You have to like curry and fruit in savory places to be tempted by this salad from Terry Hope Romero's new vegan cookbook, Salad Samurai, because it's heavy in both departments. But if you're into that, which I happen to be, this salad will do you just right.
Cubes of tempeh—a nutritious, crumbly slab of fermented beans, usually soy—are tossed with dried cranberries, apples, toasted pecans, and cilantro, and coated in a tangy, copiously curried dressing made from puréed cashews. Romero then makes the filling salad cleverly portable by scooping it into intact radicchio leaves. There are so many textures and flavors at play, every bite is slightly different and delicious in its own way. Tempeh, which has a bit of a natural funk to it, is happily at home with the bold dressing and sweet and tart fruits.
Why I picked this recipe: I admit, I can sometimes be turned off by tempeh. I thought this salad could be an appetizing way to try it, given my love for all the other components.
What worked: I was right. Even if you think you don't like tempeh, give it a go here.
What didn't: I wouldn't have minded the dressing being a touch looser; it felt slightly gunky, especially after time in the fridge. I may add a tablespoon or so more water next time.
Suggested tweaks: The undressed radicchio was just too bitter for me, so I've been eating it (for 2 days now; it keeps well) as Romero suggests, "...heaped on slices of dark bread studded with pecans and cranberries." And this may be tacky to suggest, but chicken in place of the tempeh would be pretty awesome, if you swing that way.
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.
- Yield:Serves 2 to 4 or more as an appetizer
- Active time: 45 minutes
- Total time:45 minutes
- Creamy Curry Dressing
- 1/2 cup unroasted cashews
- 1/2 cup hot water
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
- 1 teaspoon coconut oil
- 1 clove garlic, peeled
- 2 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 8 ounces tempeh
- 1/2 cup dried cranberries or raisins
- 1 red or green apple
- 1/4 cup lightly packed fresh cilantro, chopped
- 1/2 cup toasted pecans
- 1 head radicchio
Soak the cashews in the hot water for 30 minutes, then pour the cashews and soaking water into a blender and blend until very smooth. Alternatively, if you have a high-powered blender (like a Vitamix or Blendtec), no soaking is required: just pulse the cashews into a fine powder, add the hot water, and pulse again until very smooth.
Add the remaining dressing ingredients and pulse until the sauce is smooth. Chill the dressing in a tightly covered container until ready to use, or at least 20 minutes for the flavors to blend.
Dice the tempeh into 1/2-inch cubes. Steam the tempeh for 8 to 10 minutes, until tender; the last 3 minutes of steaming, toss in the dried cranberries and steam them along with the tempeh. Set the tempeh and dried cranberries aside to cool while preparing the rest of the salad.
Remove the core from the apple (don’t peel) and dice into 1/2-inch pieces. Transfer to a mixing bowl along with the cilantro and pecans. Add the tempeh, cranberries, and dressing and stir together to coat everything in dressing.
Peel away the two wilted outer leaves of the radicchio, then carefully peel apart as many leaves as possible (without ripping any) for serving cups (washing is optional, as you’re using the inner leaves). Serve the salad by scooping it into the radicchio leaves!
(Master the art of the perfect radicchio cup! Slice away the bottom of the leaf from the core at the bottom of the radicchio head and then start pulling from the bottom of the leaf and separate it from the head.)