I've heard that many restaurant chefs despise making Caesar salads, but I don't understand why. Who wouldn't love making lemony-cheesy-black-pepper-salad dreams come true?
So my resourceful little self has always had a solid Caesar salad game going at home. My original recipe was rooted in the classic for years: raw egg yolk, umami-laden anchovies, nutty Parmesan cheese, tart lemon juice. I then top that basic Caesar salad with almost any protein to turn it into a truly satisfying meal. Steak, shrimp or chicken work well, but so do turkey meatballs, roasted pork tenderloin and — my secret weapon — just about every kind of canned fish available.
Over time, I've adapted and adjusted my beloved Caesar salad recipe to account for changes in my family. When I was pregnant, I avoided raw eggs. My daughter's gluten intolerance kicked the sourdough croutons to the curb. And my vegetarian niece and nephew had me searching for a worthy umami substitute for anchovies.
Recently, I faced my greatest challenge: a completely vegan Caesar salad for some dinner guests. No Parmesan cheese? I thought it would be impossible. But, you guys, here is the impossible: a totally tasty vegan Caesar salad.
This salad gets its rich umami flavor from a cool combination of miso paste and nutritional yeast (not to be confused with brewer's yeast). The croutons are back in for this recipe, but I just leave them out for my gluten-free daughter. To turn this salad into a fully vegan meal, top with nuts, seeds, lentils, white beans or tofu. And a note to my carnivore friends: Don't let the word vegan scare you off this recipe. It's also great topped with a few ounces of meat.
Food Network star Melissa d'Arabian is an expert on healthy eating on a budget. She is the author of the cookbook "Supermarket Healthy."