Warm Orange-Fennel-Olive Salad with Grilled Tempeh

On a warm spring or summer day, out on the deck for lunch, nothing beats this meal for us!  It’s a de-meatified, whole-wheatified version of a favorite of ours from Rachael Ray’s 365: No Repeats.  I get the feeling “Rach” isn’t really respected among real chefs (except for her ability to make a billion dollars despite a slightly annoying personality), so maybe this isn’t 014 300x225something I should be proud of, but I can unequivocally say that this book taught me how to cook.  It turned me from someone who really didn’t know anything about cooking into someone who just sort of doesn’t know anything about cooking.  What I like about it is that she teaches you that ingredient measurements don’t have to be exact.  You can eyeball ingredients instead of measuring stuff, so you learn, for example, that a drizzle around the pan is about equal to a tablespoon of oil, a large handful of parsley leaves is a quarter cup, and so on.  The result is much faster cooking, which means more real food instead of fake store-bought meals for your family.  Anyway, great book with lots of good easy recipes for a beginning chef.

This “salad” is one of our favorites to eat outside for lunch in the summer.  I don’t really think of it as a salad because the vegetables are sort of cooked by the orange juice and salt, plus the grilled tempeh and pita warm everything up.  I tried fennel for the first time with this dish.  Fennel has a very faint licorice taste, and I think it’s so much better raw than braised or cooked any other way.  Plus eating it raw better preserves its unique phytonutrient profile.  And like most vegetables, it has lots of fiber and vitamin C.  And with that pesky Swine Flu going around, couldn’t we all use a little more vitamin C?

Besides fennel, this meal is loaded with other fruits and vegetables.  Oranges, tomatoes, scallions, garlic, parsley, rosemary, and two kinds of olives.  Add to that some tempeh and whole wheat pita, and you have yourself a No Meat Athlete-approved lunch or dinner.  And it’s a good one.  This is the epitome of a 4 out of 5 cow dish.  Something that you go back for seconds and thirds of (and can feel good about doing so).  Plus it makes great leftovers when you stuff the salad in a pita to go instead of on top of one on a plate.  I’m going to admit that just a little flavor is lost by using tempeh instead of chicken here, but of course (for me personally) a lot more is gained by feeling better about eating it!

Fennel-Olive Salad With Grilled Tempeh Recipe

Ingredients (for 6 servings):

  • Two medium oranges, one zested
  • 1 Tbsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • generous handful flat leaf parsley
  • 8 Tbsp canola oil
  • 8-oz package of tempeh
  • 2 pints grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 fennel bulb
  • 12 kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
  • 12 green olives, pitted and chopped
  • 4 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 3 whole-wheat pitas
  • a few gratings of parmesan cheese

Heat a grill to high.  To prepare the fennel, cut off and discard all the stalks, keeping a few of the fronds (thin leaves).  Chop the fronds and reserve.  Cut the bulb into quarters, then cut out the core from each.  Discard the core and thinly slice the remaining fennel.

Mix together the juice of one orange, the rosemary, two of the garlic cloves, the parsley, 2 Tbsp canola oil, salt and pepper.  Add the tempeh to the mixture to marinate. In another bowl, combine the fennel, fennel fronds, olives, scallions, juice of the remaining orange, and the zest of one orange.  Add salt, pepper, and 2 Tbsp canola oil.  Let it sit for a few minutes at room temperature for the flavors to meld.

Cut each pita into two thin disks.  Combine the last 4 Tbsp canola oil with the remaining chopped garlic clove in a small bowl.  Brush onto both sides of each pita then sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Place the tempeh and pitas on the hot grill at the same time.  Turn the pitas and tempeh when they are well marked, probably about 1-2 minutes.  Sprinkle the parmesan on the pitas.  Remove from grill when pitas are marked on both sides and tempeh is heated through.  Slice tempeh and add to bowl with fennel and vegetables.  Toss and serve on top of pitas.

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