Yes, You Can Easily Make This Peach Salad with Oil-Free Cashew Lemon Pepper Dressing

Romero describes her project as a “choose your own salad adventure,” dispelling stereotypes of vegan food being boring, bland or fake. Photo courtesy of Hachette Books

There are two prominent and contrasting stereotypes about vegan food: that’s it’s either all boring salads and bland tofu, or that it’s all fake food—fake meat, fake cheese, fake everything made from processed soy and who-knows-what. Terry Hope Romero’s recipes habitually resist both of those descriptions.

That said, she’s never been afraid of serving up earthy, crunchy, veggie-heavy dishes that buck the blandness stereotype, and her latest cookbook, Show Up for Salad, is no exception. So what makes a good, hearty vegan salad? Well, a lot of good individual elements. In the book’s introduction, Romero describes the project as a “choose your own salad adventure.” The book is mostly comprised of recipes for flavorful dressings and toppings to accompany your veggies, though in the last few chapters she strings these elements together into full meal serving suggestions. In those cases, Romero offers tips on the order of operations you should take, which is helpful, considering that a good salad can be deceptively complicated to make, what with its array of separate elements.

But she’s aware that the average home cook doesn’t want a salad to be a big production every time, nor should it be. She recommends making dressings and toppings ahead of time and stocking up one’s fridge and pantry with them, so you have them ready to throw over fresh veggies for weeks to come (and she includes information on how long they’ll keep for).

And while it offers all the tips and tools for building complex, impressive salads, the book can also come in handy for the most minimalist of dishes. For several of her dressings, Romero suggests recipes elsewhere in the book in which to incorporate them, but she also lists some simple veggies combos to pour them over.

Some of the most interesting recipes in the book are those which are best described as not so much meat substitutes, but meat-inspired. Her root veggie bacon and pastrami carrots use fairly common ingredients but include multi-step techniques to make salty, smoky and crispy veggie creations. Sure, there are “cheeses” and “meats,” but nothing in Show Up For Salad is trying very hard to be something it’s not. It’s just a toolbox for making veggies, fruits, nuts and seeds taste really, really good.

Juicy Grilled Summer Days Peach Salad with Oil-Free Cashew Lemon Pepper Dressing

¼ cup unroasted cashew pieces, soaked for 30 minutes and drained
½ cup unsweetened plain almond milk
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 big fat garlic clove, peeled
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon mustard powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon chia seeds
2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns, cracked

Blend all the ingredients except for the chia seeds and pepper until very smooth. Keep the dressing in the blender jar and sprinkle in the seeds, stir, and set aside to gel for 5 minutes. In a mortar and pestle, crush the black peppercorns into chunky grains, then add to the dressing in the blender jar. Pulse a few times to blend in the chia seeds and black pepper. Chill for 30 minutes before using to develop the flavor and texture.

2 pounds peaches, apricots or similar seasonal stone fruit, ripe but still relatively firm (no mushy peaches, please)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Generous pinch of kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
High-heat oil for grilling
4 cups romaine, butter or Boston lettuce, washed and spun dry and torn into bite-size pieces
2 cups arugula, washed and spun dry
1 cup basil leaves, torn and divided
1 sweet white onion, quartered and cut into ¼-inch slices
½ cup shelled green pistachios, lightly toasted and roughly chopped
½ cup ripe raspberries (optional)

When you’re ready to grill the peaches, wash and pat the fruit dry. Slice each peach into quarters and discard the stems and pits. Whisk together the oil, vinegar, lemon juice, salt, and pepper and rub or brush all the peach sections with the marinade. Reserve any remaining marinade.

Preheat cast-iron grill pan over medium-high heat. Use a silicone brush to generously brush the pan with oil as needed. Grill the peaches for about 2 minutes on each side, turning only once; the goal is to get some nice grill marks on each side but not cook so much that the peach completely falls apart. Use a metal spatula to gently transfer finished slices onto a plate to cool. If the peaches are rather large (4 inches or wider), slice quarters into thinner, bite-size slices.

When the peaches are all set, in a mixing bowl, toss together the lettuce, arugula, ½ cup basil leaves, onion slices, any remaining grilling marinade and 2 tablespoons of dressing. Pile the salad in a large serving platter or in individual bowls.

Arrange the grilled peaches on top of the salad. Scatter over the salad the remaining basil leaves, toasted pistachios and ripe raspberries, if using. Drizzle with the remaining dressing and serve this beauty right up!