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Meatless Monday: The Punk, the Samurai and the Salad Bowl -- Terry Hope Romero Mixes it Up

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"Vegan and punk -- there's a strong relationship. We're angry at the world and let's make it a better place," says Terry Hope Romero , who teamed up with Isa Chandra Moskowitz for "Post Punk Kitchen." The two made the world better with the bestselling "Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World." Now Romero takes on "sucktastic salads." Enter "The Salad Samurai."

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As she did with "Vegan Eats World," Romero rounds up a big world of fusion and flavors for 100 cutting-edge salads, like Herbed Pea Ricotta With Tomatoes and Basil, Pepperoni Tempeh Pizza Salad and Sesame Noodles in the Dojo that's worthy of a samurai. Sayonara, sucktastic, hello "hot and tasty, grilled and sauteed, cool and crisp, engaging and yummy."

Romero did it all for you, baby. And for herself. Though she can still make a rockin' vegan cupcake, "I feel better when I eat better," she says."Less sugar, more vegetables, more protein. Salad I can eat on an everyday basis." Especially these salads, that get "back to basics in new and interesting ways. Doing a book like this feels like how I live now."

How she lives now is busy. You, too? No worries. "Salad Samurai" recipes are bold, but totally doable. Romero gives you the recipes as well as their individual components from spirited dressings to crunchy, cool toppings, so you can mix, match and tap into your own inner salad samurai.

It's all very far from the salad of Romero's teen vegetarian days. "Iceberg lettuce, horrible plastic tomato, bottled ranch dressing. It was the saddest thing." The first wave of vegan restaurants weren't much better. "They were like, 'We're just going to use the same thing in everything. Tamari. Sucanet. Whole wheat flour. And tofu --the hard kind.'" No wonder Romero was an angry punk. Hungry, too.

Around that time, Romero met Moskowitz. "She knew I liked to cook, she liked to cook, she was asking me do I want to work with her on a vegan punk rock cooking show." Glamorous? No. Punk? Definitely "Oh, my God, we taught ourselves everything on that show. It was public access, no budget, super DYI."

Even so, the show tapped into the vegan zeitgeist that hadn't existed before. "It is dramatic how much it's changed. Americans are more interested in variety, in ethnic food. They like to think about cooking at home. I feel like you're able to say vegan and people kind of get it," says Romero. "For vegans, it's incredibly awesome."

The punk awe continues. Moskowitz, who could be chilling after the release of her new cookbook, "Isa Does It," has just opened her own restaurant, Modern Love.

"It's the most exciting thing in vegan right now," says Romero. Well, Romero's salads aren't too shabby, either. She's back on camera with "Vegan Mashup," but never far from her punk roots. 'We have a tiny bit more budget and a few nicer cameras, but we're still a DYI kinda thing."

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Herbed Pea Ricotta, Tomatoes & Basil

Recipe used with permission from "Salad Samurai," by Terry Hope Romero, copyright 2014. Published by DaCapo Press.

Serves 3 to 4

"Salad caprese, that perfect arrangement of mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil dressed in oil and balsamic, gives me a serious case of salad envy," writes Romero, but this vegan version will be the envy of all. Adds Romero -- "Pro tip: stuff cherry tomatoes with the ricotta and chiffonaded basil for ultra-fresh summertime appetizers!"

Green Pea Ricotta

2 cups frozen peas, thawed for 6 hours or overnight in the refrigerator
1⁄2 cup unroasted cashews
1⁄2 cup water
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, basil, or dill

Salad

2 pounds juicy, perfectly ripe tomatoes, red or a mix of heirloom colors
1 cup fresh basil leaves, washed and dried
Extra-virgin olive oil
Good quality balsamic vinegar
Few twists of freshly ground black pepper

While the peas thaw, soak the cashews with the water in a glass container in the refrigerator.

Drain the cashews and transfer to a food processor. Add the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and salt and pulse into a thick paste, occasionally scraping down the sides of the food processor with a rubber spatula.

Add the peas and chopped fresh herbs to the cashews. Pulse and scrape into a fluffy, smooth paste. Taste the pea ricotta and add more lemon and salt if needed. Transfer to a container, tightly cover, and chill for at least 10 minutes for the flavors to blend.

When ready to serve, slice the tomatoes into thick slabs and arrange on a serving plate. Top each slice with a generous dollop of pea ricotta and garnish with a basil leaf. Drizzle each slice with olive oil, a little balsamic vinegar, and dust with a garnish of freshly ground pepper. Serve as is or with slices of crusty bread.

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