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Vegetarians in Paradise
 Vegetarian Cooking with Zel


Salads are welcome any time of year, but summer and early autumn is when cooling salads are most appreciated for their brilliant colors, crunchy textures, fresh flavors, and nourishing ingredients. Here are four international bread salads that provide ways to put stale breads to use and combine them with a healthy dose of fresh vegetables.

These recipes provide an opportunity for you to add your own special touch. Simply omit ingredients that may not be on your list of favorites and replace them with veggies you love.

Perhaps you're quite the gardener and are growing some veggies in your summer garden. When they ripen, put your own special spin on any of the recipes by incorporating herbs and vegetables plucked fresh from the garden. Nothing compares to the delicate sweetness and fresh flavor that comes from home-grown vegetables.

Fatoush salad has its origins in Lebanon, where many households baked their own pita breads and were careful to avoid wasting them. To make use of every crumb, they simply added torn bits of day-old bread to a fresh salad. Fittingly, fatoush means "crumbled bread" in Arabic.

There are multiple ways to present the bread. Where some families unceremoniously tore the pita into pieces, others cut it into thin strips and toasted it in the oven until crisp. Sprinkled over the top of the salad, the toasted pita added a delightful crunchy quality.

A unique spice, sumac perks up the salad with a pleasing lemony flavor and can be added directly into the salad as well as sprinkled on top as garnish. If you're unable to locate sumac, this will still be an enjoyable bread salad. The beans are not a traditional addition, but they do make the salad a bit heartier. Feel free to leave them out if you prefer. Ground sumac is readily available in Middle Eastern markets.

Lebanese Fatoush Bread Salad


Yield: 4 to 5 servings

    1/2 head romaine lettuce, torn into bite size pieces
    1 (15-ounce/424g) can fava or garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed (optional)
    2 large tomatoes, cut into wedges
    1 green or bell pepper, chopped
    4 green onions, chopped
    2 Persian or pickling cucumbers, chopped
    1 small red onion, thinly sliced into half-moons
    1/4 to 1/2 bunch fresh mint, chopped
    1/4 to 1/2 bunch fresh parsley, minced
    1 1/2 teaspoons ground sumac, divided

    2 whole-wheat pita breads, torn into bite size pieces or cut into 1/2-inch (1 cm) wide strips

    1 recipe Lemon Oregano Dressing (Recipe below)

  1. In a large salad bowl, combine all the vegetables, beans, and half of the ground sumac. Toss well and sprinkle the remaining sumac over the top.
  2. There are two ways to present the pita. One is to arrange the torn pita pieces around the edge of the bowl, forming a border. The other is to toast the 1/2-inch (1 cm) wide pita strips in a 400-degree (Gas Mark 6) oven for 8 to 10 minutes until crisp. Remove from the oven and cool the pita strips, then arrange the strips around the edge of the bowl.
  3. To serve, toss the salad with the dressing and serve at the table.

If using very dry pita, briefly moisten it by pouring water over and immediately draining it. Squeeze out any excess water. The bread should be moist, not soggy.


Lemon Oregano Dressing

Yield: 1 3/4 cups (420 ml)

    1/2 cup (120 ml) organic canola or extra virgin olive oil
    1/2 cup (120 ml) fresh lemon juice
    1/2 cup (120 ml) water
    1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
    1 tablespoon maple syrup
    1 large clove garlic, coarsely chopped
    1 1/4 teaspoons salt
    1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
    1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

  1. Combine all ingredients in the blender and process until thoroughly blended. Use a funnel to pour the dressing into a narrow-neck bottle for easier serving. Serve immediately or chill and serve later.
  2. Stored in the refrigerator, the dressing will keep well for two weeks. Shake well before using.

Note: If you store extra virgin olive oil in the refrigerator and use it in this recipe, remove the dressing from the refrigerator at least 1 hour before serving to make it more pourable.

This hearty, main-dish salad from Australia typically features strips of steak. To turn the meaty dish into a vegan extravaganza, I've substituted cubes of seasoned baked tofu and thin slices of marinated, roasted Portobello mushrooms that contribute delicious umami flavor.

If you plan to serve this robust salad as one of several buffet dishes or a side dish, you'll love that it goes a long way and possibly serves 8 to 10 people. The salad does not contain any greens, but if desired, add torn romaine or salad greens of your choice.

Because this richly-flavored salad includes some cooked as well as raw vegetables, be sure to plan extra time for preparation. Don't let the long list of directions scare you. While there is a little extra prep-time to prepare this salad, you'll find the pleasing flavors and textures absolutely delightful and the dish wonderfully rewarding.

