I love César Chávez. I like how he stood up for the disenfranchised. How he fought most of his life, until his death, for fair working conditions and fair pay for migrant farm workers. I did a huge project with my students last year involving César Chávez, and they appreciated his non-violent social justice work, as well.
So, when I saw a recipe for César Chávez dressing in Appetite for Reduction, I decided that I had to make it. I’ve never had a particular love of caesar salad or caesar dressing. But, with a name like César Chávez dressing, I had to try it. As I cook more and more vegan food, I’m starting to actually learn things. One thing I’ve learned is that cashews are often added to make things creamier. Creamy sauces, creamy spreads, and now, creamy salad dressings all have ground up cashews. (I also finally discovered that, while Whole Foods is usually more expensive than anywhere else, they sell cashew pieces in the bulk bins for half of what I have been spending on whole cashews in the bulk bins at my regular grocery store. It’s worth the extra trip.) The dressing was really easy, and includes capers to give it that special “briney” taste. I think it tasted a lot like caesar dressing, but better, because it starred one of my favorite social-justice super-heros, César Chávez.
I started out just making the dressing, but then I decided I wanted to go all the way – make a whole meal. So, following the directions for baked tofu (also in Appetite for Reduction), I pressed, marinated, and baked some tofu. I can’t believe I have never pressed tofu before…but I haven’t. I have cut it up and dry-fried it, but never actually wrapped it in a towel and squeezed it out underneath heavy things. (I used a ceramic bowl of water, sitting on a cast-iron pan, sitting on a cutting board, sitting on the towel-wrapped tofu.) It’s amazing, but, when you actually press it, the tofu absorbs the marinade! (That should not have been a surprise for me.)
After blending my dressing, and pressing, marinating, and baking my tofu, I attempted what the recipe book called “eggplant bacon”. I was supposed to cut the eggplant into thin strips, bake them, dip them in soy sauce and liquid smoke, and then bake them again. I did this, but I don’t think I cut the eggplant thin enough, and it pretty much just turned into soggy/salty eggplant. The eggplant bacon wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great, either. I still have half an eggplant left, so I think I’m going to try again, making sure to cut the eggplant a bit thinner this time. That will give me more crispy pieces, which have more of a bacony texture.
I tore up some lettuce, cut the tofu into squares, scattered on the eggplant bacon, and poured on the César Chávez dressing. Putting it all together – it was pretty good! I felt like I was eating a complete meal, instead of just random bits of food (which I have a bad habit of doing). Overall, I was pretty impressed with the meal.
I will definitely make the tofu again. The salad dressing tasted a lot like caesar dressing, and since I don’t particularly love caesar dressing, it won’t go into my regular cooking rotation. Maybe on César Chávez’s birthday I’ll make the salad dressing again.