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    Emily Malone

    culinary arts grad. nutrition facts lover. vegetarian chef. marathon runner. country music maniac. failed dog trainer. barre fanatic. loving mama.

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Vegan Caprese Summer Salad.

I hesitate to even call this a recipe because it’s so absurdly simple.  It’s more of a concept.  I’ve stopped eating dairy while I’m breastfeeding, and while most of the time it’s no big deal, there are a few things that just don’t quite work without cheese.  Like quesadillas, pizza (let’s be real here), and caprese salads. 

Or so I thought.

Vegan Caprese Salad via Daily Garnish

There is something that is just so summer about crisp tomatoes, fresh basil, and chewy mozzarella.  While I was busy lamenting the void of caprese salads in my life, I got an idea.  Mozzarella is a very mild cheese, almost flavorless at times.  Sort of like tofu, right?  And really, the olive oil, salt, and pepper are what make this salad so good. 

My newly vegetarian sister was skeptical.  I sliced it up and served it anyway.  We both agreed, it was good.  Like really good.  I don’t even miss the cheese type of good. 

Vegan Caprese Summer Salad

by Emily Malone

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 0 minutes

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 1 block firm or extra-firm tofu, pressed and drained
  • 6 ripe Roma tomatoes
  • 20-30 leaves fresh basil
  • olive oil
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

Using a tofu press or press slabs of tofu between paper towels and heavy cookbooks. Once the tofu is packed firm and drained of almost all liquid, cut and slice into even squares.  The more liquid you can drain from the tofu, the more the texture will mimic mozzarella. 

Slice tomatoes – try to get the same thickness of the tofu slabs.  On a large platter or individual salad plates, assemble the salad by layering one tomato, one piece of tofu, and one basil leaf – then repeat.

Vegan Caprese Salad via Daily Garnish

Drizzle the entire salad with a healthy dose of olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Do not be stingy. 

Vegan Caprese Salad via Daily Garnish

I rarely try to force a dish into being vegan, when cheese is such an integral ingredient. But in this case it works, and it’s delicious. Since tofu is so high in protein, this replacement even boosts the nutrition quite a bit! You can eat a large salad as a complete meal, or serve it as an appetizer or starter.

Vegan Caprese Salad via Daily Garnish

Happy summer!

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65 Comments so far
Leave a comment

RachelSD     at 7:20 am

Looks yummy, cheese or no cheese. Now I can’t wait for our CSA tomatoes!

[Reply]

Katy     at 7:23 am

Yummy! Why did you choose to not eat dairy while breast feeding?

[Reply]

Lauren     at 7:25 am

A drizzle of balsamic vinegar would be delicious, too!

[Reply]

Erica     at 7:26 am

I was *just* thinking of making a tomato salad yesterday! I have a few roma’s that are about to go bad and a new basil plant that’s just begging to be used.

[Reply]

Emily S     at 7:27 am

Curious why you cut out dairy – did Cullen have problems with it?

[Reply]

Leah Reply:

I was curious as well and found this online:

http://www.livestrong.com/article/125847-breastfeeding-dairy-allergies/

[Reply]

emily Reply:

As a breastfeeding mom (going on 14 months), I am aware of the science and theories. I posted because I am interested in Emily’s response only….your reply makes me uncomfortable because it infers that you’re speaking for her.

[Reply]

Leah Reply:

Sorry about that! I just wanted to step in and say that I was curious as well so I did a search and found some helpful information. So I shared. Sorry that you got offended or read my comment the wrong way. In no way was I speaking for Emily in any way, shape or form–my goodness!

[Reply]

emily Reply:

No worries!

[Reply]

Leah Reply:

ok, good–it’s hard sometimes when typing (versus talking to someone).

[Reply]

emily Reply:

Agreed :)

Leah Reply:

P.S. We’re all here to share and learn from each other.

[Reply]

Wendy Reply:

That was a bit of an overreaction…

[Reply]

Gabby (Quest for Delicious)     at 7:32 am

That’s a cool idea. It certainly looks as good as a normal caprese salad!

[Reply]

Melissa @ HerGreenLife     at 7:33 am

Avocado also works well as a mozz. cheese substitute in Caprese salads. That’s what we use to make a vegan version of our Caprese salad sandwiches (basically a Caprese salad served on our homemade whole wheat bread).

http://hergreenlife.com/2010/07/13/caprese-salad-sandwiches/

I guess you could do avocado for the yummy fat AND tofu for the protein. A drizzle of high-quality aged balsamic is also a great addition.

[Reply]

Samantha Reply:

Both of these ideas are great! I have been vegan so long I had never even had a caprese salad before so I never considered a vegan version. Tofu or avocado…I am there!

Great ideas both of you. Now see, even when you think it isn’t really a recipe, you never know who is going to get a new idea! :) (speaking as one who can literally eat the same thing every single day)

[Reply]

Rebecca @ Blueberry Smiles     at 7:37 am

Yum! Great idea— this is perfect to bring for lunch at work!

