How to CookSalad Dressing

Make This One Dressing, Let It Guide 7 Vegan Meals

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When I’m doing light meal-prep for the week ahead, I always include a slightly creamy salad dressing that doubles as a sauce/condiment for whatever I happen to be fixing up that week. From a quick sandwich to a gloriously stuffed sweet potato, the dressing’s richness ties all of the components and loose ends into a cohesive whole that makes sense.

When I was developing the recipes for The First Mess Cookbook, I honed in on dressings and sauces quite a bit. These are the things that I first pick out from cookbooks because they allow for maximum free-styling with the ingredients that I have on hand.

Photos by Victoria Black, Laura Wright

Raw cashew butter basically holds my entire life together in the kitchen. I blend it with filtered water when I don’t have the foresight to soak nuts or seeds for an alternative milk. I whip it into semi-healthy frostings and drop spoonfuls of it into soups and stews for an extra touch of richness. Here, it forms the base of an unbelievably creamy and garlicky dressing that’s quite versatile. The first thought might be a Caesar salad (and I do go there), but a few other prep moves will give you a week of tasty (and vegan!) meals with this dressing.

Make these things early in the week:

  • A double batch of the creamy garlic dressing
  • 1 sheet pan of basic roasted root vegetables (carrots, beets, and celery root are all great)
  • 1 batch of cooked grains—I like farro, quinoa or millet
Creamy Garlic Dressing

Creamy Garlic Dressing

Laura Wright | The First Mess Laura Wright | The First Mess
Makes 1 cup (250 ml)
  • 1/4 cup raw cashew butter
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely grated with a Microplane grater
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup 2 tablespoons virgin olive oil
  • salt
  • ground black pepper
Go to Recipe

Stock your kitchen with:

  • Greens like lacinato kale and romaine lettuce

  • 1 package of extra-firm tofu

  • 1 loaf of crusty whole grain bread

  • Shallots, garlic, red onions
  • Celery

  • Canned chickpeas and canned black beans
  • Portobello mushrooms

  • Yukon gold potatoes and sweet potatoes
  • Green or red cabbage
  • Vegetable stock

  • Corn tortillas

  • Limes
  • Salsa
Fennel and Mushroom Paté with Grainy Mustard

Fennel and Mushroom Paté with Grainy Mustard by Laura Wright | The First Mess

Za'atar Carrot and Leek Flatbread with Almonds and Fennel Salad

Za'atar Carrot and Leek Flatbread with Almonds and Fennel... by Laura Wright | The First Mess

Here’s how to eat it through the week:

  • Caesar salad with smoky roasted tofu: Cut the tofu into cubes and coat with olive oil, smoked paprika, some tamari soy sauce, and a touch of maple syrup. Roast until crispy, and don’t forget to throw some torn up bread into the oven towards the end for croutons. Tear up some kale and romaine and toss with the dressing. Serve with hot and crispy tofu cubes on top and a good amount of croutons. Bonus points if you happen to have nutritional yeast on hand and sprinkle that on top.
  • Chickpea salad sandwiches: Drain and lightly mash the chickpeas in a bowl. Chop up some celery and red onion and throw that in. Pour in the dressing, a splash of apple cider vinegar, and dab of Dijon mustard. Season the mixture and mix until creamy, but pieces of chickpea are still visible. Spoon chickpea salad onto thick slices of bread and top with a crisp piece of lettuce.
  • Make an alternative grain “risotto”: Gently warm some of the roasted root vegetables. Sauté some shallots and celery until soft, and then add the cooked grain that you batch-cooked. Pour in enough vegetable stock to barely cover the grains, and bring to a boil. Add a few heaping spoons of the creamy garlic dressing to the pot with the grains and simmer/stir until the mix is creamy, risotto-like and hot. Serve with warm root vegetables scattered on top and drizzles of virgin olive oil.
Sweet Potato Chips

Sweet Potato Chips by Laura Wright | The First Mess

cabbage & white bean soup

cabbage & white bean soup by Laura Wright | The First Mess

  • Vegan meat and potatoes: Steam the Yukon gold potatoes and mash them with a few heaped spoons of the dressing, a glug of vegetable broth, salt, and pepper. Sear the Portobello mushrooms in a hot pan until soft, and then make a little pan sauce out of the browned mushroom bits, some minced garlic and shallots, tomato paste, tamari soy sauce, and vegetable stock. Coarse sprinkles of black pepper on the mash are a must.
  • Stuffed sweet potatoes: Roast some whole sweet potatoes until soft. Towards the end of the sweet potato cooking time, roast the chickpeas with olive oil and whatever seasoning you like until crispy. Heat up the cooked grains and stuff them into the cut open sweet potatoes. Put the crispy chickpeas on top and a tangle of chopped greens. Douse the sweet potato with the dressing.
  • Make some soup! Sauté some red onion until soft and blend with the roasted root vegetables, seasoning of your choice (something spicy is great!), a few spoons of the dressing, and vegetable stock. Serve the soup hot with crusty bread, a few extra creamy swoops of the dressing on top, and coarse black pepper. The crispy chickpeas from the sweet potato meal are also delicious on top of a creamy soup like this.
  • Taco night: Sauté some red onion with the black beans, garlic, and spices like cumin or chipotle chili powder. Finish the beans with a big squeeze of lime. Serve the hot beans in warmed corn tortillas with salsa (homemade or store-bought), shredded cabbage, sliced avocado, big drizzles of the creamy garlic dressing, hot sauce, and extra lime wedges.

What would you drizzle this creamy garlic dressing over? (It doesn't have to be vegan!) Let us know in the comments.

Tags: Sauce, Vegan