Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Tempeh it forward

Tempeh is a fermented Indonesian soy patty. That might not sound good, and the black spotted picture above might not make it look good... Trust me though, tempeh deserves a chance.

Because tempeh is made by fermenting whole soy beans, it retains much more protein and a higher level fiber, vitamins, and minerals than its other popular soy sister, tofu. Phytic acid is also worth considering. Soy beans have a very high level of the stuff, and it keeps your body from absorbing certain minerals and vitamins- not only those from soy products, but from other things you eat with the soy products. This is a large part of the soy controversy. Tofu and soymilk retain almost 100% of their phytic acids when processed because unlike other beans, you can soak and soak soybeans and still not get rid of the stuff. Tempeh, however, with its fermentation process, actually loses almost half of its phytic acid. This goes for Miso and tamari as well. I'll save the other benefits of fermentation for another time... perhaps I need to make something with sauerkraut soon... I have been craving it since I skipped out on eating it at the New Year like my other Northern friends. Oh- and that black stuff? Nothing to worry about. It's totally normal. I promise. As long as your tempeh is in date and isn't green, your good. Grey and black are just fine.

I used to make a bbq tempeh sandwich all the time. I'd used Amy's Maple Orgainc BBQ Sauce and it was good. I haven't made this dish in well over a year, though, and I decided to make my own sauce this time.

I cracked open my brand new Vegan Soul Kitchen cookbook by Bryant Terry that Scott so thoughtfully gave me for Christmas. I was positive I'd find a great recipe- and I was correct. I followed Mr. Terry's advice, other than I chose not to use chipotle peppers... I like them, but just a little... to me, it can often over power and I didn't want a super strong chipotle flavor all through my sandwiches, so I opted out. I also didn't have enough cumin... MUST MUST MUST get to Penzey's this weekend... so, instead, I used Arizona Dreaming- which is a spice blend Penzey's was giving away during my last trip. It worked perfectly. It's a blend of ground ancho, onion, garlic, paprika, lemon, jalepenos, chipotle, cocoa.... it's good stuff.
I had so much confidence in the hot vegan chef that I decided to double the recipe. That, and the can of tomato sauce I bought was about twice what I needed and I didn't want to waste it. Into a sauce pan went 1/2 cup EVOO, 1/2 fresh lime juice, 1/2 cup Bragg's Aminos (it's just tamari/soy sauce basically- but healthier) 1/2 cup aqave necter, 1/2 cup of red wine vinegar (oh, I used 1/4c red, 1/4c cider b/c I didn't have enough red...), a 15oz can of tomato sauce, 1 TBSP cumin, 1 TBSP Arizona dreaming, 2 tsp thyme, 1/4 tsp cayenne, and 1 cup water. A good whisk and medium heat would lead this to a nice simmer... it needed about 30-40 minutes to reduce down to about half its size. Doubling was a good idea. It's sweet, it's got a vinegary bite, a bit of heat, the lime juice in the background... I've made a few bbq sauces before and this was the best. Last night, I cooked Quorn meatballs and sweet potato fries and drizzed the sauce over the whole plate- yum.

I sliced a couple medium onions and a large green bell pepper. EVOO, salt, and low-medium heat for 40 minutes or so, and they would be caramelized heaven.

Time to prep the tempeh. Tempeh comes in a brick. There are many brands, but I really like LightLife. Tempeh can also be combined with rice, other grains, or veggies. I like them all, and actually, I can't tell a big taste difference. Once you get the tempeh out of the packaging- never an easy feat- I always do the same thing:
I think tempeh can have a bitter odd flavor... and I found that if I boil it, it goes away. So, regardless of what I am doing with tempeh, I always start out by cutting it into 5 pieces, butterflying it, and boiling it for 10 minutes. Then, I drain it and let it cool. After that, options are endless. You can leave it as is and create little patties, you can cube it and shallow fry it, you can slice it thinner and make fajitas or stirfrys, you can crumble it to make sloppy joes or a bolognaise... you can fry, saute, bake, grill... you get the point- it's a versatile little fermented brick.

From this point, it's just putting everything together. I crumbled the tempeh into the caramelized onions and green peppers, and added enough bbq sauce to give it a nice coat. The taste was on point. I gave it a bit of time to warm through all together while I toasted slices of Ezekial bread. I piled the bbq on top and drizzled a little ranch over the top. Wow... Thanks to that bbq recipe, these were, by far, the best bbq tempeh sandwiches I ever made.

If you've never had tempeh, pick up a brick next time you're at the store. You'll find it at most urban grocery stores near the produce with tofu, fake meats, non-cheese cheeses... you know where I mean. It lasts for a couple of months, so you'll have time to get your confidence up and find the perfect recipe- although I highly recommend this one.


  1. Tempeh, eh? Is that first pic right off of the brick? I have never worked with it. I assume it adds some meatiness and takes on the flavors you give it.

    I did buy some TVP today, though, and I'm going to slip it into my beans and rice I'm making soon. We're trying to become a little healthier around here. Wish us luck.

    Sauce sounds tasty, and I do enjoy a sweet-potato frite. Is that a little ranch drizzled on the sammich?

    Janet mentioned Ezekiel bread today, and I knew that you were a fan. Unfortunately, they don't sell it at HT, but I am going to WF tomorrow to get some.

    You're a busy blogger lately. :)

  2. They do sell it at HT- They keep it in the freezer section near the other frozen rolls and such. I like the orange bagged one myself.
    Yes- that is right off the brick, lol... actually, that was after I cut the brick up, boiled it, and let it cool. Like tofu, tempeh will take on flavors, but it is much meatier than tofu.
    Let me know how your TVP goes- I do like the texture it can add- especially in Amy's spicy canned chili, but never cooked with it straight up... it's one of those processed to death soy products that end up being a little dirty... Consider tempeh next time you want to "beef" up your rice and beans! :) As I say this, I plan on using a little 'dirty' soy chorizo in some of my own rice and beans later today... it's just one of those once in awhile things I suppose.
    You say, "wish us luck," but you and Janet have made leaps and bounds with changes to your diet- I don't see it going anywhere but further in its progression.

  3. I never thought to look in the frozen section. Do you bake the loaves yourself? I'll have to check it out.

    Thanks for all the good ideas. We made a veg soup today and roasted the carrots, cabbage and parsnips in the oven, per your entry.

  4. Nope, you don't have to bake it... I think they keep it there b/c it's not as shelf stable as most breads... Even WF keeps it in the freezer. I do as well, just taking out slices as I need it. Works out.
    Mmmmmm.... parsnips...

  5. ha. I stopped and bought a loaf today. They have several varieties, but I opted for the orange bag, also.

    Parsnips are like a ginger-carrot, I think.