It may not always be considered particularly exciting, but lettuce is one the most popular vegetables on the planet, second only to potatoes in terms of consumption. This ubiquitous leaf has ancient roots; there are murals dating back to 2700 BC in Egypt depicting the lettuce plant, which was then prized for the seeds and milky secretions. The Greeks learned to grow lettuce from the Egyptians, and passed that knowledge on to the Romans, who named the plant 'lactuca', meaning 'milk', for the white sap you find when breaking the stems. The Romans also further developed lettuce in pursuit of tastier leaves. Today's lettuce tends to be a far cry from those bitter wild leaves, and can be found in a vast array of colours and flavours, from reds to myriad greens, buttery to bitey. Farm fresh lettuce is delicious and vibrant, not like the trucked-in lacklustre iceberg lettuce sitting for weeks at the supermarket.
I make and eat a lot of salads. They’re my mainstay, and there's a million ways to create a salad. But I'm not talking bland little side salads- I am all about hearty, big ol' bowls of goodness that push their way onto the centre stage of the plate. Most of those salads are a little more empty-out-the-refrigerator, spur of the moment type, but for the sake of sharing the deliciousness this was I created a recipe.
A spin on the classic Caesar salad, where tender fresh cos lettuce and dark greens tango with spiced chickpeas standing in for croutons, and smokey tempeh gives it a meaty bite, all draped in a flavour rich umami dressing. Maybe it can inspire your salad bowls.
400g Tempeh, cubed
3 tablespoons Tamari, or Soy Sauce
2 tablespoons Apple Cider Vinegar
2 cloves Garlic, minced
1 teaspoon Honey or Maple Syrup
Spiced & Roasted Chickpeas
400g Chickpeas, drained
1 tablespoon Olive Oil
1/2 teaspoon Smoked Paprika
1/2 teaspoon Garlic Powder
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1 teaspoon Hot Sauce
2 tablespoons Olive Oil
2 tablespoons Hempseed Oil
1/2 Lemon, juiced
1 tablespoon Water
2 teaspoons Miso
2 Egg Yolks or equivalent Aquafaba
1 teaspoon Wholegrain Mustard
1 clove Garlic
1 tablespoon Nutritional Yeast
1 teaspoon Capers or Anchovies
1/2 teaspoon Cracked Peppercorn
1 head Cos Lettuce, torn into pieces
1/2 bunch Spinach, chopped
Few handfuls Rocket or Mesclun
2 tablespoons Hemp Seeds
1 Tablespoon Nutritional Yeast
The How To:
Mix the marinade in a bowl, then add the cubed tempeh and gently stir to cover all sides. Set aside in the fridge and allow to marinate for at least 20 minutes. Preheat the oven to 180*. Place tempeh on a baking tray and slide into the oven for 25 minutes.
Spiced & Roasted Chickpeas
Mix chickpeas with oil and spices. Pour into one layer across a baking sheet. They can be added to the oven at the same time as the tempeh. Allow to cook for around 20-25 minutes, giving the tray one or two gentle shakes to roll the chickpeas around during the baking time. They're done once golden and crisping.
Put all ingredients except the oils in a blender. Over a medium speed slowly drizzle in the oil, running until the mixture has emulsified and is thick and creamy.
In a large salad bowl toss lettuce, spinach and rocket with half the chickpeas and tempeh and about a quarter of the dressing. Top with the remaining chickpeas and tempeh bites, an extra drizzle of dressing, and the hemp seeds and nutritional yeast.
-You'll have extra dressing; jar it up and keep it in the fridge for use on salads or wraps for a week.
-If you're feeling rebellious a few sliced tomatoes and radish aren't a bad addition; since we've already done a bit of a number on the traditional Caesar salad, a little extra jazz can't hurt.