I realize this sounds totally crazy, but when I decided to overhaul my diet and go mostly vegan, one of the things I was most concerned about missing was salad.
Hear me out.
I knew I would still eat lots of lettuce, but I’d become quite accustomed to topping all my salads with a shower of cheese. One of my college friend’s moms used to say “It’s not a salad if it doesn’t have five colors,” and one of my colors was definitely white: feta or goat, Parmesan or pecorino. Without cheese, would I even like salad anymore?
I needed an alternative topping. I wanted something a little indulgent (I was already eating my vegetables), and something that would provide a nice textural contrast to the leafy greens. What about… a savory granola?!
It turns out that I wasn’t the first person to have this idea. But none of the recipes I found online were vegan. They almost all included an egg white as a binder, and many had cheese–just what I was trying to avoid in the first place.
The recipe I liked best was from Bon Appétit, but I changed it quite a bit. I veganized it with a flax egg (1 tablespoon of ground flax seeds mixed with 3 tablespoons of water) in place of the egg white. I also used a different combo of nuts and seeds, dialed back on the oil, and substituted smoked paprika (one of my all-time favorite spices) for cayenne.
Alex likes to snack on this straight from the jar, but I like it best over an escarole salad with chopped apples and a simple maple-balsamic vinaigrette.
- 1 tablespoon flax seeds
- 1 cup old fashioned rolled oats
- 1 cup coarsely chopped raw cashews
- 1/4 cup sesame seeds
- 1/4 cup raw sunflower seeds
- 1/4 cup raw pumpkin seeds
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon agave syrup
Preheat the oven to 350°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Grind the flax seeds in a spice grinder. Transfer to a small bowl and stir in 3 tablespoons of water. Set aside for 15 minutes to thicken.
In a large bowl, combine the oats, cashews, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, salt, paprika, and cumin. Stir in the olive oil, agave, and flax-water mixture. Transfer the mixture to the baking sheet and bake until fragrant and golden, about 30 minutes, stirring once halfway through. Cool completely on the baking sheet, then store the granola in an airtight container at room temperature.