Chef and author Terry Hope Romero knows her veggies and she’s back to rescue salads from their bad reputation. Salad Samurai (Da Capo Press, 2014) is a guide to real salad bushido that will eliminate the “side” status with more than 100 vibrant recipes. The following excerpt is for a Tempeh Taco Salad Recipe that’s sure to please any taco bowl fan.
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Though a far cry from authentic Mexican food, taco-inspired salads tucked into edible tortilla-shell bowls have a fierce and loyal following. This one’s for you, taco bowl fans: spicy tempeh crumbles (tempeh asada, if you will), creamy avocado ranch dressing, and an onslaught of cool, crisp salad fixings heaped into ridiculously easy home-baked tortilla bowls. Adventure-craving chefs should try the variation with exotic jackfruit “carnitas” for a stunning meaty filling.
Tempeh Taco Salad Recipe
Avocado Ranch Dressing
• 1 large, ripe avocado
• 1 cup ranch dressing
• 1/2 cup lightly packed fresh cilantro, chopped
• 8 ounces tempeh
• 1 tablespoon olive oil
• 1 cup light-colored Mexican beer or vegetable broth
• 1 tablespoon chili powder, plus more for garnish
• 1 teaspoon smoked sweet or hot paprika
• 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
• 1 teaspoon ground cumin
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 4 Baked Tortilla Bowls (see below), or 1 cup tortilla chips per serving
• 6 cups shredded romaine lettuce
• 1 pint grape tomatoes, sliced in half
• 1 cup cooked black beans
• 1 cup thinly sliced red onions
• 1 cup pitted, sliced black olives
• Lime wedges, for garnish
1. Make the dressing first: blend together all of the dressing ingredients in a blender until silky smooth. Taste and season with a little more salt if desired. Chill the dressing until ready to use.
2. Prepare the tempeh! Dice the tempeh into rough chunks. Preheat a skillet over medium heat and then sauté the tempeh and olive oil for 3 to 4 minutes, until golden brown. Add the beer, chili powder, paprika, lime juice, cumin, and salt. Simmer for 1 minute, reduce the heat to low, and cook for 4 to 6 minutes, or until almost all of the liquid has been absorbed but the tempeh is still slightly juicy. Turn off the heat and cover the pan to keep warm.
3. Bake the tortilla bowls as directed below; while those are baking, prepare the remaining salad ingredients.
4. When you’re ready to assemble the taco salad bowls, first arrange the warm tortilla shells on serving dishes. Drizzle a little avocado dressing on the bottom of each bowl, then heap in lettuce, tomatoes, beans, onions, and olives and top with tempeh (you can warm it up a little if you prefer). Drizzle on more dressing, sprinkle with a little chili powder if you like, and serve! Pass around the dressing and a few lime wedges too.
5. If opting for a free-form salad instead of bowls, layer the bottom of large serving bowls with shredded lettuce. Spread a layer of slightly crushed tortilla chips, then top with tomatoes, beans, onions, olives, and tempeh. Serve with the dressing as directed for the bowls.
Baked Tortilla Bowls
Wheat tortillas bake in minutes into crispy tortilla bowls. Everyone is happy, and you look like a culinary genius.
• 4 (8- to 10-inch) wheat tortillas, any flavor
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Arrange four 6-inch-wide ovenproof bowls on a baking sheet. Warm the tortillas (either in the microwave or a hot pan or directly over a gas burner top while holding with metal tongs) until soft and floppy.
2. Press the tortillas into the bowls, crimping the sides to press into a bowl shape. Spray the insides with a touch of cooking spray (preferably olive oil).
3. Bake the bowls for 8 to 10 minutes, until crisp and golden brown; watch carefully so they don’t burn.
4. Remove from the oven and use them warm for the best flavor and texture.
Green jackfruit, a unique tropical fruit looking something like a misshapen watermelon covered in spikes, has fibrous flesh that when stewed looks alarmingly like pulled pork. Tangling with fresh jackfruit isn’t recommended for even advanced chefs—the cut flesh oozes a sticky latex-like resin everywhere—but cooks of all levels can get great results using canned green jackfruit packed in brine. Take care not to confuse it with jackfruit packed in syrup, which won’t work in this dish. Look for canned jackfruit in large, well-stocked Asian markets.
Jackfruit Taco Salad Bowls
Drain one 20-ounce can green jackfruit in brine, and use your fingers to pull apart the chunks of fruit into shreds. In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, simmer together the jackfruit, beer, chili powder, paprika, lime juice, cumin, and salt. Bring to a rapid simmer for 1 minute, reduce the heat to low, and cook for 20 minutes, or until almost all of the sauce has been absorbed by the jackfruit. Pour 1 tablespoon of olive oil over the jackfruit and cook, stirring occasionally, until the shreds are sizzling and all of the liquid has been absorbed but the jackfruit still looks moist. Turn off the heat and cover the jackfruit to keep warm. Use as directed for the tempeh.
More from Salad Samurai
From Salad Samurai: 100 Cutting-Edge, Ultra-Hearty, Easy-to-Make Salads You Don’t Have to Be Vegan to Love by Terry Hope Romero. Reprinted courtesy of Da Capo Lifelong Books. Purchase this book in our store: Salad Samurai.