As the temperatures slide and we break out the sweaters, it can seem harder and harder to find the willpower to plan salads for supper when warm and filling pizzas or giant burritos beckon. What we need to remember, and what all vegans should know, is that meal-sized salads need not be boring, and they certainly should be filling. Enjoy these tips on creating hearty and delicious entrée salads to prepare on those colder nights when you’re starving, but don’t want to gorge yourself on heavy takeout. Of course, not all of the ingredients mentioned will be in season, so get creative with what’s available now and look forward to other variations in the months to come.
When you think salad, you think greens. But do you stop at iceberg and romaine, or do you consider kale, chard, beet greens, arugula, cabbage, shredded Brussels sprouts, or baby bok choy? All these greens can be used raw or lightly steamed in the case of heartier varieties of green such as kale and cabbage, or massaged with a bit of olive oil to tenderize the leaves. Beet greens are to die for, so don’t compost them after separating them from their roots. They’re highly nutritious and the stalks are edible too. Additional basic ingredients include tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, avocado, celery, and onions—whatever is fresh at the farmers’ market or on sale at the grocery store.
It might seem like a vegetarian cliché, but don’t scoff at sprouts. Though ubiquitous in 1970’s-style crunchy vegan cafés, no one can deny their health aspects and taste. Try broccoli, clover, lentil, garbanzo, and unique-tasting garlic or onion sprouts. The best part about sprouts is that they need not be expensive in the slightest, since making your own by purchasing an inexpensive sprouter or by fashioning your own homemade version is a cinch.
People so frequently pass on the opportunity to bulk up a salad with raw or cooked starchy vegetables. Leftover roasted squash, potatoes in any form, cooked beets, roasted eggplant, lightly-steamed or raw broccoli or corn, and pretty much any variety of from-frozen steamed vegetable make colorful additions to serious salads. Expand your horizons even further with braised or roasted fennel, marinated zucchini, steamed daikon, or roasted rutabaga.
For intense flavor additions that should be used modestly, try grated fresh ginger, roasted garlic, minced jalapeños, or caramelized onions. These are ingredients that really take your salad to the next level, so use them creatively, but sparingly.
High-density foods are too often left out as potential salad ingredients. But these are the ones that’ll fill you up, so add some cooked grains (quinoa, brown rice, millet, wheat berries, and buckwheat are all great), nuts and seeds (tamari almonds are an irresistable), and dried fruit (even the powerhouse Goji berries can be used if they’re not combined with too many conflicting flavor combinations).
Protein and Toppings
This is where you can really get crazy, and utilize leftovers to their fullest potential. Look no further than the protein experts over at VegWeb for rich dishes that can either be made especially for salad ingredient or tossed in as leftovers. Perfect Falafel, Miso Glazed Tofu, and Easy Thai Sautéed Tofu are excellent recipes that pack in huge flavor.
Roasted Chickpeas are the perfect crunchy topping for salads of all kinds, that is, if they make it to the salad before you gobble them all up in handfuls. Dig fake meat? Veganize your own Cobb salad with toppings such as Sausage Crumbles, Mock Crab Cakes, Chicken Fried Tofu, or truly scrumptious Simple Coconut Bacon.
Dress It Up
While oil and vinegar dressings might be the easiest and most popular option, leftover hummus, guacamole, Thai Coconut & Mint Salsa, and Black Bean Dip need not shy away from unifying your veggies. Experimenting with making your own salad dressings is an easy way to have inventive fun in the kitchen. For emulsified vinaigrettes, don’t forget to include prepared mustard, which keeps the dressing from separating after you shake it up. In case you’re dressing shy, Lemon-Nut Dressing, fruity Eleven Island Dressing, and Vegan Ranch Dressing are all well worth topping your meal-sized salad.