recipe: My Darling Vegan
This is a pretty winning combo, though technically not very original. And therefore I will be a little nit-picky because of that. One thing is the dressing, Back to the Ranch Dressing, isn’t ranch-y enough. I think I would prefer to use a different recipe. The second thing is that the tofu wasn’t buffalo-sauce-y enough! I personally would prefer to bake the tofu with extra sauce, even something as minimal as 1 extra tablespoon. Baking the tofu in the sauce would intensify the flavor. I am also aware that baking wouldn’t be as nice during the summer, which is the season this is categorized as.
But I like the mix of veggies in the salad. Lots of lettuce, a little cabbage, carrot, and celery. My only complaint is that this salad could be made almost anytime of the year. Maybe it would make more sense in the winter section since these are veggie that are fine during the winter. But this a yummy and HUGE salad!
Beet Ball ‘N’ Fries Salad
Recipe: Taste Space
This was a yummy flavor combo but I had a little trouble with the beet balls. They were very delicate, but that might of been because my lentils didn’t cook all the way with the instructions provided. I am wondering if a soften lentil would of resulted in a better ball?
I think my husband just wanted to have beet burgers and fries, but I kind-of liked the salad combo. Maybe because it means more dressing? Maybe because I just want more lettuce? Who knows. It is a great way to satisfy a burger craving when you know you need to cram in a few more veggies in your meal.
Blueberry Tamari Greens Bowl
Recipe: Taste Space
I’ll level with you guys- I made this salad maybe a year ago? I remember very little about SOME OF IT. Like I can’t remember if I actually made the Ginger Tofu or Tamari Almonds. I can’t remember if I used premade pressed tofu, and plain almonds. But I remember this recipe because I JUST missed tatsoi from my CSA. But I was able to make this with baby spinach, fresh blueberries, and cucumber.
This is a powerhouse of textures and flavors. Salty from the dressing and sweet from the blueberries. Squishes blueberries, crewy tofu, heck, even two types of crunchy (almonds and cucumbers!) The biggest issue with this recipe is that I rarely get blueberries. I am bit of a snob and most grocery store blueberries just don’t cut it for me. But I can’t wait till next spring.
Section: Seriously Hearty Salad Toppings
This is a recipe so dum-dums like me know how to make a basic crouton. It is pretty easy to free style it though. I used pumpernickel bread because I wanted it for the reubenesque salad. I also used it on a vegan beer cheddar soup. It worked, though anything I say will seem pretty unenthusiastic. I am not a crouton fan. And if you are wonder why have a crouton recipe, sadly lots of croutons use cheese. So if you are lazy, check those labels.
Coconut Samosa Potato Salad
Recipe: Vivid Life
This is my sister’s favorite recipe in the book and has declared that the price of the book is worth it just for this one recipe. So naturally I made sure I went out of my way to make this recipe for the review.
The recipe can come off looking REALLY intimidating. So many little things to do! But it isn’t as bad as what it looks. Most can be done while the potatoes boil, though the stuff I had the hardest time with as toasting the coconut and roasting the papadums. Overall the papadums are easy to roast, but take some time since you can do only one at a time, and almost all were broken in the package I bought.
But the end result is VERY yummy, and MUCH MORE than 2 servings. I have no idea who has a stomach that big. I mean I can see it with some of the big lettuce based salads, but a potato based one? Hmm… nope not really. I’ve seen other “samosa” styled potato salads, but I like how this one is a oil and lime juice based one. It makes the salad lighter than most potato salads. Plus there is a little protein with the chickpeas so it isn’t a complete starch and carb fest.
Galapagos Islands Dressing
Section: Dressed to Thrill
I’m going to level with you guys- this was the first time I’ve made Thousand Island dressing, and it is kind-of gross. I mean it tasted good, but who the heck thought mixing ketchup and pickles in a thick creamy dressing would be a good idea? I made it for the Beet Ball ‘N’ Fries Salad and it worked very well for it.
Kimchi Black Rice with Asian Pear
I love this recipe. I had pretty much everything on hand, because I am a little lucky. I had made kimchi ages ago (still need to use that up!) and my local orchard actually grows asian pears. Oddly we have a local tofu plant near me, so hey, this is turning out to be quite a locally sourced dish! I had to buy some black rice, and use frozen edamame. It all works so well with each other, the plump edamame, the toothsome black rice, the crunchy pear, salty tofu, and the acidic kimchi. I am very happy that she gives instructions on how to cook the black rice since the bag of rice I bought provided none. I strongly recommend making this dish.
Smokehouse Chickpeas ‘N’ Greens Salad
I am in love with this salad. It is super easy to put together and doesn’t take much time. This makes it the perfect summer time dinner (even though it is listed as fall). Just sauté the chickpeas for a few minutes. Chop and clean the veggies. And whisk together the vinaigrette. Simple as that. The dish is so simple and overall amazing I barely have anything to say except
1) The dressing was a little too much. I think next time I would pre-toss the lettuce and veggies before hand with half of the dressing recipe. I think the chickpeas have enough flavor that the dressing makes the dish overall pungent.
2) Just make this friggin dish.
Tempeh Reubenesque Salad
Recipe: The Blender Girl
This salad looked sad. That is my fault. I didn’t want to buy red cabbage since I still had cabbage leftover from my CSA. So it looked so pale and white. But- it still tasted good. I picked this salad because I love sauerkraut in salads. Just a quick note- the recipe link above either made a typo or had similar issues with the salad and uses a whole cup LESS of sauerkraut than the book. So what is that issue? Too sour. I think the mix of the dressing, sauerkraut AND green apple it is just too tart. I hardly noticed the green apple, so I think I would just ditch it in the future.
The other issue I had with this salad is that there is a good bit of prep work. Not too big of a deal for a dinner, make the dressing, make the tempeh, and toss the rest. But if you are meal prepping for lunch, this seems like a lot of work since it only makes two salads. Yeah yeah, you can double the recipe no sweat I guess. Overall this wasn’t my favorite salad, probably my least favorite, but nothing horrible. Much of it is just personal preference (like croutons, not a big crouton fan)
In defense of this salad- Wolfie LOVED this dish. He kept eating the cabbage-apple-sauerkraut mix that was covered in dressing. I kept the croutons and tempeh for myself (the croutons are not baby safe)
That 70’s Tofu
Section: Seriously Hearty Salad Toppings
This tofu is simple to make, but is a little time consuming. Why? Mostly because you have to press (that takes time) then marinade (that takes time), then bake (also taking time) Not a big deal for a lazy weekend around the house, but annoying if you are planning to make this salad for weekday lunches. I ate this with the Kimchi Black Rice with Asian Pear.