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Salad Samurai, Terry Hope Romero (Da Capo Press, 2014)

Salad Samuri by Terry Hope Romero - review by

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I admit that I don’t get excited by the “Salads” section of a menu, much less by books that are about salads.  Like many of us, I grew up believing that “salad” meant torn up iceberg lettuce with a few pathetic looking tomato and cucumber pieces in it.   And then, those of us who cared about the plight of farm workers boycotted iceberg lettuce (and a certain wine brand) because of the reform movement for farm workers led by Cesar Chavez. 

Fast forward to now.  Nowadays salads are usually not composed solely of iceberg lettuce.  Many salad recipes include actual dark greens with food value beyond water content.  However, some higher end restaurants serve “wedges” of iceberg lettuce with a heavy dairy dressing – very disappointing!  (Yes, there is still a well-deserved bias in my mind!)  But still, they are “salads” – something that we vegans (and vegetarians of all types) are told we should love when everyone else is digging into a ‘real meal.’  As a gal who loves to eat – and I have been frequently recognized as such (e.g. “Wow, you really eat a lot for a thin woman”, “Wow, can’t believe you ate all of that”, and my favorite “Wow, it’s nice to eat with a lady who really likes to eat”) – being told to eat a “salad” and be happy (usually some concoction with limp greens and a spot or two of other veggies and not much more) is just depressing.  And, even worse, these salads never have a seriously good vegan dressing (“Oh, but we have oil and vinegar!” -really???).   Ok, now you know my pet peeves a la salads!  And, yes, it is a strong, well-earned pet peeve developed through years of eating sad meals at various events.  Depressed enough?  Let’s move on to ‘Salad Nirvana!’ 

Terry Hope Romero has given a new meaning to the food category “salad”.  So new that it should be called something else.  These are full meal, full belly, full taste sensation “salads”.  Truly, we need a new word.  We tried Tempeh Reubenesque Salad which was amazing and surprising!  It incorporates four different recipes into the one all-inclusive recipe.  Admittedly, I get annoyed by a recipe that says “30 minutes to prepare” when the total time of all the incorporated recipes is longer (1 ¼ hours in this case) but this one is worth it!  The earlier sections of the book include a discussion of the “basics” such as dressings or toppings and this proves helpful to the reader when delving into the recipes that follow.  Just be forewarned to count up all the times needed to prepare dressings, toppings, etc., before you start the recipe you’re interested in preparing.

We also tried the Polish Summer Soba Salad (it did not include other recipes within a recipe), and it was yummy! The time given for preparation was accurate or even a bit less.  The sauce was very light and had an interesting blend of flavors.  This is another “repeatable” recipe. 

Oddly enough, there is a small breakfast section – yes, in a “salad” cookbook!  (See, we really do need a new term for serious salads!)  We got wild and tried Coconut Carrot Cake Salad.  Now if a recipe with the term “carrot cake” in it for breakfast doesn’t catch your attention (and I’m not much for sweets at all, much less for breakfast), then really , what will?  This recipe was reminiscent of a carrot & raisin salad that my mother made when I was young, yet had a lighter, fresher taste, and also included wonderfully nutritious ingredients.  This does not seem like a breakfast meal to me – I’d probably go for the Soba Salad dish mentioned above for breakfast, but that’s simply individual preference. 

This is an unusual and wonderful book, and we are looking forward to trying more recipes.  Terry, you scored again, and we look forward to more from you!

Justina Walls (7/1/2014)