Ah, buttermilk ranch dressing (you know which one in particular), how I missed you! Until....tah, dah! I made a vegan-ized version at home for this salad. Holy wow, I'm so proud of myself for this one. Not a single person eating this salad will know that they are not having a cooling, creamy, dreamy bite of "real" buttermilk-ranch dressing with every forkful. Because I love everything green, I did a monochrome color for this salad with a pop of seasoned & air fried tofu croutons. If you don't have an air fry, that's okay! Omit the tofu croutons all together or simply convection roast them on a cooling rack set into a jelly roll pan. No matter how you go about your tofu, his salad is down-home comfort in a BIG way!
Sustainability Spotlight: Bibb (Or Butter) lettuce is largely grown in hydroponic farms which use nutrient dense water instead of soil. Despite being grown in water, hydroponic farming uses less water than traditional crop farming (up to 10 times less!) How? The hydroponic water is reused and recycled back in the system. The system also has enhanced yields because the crops are grown indoors year round (no bugs or weather events to impact them and the water pH level can be constantly monitored). Hydroponic farming utilizes less space due to the ability to vertically stack and they can be placed anywhere (seasonality doesn't matter). Featuring butter lettuce (aka - Bibb lettuce) here supports the sustainability of my kitchen by utilizing crops grown in a more environmentally friendly way. To learn more about this method of farming, check out this National Park Service article on Hydroponics.
1 block extra firm tofu - pressed & drained; Pro tip: freeze the tofu overnight (in package); let thaw in fridge before pressing & draining) - helps the tofu be more porous to absorb more flavors
1 tbsp arrowroot powder (you can sub cornstarch if you don't have arrowroot)
1/2 tbsp salt
1/2 tbsp black pepper
1 tbsp smoked paprika
1/2 tbsp onion powder
1/2 tbsp garlic powder
1 tbsp olive oil
Buttermilk Ranch Dressing:
handful of basil (~1/4 cup)
1 lemon (juiced)
1 tsp stone ground mustard
1/4 cup oat milk
1/2 cup veganise
2 tbsp avocado oil
1 tsp white miso paste
1 tsp agave syrup
3 garlic cloves (chopped)
1 bunch asparagus (trimmed)
1/2 bunch spinach (chopped)
2 heads of Bibb (Butter) lettuce (chopped)
1 bunch watercress (chopped)
3 green onions (chopped)
1/2 cup alfalfa sprouts (optional, but recommended)
1/4 cup roasted pumpkin seeds (unsalted)
In a large bowl, combine tofu crouton spices; next, tear tofu into pieces (or cube if you prefer) and coat in the spice mixture. Drizzle lightly with olive oil to coat. Start air fryer (475 F) and put tofu in a single layer; fry for ~10 minutes (checking often at the 5 min mark). Note: I have an air fry oven, so I can fry in a large fryer sheet pan. If you do not have an air fryer, you can place tofu on a metal cooling rack set inside a jelly roll (lipped pan) and roast / use convection. Time will take ~20 minutes this route.
Set a grill pan over Medium-High heat and add your asparagus stalks; grill for ~5-7 minutes stirring infrequently. You will know when the asparagus is done by slight grill marks, a deepening green coloration, and they become slightly softened. Remove stalks from pan and chop into thirds.
While your tofu croutons are frying, chop and mix all salad ingredients in an extra large bowl including chopped asparagus and pumpkin seeds.
Remove tofu from the oven and set aside to cool slightly.
Meanwhile, add all dressing ingredients to a personal blender and blitz until smooth and slightly frothy.
Add dressing and cooled tofu to your salad bowl and incorporate completely.
Serve immediately in generous helpings!
With love & hope for a better future for all of us - Jamie