Austrailian Bread Salad


Yield: 6 servings

    2 medium beets

    2 to 3 portobellos or 8 ounces (226g) cremini mushrooms, cut into thin slices
    2 tablespoons lemon juice
    1 tablespoon soy sauce or Tamari

    1/2 head medium-sized cauliflower, chopped
    1 tablespoon grapeseed or other vegetable oil

    2 1/2 cups (600 mg) frozen peas, divided

    2 large tomatoes, cut into thin wedges
    3 to 4 pieces day-old whole wheat bread, broken into pieces
    8 ounces (226g) seasoned, baked tofu, cut into 1/4-inch (.5 cm) cubes
    1 small sweet onion, sliced lengthwise into half moons

    1 recipe Lemon Oregano Dressing

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. (Gas Mark 6) and have ready 1 large and 2 small rimmed baking sheets.
  2. Wash the beets and wrap them individually in aluminum foil. Put the beets on one of the small baking sheets and roast them for 1 hour. Then remove and cool them. Using a paring knife, peel the beets and cut them into 1/2-inch (1.27 cm) cubes. Reserve 3/4 cup (180 mg) of the beets for garnish and transfer the remaining beets to a large salad bowl and set aside.
  3. Combine the mushroom slices, soy sauce, and lemon juice in a bowl and toss well. Marinate about 30 minutes. Put the mushroom slices on the other small baking sheet and roast them for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to let them cool. Then add mushrooms to the salad bowl.
  4. Put the cauliflower in a plastic bag with the oil and toss well to coat the pieces evenly. Transfer the cauliflower to the large baking sheet and roast for 15 to 20 minutes, or until fork tender. Cool slightly and transfer the bowl.
  5. Set the peas aside, allowing them to thaw. Alternatively, put the package of frozen peas in a bowl of water to thaw quickly. When thawed, put 1 3/4 cups (420 ml) of the peas in the bowl and set the remaining 3/4 cup (180 ml) aside for garnish.
  6. Add the tomatoes, bread cubes, tofu, and sweet onion to the bowl. At this point, all the roasted vegetables should be in the bowl. Shake the Lemon Oregano Dressing well and add enough to moisten the salad. Toss the salad well to distribute all the ingredients evenly.
  7. Transfer the salad to an attractive serving bowl. To garnish, put the reserved beet cubes in the center and form a ring of the reserved peas around them.

Note: If you prepare the salad in advance, add the peas shortly before serving to retain their bright cheery color. Once marinated, the peas darken to an olive-green shade after a few hours.

Many Mexican recipes are built around tortillas, either fresh or baked until crisp. For this recipe, you can simply tear the fresh tortillas into pieces, cut the them into strips, or toast the pieces in the oven until crisp.

The tortillas can be tossed into the salad or used as garnish. If you prefer crisp tortillas in the salad, buy baked corn chips and crumble them into the salad.

If you prefer to use fresh tortillas, keep them well wrapped and refrigerated until ready to use. If left uncovered on the kitchen counter, they will become hard and dry within a day or two. Those dry tortillas can be baked until crisp and tossed into the salad or used as nachos or broken into soups.

Fresh or roasted chiles are a familiar ingredient in Mexican dishes. For that spice-of-life touch, consider adding sliced jalapenos or strips of roasted, peeled poblano chiles to the salad. Canned, cooked chiles are also available in the grocery aisle with international foods.

Mexican Tortilla  Salad


Yield: 6 servings

    1/2 to 1 medium head romaine lettuce, shredded

    1 (14-ounce/370g) can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
    1 (15-ounce/424g) can corn kernels, drained or kernels cut from 2 ears of fresh corn sautéed in 1 tablespoon vegetable oil until tender

    1 (6-ounce/167g) can black olives, well drained and halved
    2 large tomatoes, chopped
    12 radishes, sliced
    1 small onion, chopped
    1 green bell pepper, chopped
    1 medium avocado, cut into large chunks

    4 fresh corn tortillas, torn into bite size pieces, or cut into thin slivers about 2 inches (5 cm) long.
    1 (4-ounce/370g) can diced green chiles, drained 3 tablespoons vegan shredded mozzarella

    1 recipe Lemon Oregano Dressing or Chipotle Lime Ranch dressing (Recipe below)
    Vegan Sour Cream (Recipe below)

  1. Put the lettuce in a large salad bowl. Arrange the beans, corn, olives, tomatoes, onions, bell pepper, and avocado in sections over the salad.
  2. Sprinkle the tortillas around the edge or pile them into the center. Garnish with the green chiles and shredded mozzarella.
  3. Bring the salad to the table and toss together with the dressing. Serve Vegan Sour Cream on the side so each person can spoon a dollop over the salad.