[Reply]

Sarah A.     at 7:43 am

I am dairy free too! Thank you SO much for posting this… I can’t wait to try it this weekend!

[Reply]

Katie A     at 7:48 am

Hi, I am a new mom of twins and I am really starting to find the vegetarian lifestyle a way I want to raise my sons. Is there a book or any tips you can give me to start out? I want to make sure that we are doing it in a healthy way! I want to give them the best that I can. Thanks so much and I love reading about your son he is only a couple weeks older than my boys so its nice to know someone is going through the same things :)

[Reply]

Leah Reply:

I loved reading ‘Eating Animals’. It was written by a vegetarian to his young son.

[Reply]

Katie A Reply:

Thank you, do you know who the author is?

[Reply]

Leah Reply:

I do! Here’s the website:

http://www.eatinganimals.com/

:)

[Reply]

Marcella     at 7:49 am

Tofu “Cheese” is really great when you cover it in a light miso forming a shell around it and then keep it in a sealed container for 2-3 days in the fridge. (The longer you keep it, the more the miso penetrates the tofu, but I wouldn’t do it for longer than 4 days.) Then just wipe off the miso with a damp paper towel and the tofu will have a much cheesier, deeper, salty taste.

[Reply]

Susan     at 8:09 am

My husband and I have have had this a few times this summer as well. We put a little dijon mustard on the tofu and it adds just a perfect amount of additional flavor.

[Reply]

HealthySpaceyFlautsit.com     at 8:10 am

I love caprese salad! We also do a variation by using Balsamic Vinaigrette instead of olive oil. It gives it a little kick and still taste amazing!

[Reply]

Jillian     at 8:30 am

“My newly vegetarian sister…” — Wow! How about guest-post on her experience?

[Reply]

Elisabeth Reply:

I was thinking the same thing!!

[Reply]

Amy     at 8:31 am

YUM. I’m vegan (and a tofu lover), so I need no convincing here. I just need to find some really good summer tomatoes!

There is a new book coming out about making vegan cheese. It may be too involved for some people (though it looks easy, just takes a while), but there is an amazing looking vegan mozzarella that is cashew-based: http://vegansaurus.com/post/1671017875/guest-recipe-vi-zahajszky-mozzarella-di-bufala

[Reply]

Jessica     at 8:54 am

I’m so happy I read this as I was on my way to the grocery store- my tofu is pressing right now! Thanks Emily :)

[Reply]

Melissa     at 9:31 am

I know this isn’t related to this post (the caprese looks amazing though) but my two-year-old son and I just had Field Roast dogs for the first time for lunch. I actually just did a little circle in the kitchen trying to figure out who to call first to tell about them. I know I’m preaching to the choir but AMAZING! A big thank you from our vegetarian family! :)

[Reply]

Heather (Heather's Dish)     at 10:10 am

soooo beautiful! this salad definitely just screams summer!

[Reply]

Dan     at 10:10 am

Disagree, unfortunately (sorry, Emily!). Tofu may be a suitable replacement for bland american mozarella, but the flavor of real buffalo mozzarella is irreplaceable.

[Reply]

Leah Reply:

Love me the water buffalo cheese! :)

[Reply]

Laura (Blogging Over Thyme) Reply:

I think this a great idea for someone who is vegan (or dairy free), but I have to agree too. Super fresh, moist great quality mozzarella is too hard to substitute!

[Reply]

Amber K     at 10:16 am

I wouldn’t have thought that pizza could ever work without cheese until I tried the rice crust roasted veggie pizza from the Amy’s brand. The caramelized onion sauce is so good, you don’t even miss the cheese!

[Reply]

Michelle@PeachyPalate     at 10:16 am

Simple but amazing idea!!!

[Reply]

erin @WELLinLA     at 10:37 am

I’m SO excited to have found this! I cannot eat dairy any longer + I’m taking on a month-long challenge to go vegan in August (part of my quest to do 11 things for 30 days before turning 30).

[Reply]

Andrea     at 10:47 am

Oh Yum! Honestly before I found you site my only experience with Tofu was it was bitter and disgusting, not knowing how to fix it. So far I’ve tried your crispy tofu salad with avocado and strawberries as well as the blackened tofu . BIG YUm! Neither my hubby nor I are vegetarian, may never be 100% but I am definitely less of a meat eater now more than ever. Thanks for sharing another delightful summery dish!

[Reply]

Lindsay Loves Veggies     at 11:05 am

I made a vegan caprese for my my blog last year! So delicious! Tofu makes a great mozzarella replacement! :)

[Reply]

Jennifer (The Gourmetour)     at 11:05 am

Um, GREAT IDEA!!! I will be sure to try this over the holiday week!
ps. amazing picture too!

[Reply]

Jennifer (The Gourmetour) Reply:

Also a little balsamic would be a great addition with tofu!

