Confession time. Now, I know that being a dietitian and all, my choice of salad should consist of lightly dressed greens and plentiful amounts of raw vegetables, but if I'm being honest, I like my salad fully loaded. To me, a salad bar is a personal challenge to see how many things I can fit on one plate.
Salads are generally considered the healthy choice at restaurants. Unfortunately, after topping those greens with piles of bacon, cheese, croutons and 300 calories of dressing, you might as well have ordered a burger and fries.
If the toppings are your favorite part of a salad, and I presume most people fall in that category, then you'll love this recipe! Piled high with smoky tempeh bacon, blue cheese, hard boiled eggs and juicy cherry tomatoes then drizzled with a basil and kalamata olive vinaigrette, this salad packs plenty of big flavors.
Tempeh is one of my favorite meat substitutes. I discussed tempeh and other soy foods awhile back, so lets revisit it. Tempeh is made from fermented soy beans that are then pressed into a cake. It may not sound appealing, but it has a slightly meaty flavor and texture that makes it a much more appealing than tofu for many people. Another bonus point over tofu - tempeh is fermented, making it a source of beneficial probiotics when consumed uncooked. Also, by fermenting the soybeans, it breaks down compounds that can interfere with nutrient absorption and goitrogens, which can affect thyroid function in people with thyroid disease.
Tempeh bacon is made by marinating slices of tempeh in soy sauce (another fermented soy food!), apple cider vinegar and smoky spices. I definitely recommend making extra to throw into other dishes throughout the week. Toss whole grain pasta with tempeh bacon and roasted broccoli rabe for a quick vegan meal or mix it into South Carolina stone ground grits and serve with stewed tomatoes for one of my favorite low country breakfasts.
You could switch up this salad in so many ways. For a vegan version, leave off the egg and blue cheese and substitute cannellini beans and tofu chevre. I adore this kalamata olive vinaigrette, but if you want something creamier, try this vegan ranch dressing or my buttermilk-lime dressing. To save time, try using Lightlife's Organic Smoky Tempeh Strips, which I've heard great things about!
Tempeh BLT Salad with Kalamata VinaigretteSalad adapted from Southern Living, tempeh bacon adapted from Vegetarian Times
8 ounces tempeh, halved lengthwise then each half sliced into 12 thin slices (for a total of 24 slices)
1/4 cup soy sauce or tamari
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon molasses
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon ancho chili powder
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup finely chopped kalamata olives
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons chopped basil
2 tablespoons chopped oregano
2 minced garlic cloves
1/2 teaspoon sugar
Arugula, microgreens or romaine for four salads
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
4 hard boiled eggs, chopped
2 ounces gorgonzola cheese
Arugula, microgreens or romaine lettuce for four salads
First, make the tempeh bacon. In a small bowl, whisk together soy sauce, vinegar, molasses and spices. Lay the slices of tempeh flat on the baking dish and pour the marinade over the top. Refrigerate to marinade at least 2 hours or overnight.
Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Brush the bottom of a baking sheet with half the olive oil. Lay the tempeh slices flat on the baking sheet and brush with remaining olive oil. Bake 12-14 minutes until beginning to brown, then flip and bake an additional 8 minutes until crisp. Remove from oven and set aside to cool
To make dressing, whisk together all dressing ingredients and season with salt and pepper.
Divide salad greens among four plates. Top with cherry tomatoes, chopped hard boiled egg, cheese and crumbled bacon slices. Drizzle with dressing and serve.