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Book Reviews

Salad Samurai by Terry Hope Romero

Book Review:
Salad Samurai by Terry Hope Romero
review by Marla Rose

Is salad an often overlooked culinary art form? According to one creative cookbook, yes. A second book has just been released that seconds the “Heck, yeah, vegan salads!” sentiment and it comes from accomplished cookbook author Terry Hope Romero.  As you can probably see, I am an unabashed fangirl of Terry’s oeuvre. That being said, I think that I can be unbiased enough to still be critical-minded about her work to give it a fair review and I am pleased to say that her new cookbook, Salad Samurai: 100 Cutting-Edge, Ultra-Hearty, Easy-to-Make Salads You Don’t Have to Be Vegan To Love, is one that I can highly recommend.

Who needs salad? We all do! Year-round. Raw and cooked. For breakfast and lunch, dinner and dessert. With fruit, crunchy croutons, noodles and pickled vegetables. In jars, layers and simply salad bowls. As a fellow former teenaged vegetarian who often had no other options but tired and limp iceberg affairs, it took me a little while to come around to see the culinary potential in salads, but now that I have, I know that the best of them are fresh, full of flavor, and even a little bad-ass. In this new cookbook, we are treated to an array of main dish recipes that make no apologies for being salads while not being exactly constrained by tradition, either: instead, the form is played with a lot, in everything from an elegant Salade Nicoise Bento Box to a novel interpretation of the beloved tempeh reuben. All are big, robust and filling, bursting with textures and flavors that keep us from ever getting bored. In other words, these ain’t the iceberg salads of yore and thank goodness for that. Today, the best salad artists are kitchen samurais.

Using a lighter sensibility and relying more on vegetables, fresh ingredients and whole grains than in her earliest cookbooks, Terry Hope Romero takes us through substantial salad options organized by the season (yes, you can eat salad in winter), and along the way, she offers a primer on planning a week’s worth of salads, portability suggestions as well as equipment advice and an ingredient glossary. With a palate that enjoys a variety of international influences, this cookbook takes us to Thailand (Asparagus Pad Thai Salad), the Middle East (Almond Falafel Crunch Bowl), the good ol‘ U.S.A. (the Seitan Steak Salad with Green Peppercorn Dressing) and a bunch of points in between, we get to fill our virtual passport with a lot of culinary treasures, all gussied up in a free-spirited salad form.

These are recipes with lots of ingredients but pretty simple, easy to follow instructions. Most ingredients can be found at a well-stocked grocery store. Under the sidebar “The Spin,” you’ll find hints and tips. Under the “Samurai Stylings” sidebar, readers will find variation suggestions. There are also icons for gluten-free options and denoting recipes that can be prepared raw. With beautiful food photography and arresting art direction, this is also a cookbook that is easy on the eyes.

I recommend Salad Samurai for anyone looking for bring more enlightened, fresh salads from around the globe into their lives. With a great variety of easy but creative recipes, this is a cookbook that can be used year-round. It’s far better than a boring iceberg salad, to say the least.

Please check out this recipe for Mexican Roasted Corn Salad with Avocado. From Salad Samurai by Terry Hope Romero.
Reprinted with permission from Da Capo Lifelong, © 2014.

Mexican Roasted Corn Salad with Avocado (Esquites)

Serves: 3 to 4

Time: 45 minutes

I could eat a different corn salad every night (corn is the perfect hearty addition to summertime salads), but my obsession started here: a deluxe vegan esquites, the queen of creamy roasted corn salads. Unlike most corn salads, this is best eaten when the corn is still warm from roasting, so prep all of the veggies (and the dressing, but you knew that already!) first, so all that’s required is toasted hot corn for a mouthwatering treat.

Creamy Lime Dressing

1⁄2 cup unroasted cashews
1⁄2 cup hot water
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
1 teaspoon olive oil orcoconut oil
1 clove garlic, peeled
2 teaspoons white (shiro) miso

Corn Salad

4 ears of corn, husks and corn silk removed
Olive oil
1⁄2 cup lightly packed, chopped fresh cilantro
2 scallions, green part only, thinly sliced
1 green or red jalapeño pepper, roasted or fresh, seeded and minced
1 ripe avocado, diced
1 big red ripe tomato, coredand diced
2 teaspoons chili powder (preferably Mexican, such as ancho or chipotle)
Lime wedges, for garnish

1. Make the dressing first! Soak the cashews in the hot water for 30 minutes, then pulse the cashews and soaking water in a blender until smooth. Add the remaining dressing ingredients, pulse until silky, then chill until ready to use.

2. Preheat a cast-iron grill pan over medium-high heat. Rub the ears of corn with olive oil and grill each ear until the kernels are lightly charred, turning the cobs occasionally, about 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer them from the pan to a cutting board and cool just enough to handle. Use a sharp knife with a thin blade to slice the corn kernels from the cob; for best results (and to prevent kernels from taking flight), slice a few rows off an ear, lay it flat on the cutting board, then slice off the remaining corn. Always keep one side of the ear flat on the cutting board.

3.Transfer the corn to a big mixing bowl. Add the cilantro, scallions, and jalapeño. Drizzle on the dressing and toss to combine. Transfer the salad to serving dishes. Top each serving with diced avocado and tomato and sprinkle each serving with chili powder. Serve immediately with lime wedges for squeezing over the salad while the corn is still warm!

© 2013, 2014, Vegan Street

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