So here’s another entry for vegetarian steak night! Which is a term I’m going to stop using because it’s really an oxymoron and I’m not really that into trying to replace regular steak night. I just want to feel like I’m indulging in it more often than I otherwise might, with vegetables, which I hear are good for me. And less stressful to cook.
Actually, we could call this an entry for vegan steak night, because yes, this salad is completely vegan! There is no cheese or bacon to be found, but it’s ok, because it’s still super delicious and so filling that you really could eat it as a main dish if you wanted to, instead of a side salad. And even though I’ve never actually had a wedge salad, because they always come with blue cheese, I’m pretty sure this version is as close to the original as you could get using only plant-based ingredients. And since the dressing is full of healthy fats instead of mayonnaise and blue cheese, I’m hereby giving you permission to drown your lettuce if you so choose.
My plant-based version of this steak house classic starts as they all do, with a huge hunk of iceberg lettuce. Iceberg doesn’t usually get a lot of love in my kitchen, since I grew up hearing it called “lazy lettuce” by my mother and since I usually prefer more flavorful varieties such as romaine and butter lettuce. But iceberg does have it’s good qualities, such as a happy and refreshing crispness, and a mild flavor that works really well in a salad like this one where the toppings are the star. I’ve cut it into thick discs instead of wedges, to give more surface area for the toppings and to give it more stability for cutting into. The iceberg disc is then topped with a few generous spoonfuls of a tahini-based, herb-filled ranch dressing, then garnished with halved cherry tomatoes, chives, garlic toasted breadcrumbs, and the magic ingredient, shiitake bacon.
Did you know shiitakes taste like bacon? They really do! Especially if you slice them thinly and then roast with a little olive oil and sea salt until they are golden and crispy. It’s as close as you could ever hope to get to salty, meaty bacon without using the real thing, and they truly add something special to this salad.
And finally, let's talk about that dressing! Remember that veggie burger crawl I went on a few weeks ago in New York? Well, in addition to finding the best veggie burger at Superiority Burger, I also found a salad with a vegan dressing that blew my mind a little bit. It was creamy, lemony, herby, and delicious, and it really is what inspired this salad while I was trying to brainstorm ways to use up a batch of it.
I have to say, since I've been indulging in all the heavy, non-veggie food that Sydney has to offer for the last two weeks, these photos are making me drool a little. I mean, just look at all the vitamins on display! So, if you’ve already jumped far into a holiday baking and eating binge or you plan to steadily work your way through a pile of Halloween candy next week and you want to add a little balance back into your diet, I suggest taking a break from the indulgence and adding this salad to the menu.
A Vegan Wedge Salad
- 3 oz shiitake mushrooms, trimmed and sliced thinly
- 1 1/2 tbs olive oil
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- fresh ground black pepper
- 1 head iceberg lettuce
- 1/2 cup bread crumbs
- 2 tbs olive oil
- pinch of salt
- 1/4 tsp garlic powder
- 1/2 bunch chives
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 cup vegan ranch dressing (recipe here)
- Make the shiitake bacon: Heat oven to 375. On a rimmed baking sheet, toss together shiitakes, olive oil, sea salt, and black pepper, the roast, stirring often, for about 30 minutes, until crisp (or less if that is the day your oven decides to prove to you that it can go above 400 degrees). Once crispy, remove from oven and let cool on baking sheet.
- Cut the head of lettuce into 4 discs and set aside.
- In a small pan over medium high heat, stir together bread crumbs, olive oil, pinch salt and garlic powder, and stir until breadcrumbs turn golden brown and toasted. Remove from heat.
- Assemble salads: layer lettuce discs on a plate and top generously with the dressing. Garnish with desired amounts of tomatoes, chives, shiitake bacon, and breadcrumbs. Enjoy with a knife and fork!
Sorry, this recipe not full of virtuously seasonal veggies, but nothing should be difficult to find, and it lends itself well to any necessary substitutions. Can’t find chives? I’m sure you can find scallions. Can’t find dill? It’s fine, use the dried stuff! Do the cherry tomatoes at your supermarket look depressing? Substitute chopped tomatoes or maybe some grated carrot! If you can’t find iceberg and parsley, then I don’t know how to help you, because I’ve never not seen those things in the produce section, even when it’s the dead of winter and the only other options are mealy apples and onions. But just in case, this would be great on any lettuce you can find.