I pride myself on creating vegetarian recipes that even hardcore carnivores will love. This kale Caesar salad, well … it’s a bit of an exception. It really doesn’t even try. The thing is, I personally think it’s really kind of incredible, so the meat-eaters that turn their nose up at this one are, in my opinion, totally missing out.
Well, hey! More for us.
I’m really not even sure where I came up with this one. I’ve been dreaming of a vegetarian-friendly, olive-based Caesar salad dressing for awhile – ever since I spied this verson from the always-lovely Sprouted Kitchen. The kale is because I’ve been wanting to make a kale salad for awhile, I guess. And the tofu croutons? Well, I wanted to add tofu, and then I realized I could saute it up all crispy and wonderful and it would double as croutons as well.
And thus, a salad was born.
The kale is sturdy and leafy, perfect for holding up lots of glorious, crispy tofu. You can use which ever kind of kale you like. Me, I went hog-wild and used three different kinds for a seriously attractive salad – curly green, curly red, and some lacinato (also known as dinosaur kale) for good measure.
And the dressing! I’ve never made one like it. Thanks to the kalamata olives, it’s such a pretty purple hue. But it doesn’t just look good. This stuff is freakin’ delicious. It’s garlicky and bright, with just the right level of pungent saltiness. No anchovies needed – and no Parmesan either (at least not in the dressing – I do like to shave some on top of the finished product before devouring).
If you can get your beloved meat-eaters to go for the kale and the dressing but they’re not so sure about the tofu, try adding traditional croutons and some grilled chicken to the mix.
More tofu for you.
All hail kale!
Kale Caesar Salad with Tofu Croutons & Kalamata Caesar Dressing
For the tofu croutons:
- 1 14-ounce package extra-firm tofu
- 1/4 cup grapeseed oil (or other high smoke-point oil like vegetable or canola)
- 1/4 cup corn starch
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
For the kalamata Caesar dressing:
- 10 kalamata olives (pitted (about 1/3 cup))
- 3 medium cloves garlic (peeled and roughly chopped)
- 2 tablespoons freshly-squeezed lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon vegetarian Worchestershire sauce
- A couple turns of freshly ground black pepper (about 1/8 teaspoon)
- 1/4 cup olive oil
For the salad:
- 5-6 cups kale (washed, dried well, and torn into bite-sized pieces)
- Lemon wedges and a few shavings of Parmesan cheese (if desired)
- Make the tofu croutons. Remove the block of tofu from its packaging and drain the water. Press the tofu by laying a half dozen or so paper towels on a dinner plate and placing the tofu on top. Add a couple more paper towels and top with 4 or 5 more dinner plates. Let sit for 20-30 minutes, checking occasionally to move the plates if they're off balance. Or, much easier, use a tofu press!
- Set the tofu on a cutting board and cut it into crouton-size pieces, about 3/4-inch big.
- Heat the grapeseed oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. On a large plate or in a shallow baking dish, combine the corn starch, garlic powder, and salt with a fork. Working in batches, dredge the tofu in the corn starch mixture, turning to coat evenly. Carefully add tofu to hot oil in skillet. Cook on medium-high for about 10 minutes, turning occasionally to brown most sides. Remove tofu from pan and place on several paper towels, blotting to remove excess oil.
- Make the dressing. To a food processor or high-power blender, add the olives, garlic, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, vinegar, Worchestershire sauce, and pepper. Pulse until smooth, about 30 seconds. Drizzle in the olive oil and blend until smooth and creamy, about 15-20 seconds more.
- Prepare the salad. Add the kale to a large bowl and drizzle the dressing over the top. Toss well to coat all of the leaves. Top with the tofu croutons and a few shavings of Parmesan cheese, if desired. Serve with additional lemon wedges to squeeze over the top.
Dairy-free/vegan options:Omit the Parmesan cheese. Still plenty delicious without!
More delicious salad dressing recipes