I have attempted a new rule when it comes to cookbooks: I am not allowed to open a new one which I may have recently bought until I finish working my way through, insofar as is possible) the current one. I’m not always good at this personal rule, but recently it seems to have been working. I somehow missed that Salad Samurai had a sequel, Show Up For Salad, so I had to grab it for use as a lunch for the next several months project. I haven’t tried every single recipe in the book but I’ve worked my way through most of the complete salads.
About 2/3 of the book is recipes for components like toppings and dressings that can be used independently or as a part of later complete salad recipes. Of the dressings, I was really excited to see Cucumber Ranch since this was my absolute favorite as a child, and I haven’t seen it in a store in I don’t know how many years. I was kind of disappointed since the result was pretty bland; this was the general trend for the stand-alone dressings, several of which I tried for some of the salads. The way the salad recipes often worked was there was a series of about 3 choices for dressings, and toppers for any given salad part. The things I tried from general dressing almost exclusively ended up being borderline flavorless except for the Roasted Pico de Gallo dressing; that was amazing, and it also makes for an excellent salsa dip.
The toppers were better as an overall category. The various vegan protein marinades often had some flavor to them and worked equally well on tofu as tempeh (I don’t like seitan so I avoided that one). The one thing that I would say for this part is that things like “Maple Almost Like Bacon” (coconut chips are the base) taste fine and add good crunch, but in no way bear similarity to actual bacon, bits or otherwise. More substantial elements like “Salad Rice” (basically seasoned rice, in manner of sushi rice) were really good in their recommended recipes as well as personal creative uses.
The complete salad recipes were hit and miss for me, and I’ve tried almost all of them now. Some were amazing like the Peruvian Potato and Red Quinoa Salad which got some praise at a church potluck, which is saying something since my church is full of Southern grannies (I liked it a lot too, and I don’t really like quinoa), or the All-Day Breakfast Nacho Salad Bowl (the first recipe I tried, and which calls for the previously noted Pico dressing). Some were a surprise, like White Sweet Potato Salad with Spinach Zhug Dressing. I had never heard of the dressing, but apparently it’s based on a Yemeni condiment. This one was also really yummy, although I used regular sweet potatoes because that’s what I could find. Then there were the several salads, many of which relied on dressings form the general section, that were kind of meh. This included Juicy Grilled Summer Days Peach salad, Siracha Ranch Salad Party, Chickpea Collard Pickle Wraps, Kabocha and Black Rice Salad, and Big Crunchy Autumn Vibes salad. None of these were bad, in fact several could have been really good but for a bland dressing or my following the recipe when I know full well I don’t like a particular ingredient (looking at you, fresh basil), but they weren’t something I can foresee wanting to do again.
The last section is a strange mix of things that are either meant to go with a salad (soups) while others are kind of salad-like but not quite, such as stews with salad toppings, ie Ethiopian Red Lentils with Butternut and Collard Salad or Veggie Noodle Pho with Micro Bahn Mi Salad. I have not yet tried the latter, but I’m a little nervous, since I like both of those titular elements but I’m not sure how well they will go together.
As a general notice, as you might have guessed, a lot of the complete salads involve multiple components and therefore are not especially quick to prepare. They do make for meal-level salads though most of the time. The other thing is that more often than not, stuff in the general section makes a lot more than one would need for a single salad recipe, even taking into consideration each recipe is designed for 4-6 people, or a week’s worth of lunches for one me. I am going to have to go through my fridge and gather the partial jars of random dressings at some point and either dispose of them or figure something to do with them.