[Reply]

Venessa     at 12:00 pm

Brilliant! I love making caprese, but haven’t because of the mozzarella. I will definitely try this one. Thank you for sharing!

[Reply]

Lisa     at 12:19 pm

Last year I ate caprese salads almost every day. Our vegetable garden really flourished and we had so many tomatoes! I used the fresh basil from the garden too. I cannot wait for our tomatoes to get going this year.

[Reply]

Alex @ Raw Recovery     at 12:42 pm

This looks great! Caprese salads are my favorite and I never thought of using tofu, that’s a cool idea :)

[Reply]

Angela @ Happy Fit Mama     at 12:42 pm

Caprese salads are perfect for the summer when my garden is overflowing with tomatoes. I love the addition of tofu. Brilliant!

[Reply]

Janelle     at 1:25 pm

So simple… and yet SO genius. Love it.

[Reply]

Jasmine @ learning to feed yourself     at 1:52 pm

Love this! I disagree about pizza not being the same without cheese though. Amy’s makes a really really yummy frozen pizza that’s vegan and just uses lots of veggies instead. I would make one myself if I had the talent…

[Reply]

Lexi @ You, Me, & A World to See     at 2:20 pm

Love caprese salads, but they can be expensive for an appetizer! Hooray for a great inexpensive/high protein option :)

[Reply]

Karlee     at 2:42 pm

i love this idea!!! and tofu is much cheaper than fresh mozz.

[Reply]

Alexis     at 2:47 pm

This is one thing I refused to ever try during the three years I was vegan, but you made it look so good that I might actually try it. Thank you for sharing!

[Reply]

Lisa (bakebikeblog)     at 3:55 pm

what a great tofu ‘twist’ :)

[Reply]

Alejandra     at 8:56 pm

Oh I must say I wholeheartedly disagree with you: pizzas work very well without cheese! :)
The secret is in the tomato sauce. And without cheese you get to truly taste the veggies and not feel heavy after :)

[Reply]

Maryea {Happy Healthy Mama}     at 4:28 am

Hi Emily–sorry if you mentioned this before and I missed it, but I’m wondering why you aren’t having dairy while breastfeeding. Does Cullen have an intolerance or is there another reason you are avoiding it? I’m just curious as I’m breastfeeding my son now (6 months) and he is intolerant the proteins in dairy, soy, wheat, and nuts. I’m hoping he’ll outgrow it and I plan to start adding foods back in at 8 months, but now I’m wondering if there’s another reason to keep the dairy out for longer.

[Reply]

B @ Crags and Veggies     at 5:58 am

Oh wow! I just posted a vegan caprese recipe too. Tofu is a great idea! I used avocado, you should try it too! The texture is really nice!!

[Reply]

Ashley     at 6:59 am

I can totally see this working!! Texture and flavor. Such a creative concept!

[Reply]

Marissa@ohhhsolovely     at 9:56 am

this looks amazingly refreshing…will keep in mind for the july 4 festivities!

[Reply]

Ally     at 5:22 pm

TOTALLY unexpected, but I love this! Even more surprising, my I-have-to-have-meat-at-every-meal-husband loved it too!

We have a winner!

[Reply]

Carol     at 8:23 pm

Terrific idea! Heading to the farmers market tomorrow for tomatoes. Tofu and basil already in hand. Can’t wait to try it.

[Reply]

Jes     at 3:29 pm

So, I was skeptical about the tofu, but gave it a shot with some grilled green tomatoes and basil from the CSA … fantastic. Thank you! :)

[Reply]

Kim     at 5:24 pm

That’s genius! Thanks for the idea!

[Reply]

Jennifer Anchecta     at 8:36 am

Just made this and it tastes amazing…..I have a ton of garden tomatoes and adding tofu is so much healthier than cheese and it tastes great!

[Reply]

Autumn Tao     at 11:15 am

Oh Emily… you are a genius! This is outstanding! I’ve got incredible Jersey tomatoes and basil from my front porch, and as a vegan, I do occasionally miss mozzarella for meals like this… but what a great substitute. I paired it with an ear of Jersey sweet corn and I’m in summer heaven.

Thanks for the fantastic recipe!!

[Reply]

This American Bite     at 11:48 am

Thank you for sharing this recipe, this dish caught my eye I have included it in my June Recipe Roundup at This American Bite.

[Reply]

Recipe Roundup - June 2012 | Food for Foodies by This American Bite     at 11:27 am

[...] citrusy salad to compliment a sunset!  Daily Garnish adds to this category too with a colorful Vegan Caprese Summer Salad, as does The Kosher Spoon with Cherry Tomato and Green Onion [...]

Daily Garnish » Blog Archive » Sprucing Up Summer Caprese With Oliviers & Co. (+$300 Giveaway!).     at 6:00 am

[...] of my favorite things to eat in the summer is the basic caprese salad (in fact, there are two variations of this salad on my recipe page already!).  And I think one of the things I love about it so [...]

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