Let me say two things: all of my boys LOVE Caesar Salad. Love it. And two, we are not a vegan family. Nonetheless, it's fun to play with different food options, letting the kids try options they might otherwise consider.
I saw a few different versions of this recipe online before I tried it. What we learned is that soaking the cashews before blending this makes all of the difference for that lovely creamy mouthfeel.
You can also use this dressing as a dip, if you'd rather. Raw veggies, pretzels, chips or whatever you like to use with dips, it is a quite nice option to the typical hummus.
Caesar salad (vegan)
Yield 2 to 4 servings or 1 1/2 cups dressing
For the salad:
½ small loaf crusty bread, such as sourdough, torn into 1-inch pieces (about 2 cups)
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 large head romaine lettuce, roughly chopped into 1-inch pieces (about 6 cups)
For the dressing:
1 cup whole unroasted cashews
1 snack-size (2-by-3-inch) sheet roasted nori, crumbled (optional but essential if you want that tasty fishy/sea taste that sardines would otherwise provide)
¼ cup nutritional yeast
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
2 garlic cloves
1 tablespoon brine from a jar of capers
2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon white miso paste
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Soak cashews in small bowl in warm water at least 3 hours. Use a bowl big enough to allow them to expand by at least double.
When ready to make your salad:
Heat the oven to 400 degrees. On a medium baking sheet, toss the bread with 2 tablespoons olive oil; season generously with salt and pepper. Bake until croutons are browned and crisp, stirring both halfway through, about 10 minutes for the croutons and 20 minutes for the chickpeas. Set aside.
While the croutons are roasting, prepare your dressing: In a high-speed blender, add all the dressing ingredients, plus 1/4 teaspoon salt, several grinds fresh pepper, and 3/4 cup water; blend until completely smooth, 3 to 4 minutes, scraping down the sides with a rubber spatula every now and again. Sample the dressing in the blender container for seasoning; add more salt and pepper as you see necessary. Set dressing aside. (You should have 1 1/2 cups).
In a large bowl, add the lettuce and the dressing. Toss well. Add the croutons and season to taste with salt and pepper.
You can also use this as a tasty dip option with veggies or pretzel sticks or whatever you like to use for dips.