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orange + ancho tempeh tacos w/ ruby grapefruit slaw


I say this about so many things, but winter citrus is certain proof that we are loved in this world. January brings us to more hours spent in darkness. The sun is elusive on most days, giving way to shades of mud and blinding white. On winter drives through all of the sleepy orchards, there’s an illusion of hollow space, that the rows of black and empty branches cross each other forever and for no reason, that your breath could escape and go on. A cloudy and warm gasp would lift from your mouth, drifting over the fields searching listlessly for another of its kind. Stepping outside invites the bizarrely comforting act of bundling yourself up to face the world. Promises of impending greatness well up and wait. By the end of March, I’m on my knees for a release from the extremity of it, the spatial restlessness and cold grey, the bleak landscape that seems to dwell within.

Then there are splendid and simple moments, ones of clarity. Cutting into any one of the satsumas, lemons, blood oranges, grapefruits, or tangerines, taking a second to revel in the brightness, is one of those moments. Vivid colour, the intensely perfumed oil in the skin, all succulent with tart sweetness, the symmetry within the shapes–all reminders of the warmth in the design of this world. The core of life still glows and we are assured at the very sight of those neon orbs that vibrate with the sun and earth’s strength.

Something unusual to wake up my winter-dulled sensibilities was bubbling away in my mind and it had to be a chop, a shred, a seasoning from up high, toss toss toss and a fast sear away. Quick. Jude Blereau’s orange pan-glazed tempeh (first seen on 101 Cookbooks for me) is one of my favourite ways to utilize citrus in an upfront and savoury sort of way. I swap out the coriander for some ground ancho chilies in pursuit of heat, but otherwise keep it to the letter and simple. Have you tried tempeh before? That fermented, probiotic and protein-heavy vegan wonder food? The texture is toothsome. The flavour is nutty, hinting at mushrooms and damp, forest floor kind of qualities. It has roots in Indonesian cuisine and stands in beautifully for tofu and animal proteins.

Right here, it goes for a bit of a sear and a sloshy glaze of maple, ancho and soy infused orange juice. I thought of it as the foundation of a taco with a slaw saturated in grapefruit juice and flecked with fresh mint. Grapefruit gets on beautifully with creamy and mild avocado, so that became the crucial third component. A little frivolous tangle of sprouts on top felt fine in the moment. Finishing squeezes of lime are available for even more freshness. The combination is nicely jarring and it brings the world a bit closer, what with the participatory nature of taco get-togethers. The gathering, assembly and communal eating seems to put us all into the light a little more.


orange + ancho braised tempeh tacos with ruby grapefruit slaw
serves: 4-5
notes: I used an all-soy variety of tempeh for this, but there are many varieties with brown rice and other grains thrown into the mix  that are great. Also, as previously mentioned, I subbed in ancho powder + cayenne for the coriander in Jude’s recipe. You could go so many ways with it though.

1 batch orange pan glazed tempeh (recipe link), subbing ancho powder for the coriander

ruby grapefruit slaw:
1/2 small red cabbage, cored and shredded
1 small carrot, grated or peeled into ribbons (I used a funky white, heirloom one)
juice of 1 grapefruit + I cut up a few sections of it for visual/textural interest in the slaw
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 green onions, sliced finely
4 sprigs of mint, leaves sliced finely
salt and pepper

assembly:
corn tortillas, warmed
1 ripe avocado, peeled, pitted + sliced
handfuls of sprouts (I had pea shoots around)
lime wedges
sriracha or other hot sauce

Prepare the slaw: combine all slaw ingredients in a large bowl and toss to combine. Taste for seasoning, adjust, and set aside.

Dice and warm all of the assembly components and set aside.

Prepare tempeh according to directions. Serve hot with other taco accoutrements.

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Kathryn09/01/2013 - 6:19 am

This really is food to make you feel alive isn’t it? The brightness and lightness sounds just what I’m graving in these grey January days.

