Vegan Caesar Salad with Polenta Croutons

By • May 27, 2015 3 Comments

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Author Notes: A fresh take on Caesar salad, not only because the dressing is dairy- and anchovy-free (and delicious), but also because of the chewy polenta croutons, which may become your new favorite garnish. Using a mixture of romaine and kale gives this salad some extra color and texture.Gena Hamshaw

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Serves 4

For the salad:

  • 1/2 cup raw cashews, soaked overnight and drained
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, to taste
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kelp or dulse granules (find these at a health food store)
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tablespoon mellow white miso
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 4 tablespoons nutritional yeast, divided
  • 1 bunch dinosaur kale, stems removed, washed, dried, and cut into ribbons
  • 1 head romaine lettuce, washed, dried, and cut into ribbons (alternately, you can use two heads of romaine and omit the kale)
  • 1 recipe polenta croutons (see below)
  1. To prepare the dressing, transfer the cashews, lemon juice, water, kelp or dulse granules, garlic, miso, salt, mustard, and two tablespoons of nutritional yeast to a blender and blend until smooth. Start with 3 tablespoons of lemon juice and adjust as needed—my preference is for a tart dressing, but use your judgment.
  2. To make the salad, toss the greens with the dressing, using as much of it as you need to coat the greens well. Fold in the remaining nutritional yeast. Divide the salad onto four serving plates. Top each plate with a handful of polenta croutons and serve.

For the polenta croutons:

  • 3 1/2 cups water
  • 1 cup fine yellow cornmeal (polenta)
  • 1 teaspoon fine salt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Coarse salt, to taste
  • Pepper, to taste
  1. In a medium pot, bring the water to a boil. Pour in the polenta in a thin stream, whisking constantly. Add the salt. Continue to stir as the polenta cooks (watch your hand, as it bubbles aggressively). The polenta is ready when the cornmeal is tender and the mixture is thick, about 15 minutes.
  2. Transfer the polenta to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Use an offset spatula to smooth it out. When the polenta has cooled somewhat, transfer it to the refrigerator and allow it to firm for 2 hours.
  3. Preheat the oven to 400° F. Remove the polenta from the fridge and cut it into 3/4-inch squares. Transfer them to a baking sheet lined with a fresh sheet of parchment. Brush the squares with olive oil and sprinkle them with coarse salt and pepper. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until crispy and golden brown, stirring once through. Once the polenta croutons are cool enough to touch, use them to garnish the salad, or pile them onto a bowl of soup, toss them with some roasted cherry tomatoes for a lovely summer appetizer, or better yet, use them in a non-traditional panzanella.

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