I tend to cook with music in the background or I'm jamming away with a headset. My kitchen is lively and energetic. In fact, every meal has its own soundtrack. I become one with the music and the energy feeds my creative process. Cooking is definitely not a chore for me, and I try to make it as fun as possible.
Here lately, I've become a total NPR junkie and I'd be lying if I said I was listening to anything else on the day I created this salad. However, I must say that this salad has the spirit and soul of Ozomatli--the crafty Latin band that blends funk, salsa, hip hop, cumbia, merengue, and the soul of L.A.
Mexican Fiesta Tempeh Salad w/Queso Blanco
- 2 cups cooked black beans
- 2 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 2 teaspoons chili powder
- 1/2-3/4 teaspoon salt
- fresh ground black pepper, to taste
- 1 package of tempeh
- garlic powder
- onion powder
- 1 block queso blanco
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 1 bag romaine lettuce
- 2 tablespoons pico de gallo
- 2 tablespoons cilantro, minced
- 1 bottle Southwest Chipotle Dressing*
- 1 bag Sante Fe Style tortilla strips
- 1 avocado
* I used this salad dressing as a base and enhanced the flavor by blending it with tamarind paste, olive oil, cilantro, pico de gallo, vinegar, and lime juice in the blender.
Preheat oven to 400ºF. In a large frying pan, heat 1 tbsp olive oil over medium low heat. Add the garlic and chili powder. Saute, stirring occasionally, until the garlic just begins to turn golden. Add the black beans and stir to coat with the garlic and curry powder. Add the salt and pepper. Stir to combine and turn out the black beans into a large, shallow baking pan. Bake 15-20 minutes, or until crunchy. Set aside and allow to cool.
Then, cut the tempeh into thin strips or cubes. Season to taste with garlic powder, cumin, and onion powder, about 2 to 3 shakes per seasoning. Heat 1 tbsp olive in the frying pan used for the beans. Cook the the tempeh over medium heat until golden brown. Set aside.
Cut a strip of 1" thick queso blanco from the cheese block. Cut into half. In a frying pan, heat 1 tsp olive oil over medium low heat. Cook queso blanco on both sides until brown and crust forms. Cut into smaller pieces and set aside.
In a large bowl, combine 2 handfuls of romaine lettuce (or enough for one salad), pico de gallo, cilantro, 3 to 4 pieces of tempeh, 1/4 cup black beans, and salad dressing (about 2 tablespoons). Mix well. Transfer to a serving plate. Top with tortilla strips, fried queso blanco pieces, and avocado slices. Enjoy!