Caitlin09/01/2013 - 7:36 am

there is something cutting into a big, beautiful grapefruit that makes winter a little sweeter. these tacos look incredibly delicious, and i’d love to just eat up all the slaw in one sitting.

thelittleloaf09/01/2013 - 9:21 am

Everything you’re posting at the moment is exactly what I’m craving! These flavours look and sound delicious.

Michelle09/01/2013 - 10:39 am

So much love for this.

la domestique09/01/2013 - 11:23 am

Absolutely gorgeous, Laura! I’ve never tried tempeh, but your description has certainly tempted me to do so. The recipe looks so fresh and uplifting.

Heather09/01/2013 - 12:37 pm

I just read your interview on Mint, which part of Canada are your from. I am now living in Seattle, but used to live in Victoria, BC? I love this post, the recipe and the photos.

Laura09/01/2013 - 1:10 pm

Heather! I’m from the Niagara region of Southern Ontario. Lived in Toronto for a loooong time, but came back to my hometown for some country livin’. Thanks for your kindness too! xo
-L

Sarah B.09/01/2013 - 4:27 pm

Such a beautiful post Laura, especially love those first three. And delicious, going to whole foods now, might drop some tempeh in my basket. Just a little inspiration today, weee :) Happy New Year to you! <3

Ashley09/01/2013 - 10:19 pm

Love this post through + through. The photos are perfect, and I especially love the newspaper background. I’ve also never seen a better looking avocado! I completely agree about winter citrus. I am just loving it at the moment. Funny you mentioned the orange tempeh from 101 Cookbooks, as I’m about to make that tonight. It’s one meal that is constantly repeated around here. Definitely want to try your additions to that tempeh soon!

Kelsey09/01/2013 - 10:20 pm

The universe, and it’s gift of citrus, blows my mind. Love this, love you. Happy 2013, lady.

sara forte09/01/2013 - 11:26 pm

I am seasonally picky. Most of the year I say I don’t like orange/grapefruits for snacking and such, but come winter, I can’t get enough satsumas, clementines etc. Same goes for tomatoes, I’ll only eat them two months out of the year, max. My mom says I’m a snob but I don’t know why you’d bother otherwise. Like you said, good tasting citrus is proof we are loved :) These look fabulous and your photos are so stunning. Especially that grapefruit. love to you, little lady.

Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar10/01/2013 - 12:20 pm

So pretty (as always). Love this idea!

Kathryne10/01/2013 - 1:04 pm

Beautifully said, Laura. Citrus is absolutely a reminder of the warmth in the world. I don’t have much experience with tempeh but these tacos make me want to change that. Your photos are exquisite, oh that light!

dervla @ The Curator10/01/2013 - 2:27 pm

Found you through Mint today. Looking forward to reading! Those tacos look amazing. Happy new year!

Jeanine10/01/2013 - 2:35 pm

I loved that orange glazed tempeh on 101 Cookbooks too! Looks so fresh with your grapefruit and mint, yum!

Elenore Bendel Zahn12/01/2013 - 4:41 am

I love you, Laura.

…and I wish we could share that citrus moments right about now

Jacqui13/01/2013 - 6:45 pm

I’m so in love with all the color going on here! Enough to turn any of these NW winter gray days into bright ones! Amazingly, I happen to every single one of these ingredients in my kitchen right now too, these are so happening!

[…] Citrus is certain proof that we are loved, says Laura at The First Mess, and I couldn’t agree […]

Kate28/01/2013 - 6:30 pm

I’ve never done anything with tempeh, but this recipe makes me want to begin a tentative relationship with it. Of course, it’s a taco. That makes it simple.

Perry29/01/2013 - 2:43 pm

Thank you for this recipe! It was a perfect winter meal. Just the right combination of heartiness and refreshment. Yum!

Jessie01/02/2013 - 9:46 am

What a great blog you have here! Love the healthy recipes and mouth watering photos.

[…] Orange and Ancho Tempeh Tacos with Grapefruit Slaw […]

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