This is the third article in a series introducing the wonderful world of food choices from the sublime plant kingdom.
The first article (Vegan Delights: Nov. ’12, see archives) was a general introduction to the variety of exciting possibilities and offered a recipe for a zesty Chickpea (legume) Spread.
The second (Joy With Soy: Dec. ‘12) dealt with the many forms of tofu, presenting a Tofu Scramble breakfast dish complete with soy bacon.
This month tempeh takes the stage with a recipe for a delightful chunky style sandwich filling that packs protein and vitamins into an easy to digest delicacy.
Tempeh originated ages ago in Indonesia and is still a wildly popular food today, although its well earned popularity has spread throughout the entire globe. Its uniqueness is created by a controlled fermentation process that binds the main ingredient (whole soybeans) into a pressed cake form. It has a bumpy texture, an earthy, nutty flavor, and packs abundant B-12 into a totally digestible, edible form.
Depending on the variety of grains (barley, brown rice, millet or beans) that are introduced to the soybeans, as well as flax and a variety of vegetables, unique flavors are produced. It tastes nothing like its bland sister tofu, and has a slightly distinct fermented odor some people associate with mushrooms, which can be neutralized with steaming the product for about 10 minutes before use.
Depending on the brand, one serving (100 grams) provides at least 18 grams of protein, approximately one third of our daily requirement, a hearty helping of calcium and iron, and like ALL VEGAN FOODS, has not even a hint of cholesterol. It is “normal” for even the freshest package to contain some black or gray spots on the tempeh , which is a result of the fermentation process but always check the date on the package for optimum use.
Tempeh’s distinctive flavor and texture lends itself to more hearty dishes that are well seasoned or spicy, such as curries and sweet and sour dishes. It lends itself to chili, fries, and “Reuben’s” with sauerkraut. The variety is endless and many new age brands prepare their tasty offerings as tempeh bacon or burgers, with marinated flavors like teriyaki or jerk seasonings for fancier gourmet entrees.
One of my favorite recipes is creating a festive kabob dish by alternating cubes of fresh tofu and tempeh (slightly steamed) with vegetables: sliced boats of onions, red and green peppers, broccoli florets, whole or sliced mushrooms, etc. Purchase wooden bamboo sticks and assemble all the ingredients for color and texture variety. Create a marinade of grated ginger, garlic cloves pressed, tamari and “mirin” (a lovely sweet Asian rice wine), and refrigerate the skewers in the mixture overnight to soak up the flavors. Bake for about an hour in a 350 degree oven, basting occasionally with the marinade mixture in the bottom of the baking pan, and turning occasionally. These are also good grilled for a true party pleaser!
Here’s a simpler recipe for a fast luncheon favorite:
1 package tempeh – any (10 0z.) variety
(I prefer the “Lightlife” brand: 3 grain or vegetable variety
1 small onion
1 lg. stalk celery
½ green pepper
1 cup fresh dill chopped finely (omit stems)
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbsp. “veganaise” mayo
1 tbsp. tamari (low salt)
Defrost tempeh if frozen and cut into small cubes. Steam for 10 min. Drain and set aside. Dice the veggies. Combine by hand with all the other ingredients adding the “veganaise” last until desired smoothness. Can also be mixed with a food processor, but I prefer pulsing sparingly, which allows the mixture to retain its chunky texture. Refrigerate until cool. Serve as a cracker dip or sandwich filler, or stuff fresh vegetables like romaine lettuce, endive or hollowed out heirloom tomatoes.
Enjoy Compassionate Heart Healthy Eating!
Next Month: Remarkable Ruggelah