Note: To refresh dried out tortillas, wet them on both sides by running them under the faucet. Drain them well and heat them very briefly on a low setting in the toaster before cutting or tearing them.

Chipotle Lime Ranch Dressing

Zesty, full-flavored, and ultra-thick, this delicious dressing pops with the lively perk of chipotle powder, a variety of chile that enhances the creamy, ranch-style flavors. I keep silken tofu on hand so I can bring this dressing to the table within moments. The dressing also doubles as a delicious dipping sauce for fresh artichokes and makes a great topping on baked potatoes.

Yield: 2 1/4 cups (540 ml)

    1 (12.3-ounce/424g) box extra firm silken tofu
    1/2 cup (120 ml) fresh lime juice
    2 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes
    1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
    1 teaspoon onion powder
    1 teaspoon garlic powder
    1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
    1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon chipotle chile powder, or to taste
    1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum or guar gum

    Dash paprika

  1. Combine all the ingredients, except the paprika, in a blender and blend until smooth and creamy.
  2. Using a spatula or spoonula, transfer the dressing to a serving bowl and sprinkle the top with a dash of paprika. Provide a serving ladle and serve immediately or chill until ready to serve.
  3. Covered and refrigerated, the dressing will keep for up to 1 week. Stir well before serving.

Tofu Sour Cream

Sour cream puts the finishing touch on many dishes, especially Mexican specialties that are easily enhanced with a dollop or drizzle of the creamy white sauce. I use extra-firm silken tofu and drain it well to create the closest replica in taste and texture to real sour cream. For best results, prepare the sour cream several hours or even a day ahead and put it in the refrigerator. The recipe needs several hours in the refrigerator to thicken and reach the ideal consistency.

Yield: 1 1/2 cups (360 ml)

    1 (12-3-ounce/424g) box extra-firm silken tofu, well drained
    1/4 cup (60 mg) freshly squeezed lemon juice
    1/2 teaspoon rice vinegar
    1/4 teaspoon salt

Put all the ingredients in a food processor. Process until smooth and creamy, stopping occasionally to scrape down the work bowl. Use immediately or refrigerate for 8 to 12 hours to thicken. Stored in a tightly covered container and refrigerated, Tofu Sour Cream will keep 1 week.

This colorful salad, called Panzanella, comes from Tuscany and makes a perfect choice for those hot days of summer and early autumn when it feels too hot to cook. This easy, no fuss recipe is packed with flavor and goodness. The blend of lemon juice and balsamic vinegar delivers a wallop of zesty flavor, while the medley of vegetables shows off the colors of Southern Italy. Salad enhancements might include sliced black or stuffed green olives and a sprinkle of Parmesan for some real paisano flavor. This salad needs no added dressing--the dressing is included in the recipe.

Panzanella Italian Bread  Salad

(Italian Bread Salad)

Yield: about 5 to 6 servings

    3 to 4 pieces sourdough or Italian breads, torn into bite-size pieces (about 4 cups torn pieces)

    1 (15-ounce) can cannellini or garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
    2 large red or yellow tomatoes, or 1 of each, cut into thin wedges
    1 small sweet onion, cut into thin half moons
    1 green or red bell pepper, diced
    2 Japanese, Persian, or pickling cucumbers, diced
    1 cup chopped parsley
    1/4 cup (60 ml) pine nuts plus 1 tablespoon for garnish
    1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped, plus 2 sprigs for garnish
    2 cloves garlic, finely minced
    1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
    3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
    2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
    3/4 to 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste

    1/4 cup shredded vegan mozzarella, for garnish

  1. Tear the bread coarsely into bite-size chunks and put them in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients, reserving 1 tablespoon pine nuts and basil sprigs for garnish. Toss the salad well, and transfer to an attractive serving bowl. Set aside for 10 to 15 minutes to allow the bread to marinate.
  3. Garnish the top with a sprinkle of shredded mozzarella and pine nuts. Add the basil sprigs at the edge of the bowl and serve.

Note: If you prepare the salad a day ahead, omit the bread, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, and olive oil to prevent the bread from becoming soggy. Add those items about 30 to 60 minutes before serving so the salad has time to marinate.

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