Thursday, July 26, 2012

Where's the beef? (You won't miss it, I promise!)

Lord knows I am not a vegetarian or vegan, though I probably should be. Unfortunately, I love a ribeye beyond what is reasonable and good for me. But for health's sake, we have been trying to achieve a small amount of balance by committing one night a week (usually Meatless Monday) to a dinner without meat as the starring attraction. So infrequently vegetarian is about as far as I usually go. But my college friend and former roomie, Vicki, recently posted a picture on Facebook of a vegan salad that she made from a blog called "Oh She Glows." And though it was a raw salad with no animal products of any kind, and I am a passionate carnivore, it seduced my imagination.

I thought about it off and on for weeks until I finally got brave enough to try it, and I am very sorry that I waited as long as I did. It was DELICIOUS, and I swear, if you served it to someone and didn't tell them it was vegan, they would never know! Of course, I added crushed tortilla chips to the top of mine and some leftover roasted corn cut from the cob, so my salad wasn't raw. Plus, I also added some shredded cheese, so it wasn't vegan, either. Still, I did make a taco "meat" from walnuts, and the sour "cream" from cashews and lemon juice, and they were both yummy! And the leftovers made awesome nachos, too. Even if vegan dishes frighten you a bit, I urge you to try this one. You and your family will love it, and so will your healthful bodies!

Layered Raw Taco Salad for Two
(Source: Oh She Glows)
Don’t let the long ingredient list put you off; the entire recipe takes about 30 minutes or so. Feel free to adapt this salad depending on what you have in your kitchen.

Walnut Taco Meat
Yield: scant 1/2 cup
1/2 cup walnuts, soaked for 2-8 hours
1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
fine grain sea salt, to taste (I added a teaspoon of taco seasoning and skipped the salt)
cayenne pepper, to taste (optional)

Nut Cream Sauce
Yield: 1 heaping cup
1 cup macadamia (or cashew) nuts, soaked in water for 2-8 hours
11-12 tablespoons water (use as needed to achieve desired consistency)
2-3 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, to taste
fine grain sea salt, to taste (about 1/4 teaspoon)

3-Minute Guacamole:
Yield: 3/4 cup
1 large ripe avocado
1/4 cup chopped red onion
1/2 small tomato, chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin (I would omit this, as it makes the guac brownish)
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
scant 1/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt, or to taste

Other salad ingredients:
  • greens of choice
  • salsa
  • green onion (optional)
  • crackers or tortilla chips (but then it's not raw)
  • cheese (but then it's not vegan)
  • corn (but then it's not raw)
  • beans (ditto)
Taco meat: In a food processor (or by hand), pulse (or chop) the ingredients until combined. Make sure to leave the walnuts chunky. Remove and set aside.

Cream sauce: Drain and rinse the soaked nuts. Add them into a processor and process. Stream in about 1/2 cup water and a couple tablespoons of lemon juice. Add more water as needed to achieve your desired consistency. The nut sauce should be super smooth and not grainy. Add salt to taste.

Guacamole: In a medium-sized bowl, mash the avocado flesh with a fork, leaving some chunks. Stir in the chopped tomato, red onion, lime juice, and seasonings to taste.

To assemble: (per bowl) Add a hefty base of greens in a large bowl followed by a heaping 1/4 cup scoop of guacamole in the middle. Spoon on 2 tablespoons of salsa over the greens followed by half of the taco meat. Add a couple tablespoons of cream into a plastic baggie, snip off end, and pipe over top the taco meat. Garnish with a chopped green onion and leftover chopped tomato and red onion. Place a few crackers or crushed tortila chips into the salad before serving.

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