This kale caesar salad is better than any traditional version around!
Preheat your oven to 400°F.
To prepare the bulb of garlic for roasting, peel the outer layers of the garlic bulb leaving a thin layer still in tact and cut the top of the bulb off (approximately 1/4-inch from the top) so the cloves are visible. Coat the top with 1 tbsp of olive oil and a pinch of sea salt, then bake for about 35 minutes or until the cloves are browned and soft to touch.
Remove the roasted cloves of garlic from the bulb and place in a high-powered blender. Drain the soaked cashews and rinse with more water until it runs clear. Place the cashews and the remaining dressing ingredients in the blender and mix on high until very smooth.
Refrigerate the caesar dressing for at least 1 hour before serving. In the meantime, prepare the croutons and tempeh bacon. Start by preheating oven to 350°F.
For the croutons, whisk together olive oil, garlic powder, onion powder, sea salt, and ground black pepper. Toss the cubed bread in the mixture until well coated. If you're adding the vegan parmesan, add that to the bowl and toss to coat the bread evenly.
Lay out the bread onto a baking sheet and bake for approximately 10 to 15 minutes, turning over once in the middle of baking, until golden brown. Depending on the bread you use, the time will vary so just keep an eye on them. Gluten free bread takes longer, approximately 20 minutes and gluten free bread is always a bit gummy so don't expect them to be crispy crunchy croutons. I prefer an Italian baguette!
For the tempeh bacon, thinly slice the tempeh into strips approximately 1/8-inch to-1/4-inch thick.
Whisk together low-sodium soy sauce or tamari, water, liquid smoke, maple syrup, and smoked paprika in a shallow dish that you can use to marinate the tempeh in. Lay the slices of tempeh in the dish and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
To cook, heat a non-stick pan over medium and add 1 tbsp of coconut oil. Once the pan is hot add the slices of tempeh without overcrowding the pan. You might need to cook in two batches.
Once the first side starts to brown, you'll want to start de-glazing the pan with a bit of the left over marinade to prevent the slices from sticking and to get them really caramelized and browned. Flip the slices and do the same thing on the other side. You may need to add another tablespoon of coconut oil at this point. Cook time is approximately 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the heat to cool while you assemble the caesar salad.
Wash kale and remove the leaves from the stems and discard those. Finely chop the leaves into ribbons or shreds and place in a large mixing bowl. Put lemon juice and sea salt on the kale and massage it into the leaves lightly with your hands for 2 to 3 minutes until you notice it becoming darker in color and slightly wilting.
Add 1 cup of the caesar dressing and ground black pepper and toss to coat evenly. Portion out the dressed kale to your serving dishes and top each salad with tempeh bacon, garlic croutons, and drizzle more dressing, as desired. Serve immediately.
Tempeh bacon makes this more of an entree salad, but you could also use coconut bacon for an appetizer version.