Thank you to everyone who came out to my Protein Power cooking demonstration at Ellwood Thompson’s tonight. I hope everyone learned at least one new thing about cooking vegetarian proteins. I had a ton of fun and learned a lot from the great discussion we had while I cooked four of my favorite protein-packed dishes. Here are links to the four featured recipes, and a full recap will follow soon!
The great mystery of vegetarianism, for those who are new to it, is how to get protein. There are several excellent vegetarian protein sources on the market, but most home cooks do not know how to prepare them. After five years of cooking vegetarian food at home, I have learned a lot of great tricks for preparing tofu, tempeh, seitan, and other protein-packed vegetarian foods. People are always asking me how vegetarians can make sure they get enough protein, and how to prepare these foods at home and I love sharing what I have learned.
So. . . I am thrilled to announce that I will be sharing my tips and tricks in a cooking demonstration at the Ellwood Thompson’s Community Room next month! This cooking demonstration and class will introduce the basics of vegetarian protein and teach you how to prepare foods like tofu and tempeh at home. My goal is to make it a really casual and informative discussion, with plenty of opportunities to ask questions and share tips, plus (bonus!) samples of some of my favorite dishes.
Mark your calendar! “Protein Power: How to Cook Vegetarian Proteins” is on Wednesday, February 13th at 6:00 PM at Ellwood Thompson’s Natural Market. The cost of the class is $7.00 you can register online here.
I hope to see you there!
Tempeh can be a little tricky. When it comes to vegetarian cooking, I wouldn’t consider tempeh to be one of the subjects covered in the 101 class. Tempeh looks a little weird, tastes kind of funny on its own, and can be somewhat hard to figure out without help. Like tofu, it picks up the flavors of the sauce you cook it in. Unlike tofu, it has a complex texture and distinct nutty flavor that some may describe as “an acquired taste.” Learning how to prepare it can be very rewarding. When tempeh is good it is very very good.
Tempeh is a soy product that is created by fermented whole soybeans. The soybeans are soaked, dehulled, partially cooked, and then spread out in a single layer. Vinegar and a fermentation starter are added to the beans and then they ferment for a day or two. The process results in a thin mat of soybeans connected by white mycelia. I know that sounds a little scary. However, the fermentation process transforms the soybeans into a more digestible form. This means that for people who have issues with soy, it is easier get the protein, fiber and carbohydrates that come from soybeans with fewer negative side effects. Furthermore, tempeh has certain nutrition benefits that whole soybeans and tofu do not provide.
The first few times I prepared tempeh at home, I was less than impressed with the results. After a few great experiences with tempeh in restaurants, I attempted tempeh at home again, and I learned some tasty ways to prepare it. These days, tempeh makes it onto our dinner menu a few times a month. Recently I made a fall meal that featured a delicious tempeh main dish that I couldn’t resist sharing with you. Alongside roasted brussels sprouts and a butternut squash-potato mash with sage butter, this chili maple glazed tempeh is a great meatless way to add color, flavor and protein to your plate. Sweet, spicy, crispy and tender, this dish is a fantastic introduction to cooking with tempeh. Not only is it delicious, it’s pretty easy to make too.
If you haven’t tried tempeh yet, give it a chance!
Chili Maple Glazed Tempeh
- 1 – 8 oz. package of tempeh
- 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
- Sriracha or chili sauce to taste
- 2 Tablespoons maple syrup
- 2 Tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup olive oil + 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- Cut the tempeh into eight triangles: first into four equal rectangles, then cut each rectangle crosswise into two triangles.
- Combine apple cider vinegar, chili sauce, maple syrup, soy sauce, garlic, and 1/4 cup of the olive oil and stir to mix together to form a marinade.
- Arrange tempeh triangles in a single layer in a shallow dish. Cover with marinade and set aside. Marinate for one hour, turning pieces over a few times to marinate evenly.
- Heat 2 Tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat. Add tempeh pieces to pan, reserving marinade for later, and cook for 5 minutes per side, until lightly browned and crispy.
- Add remaining marinade to pan and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook until sauce is reduced and thickened, turning tempeh occasionally to cook evenly on both sides.
I recently discovered a great way to punch up the flavor of a Greek salad while adding protein to round it out to a full meal. This super nutritious Greek salad features dark leafy spinach for extra vitamins and Mediterranean-style grated tempeh and Greek yogurt for added protein.
I was thinking about ground lamb and lamb souvlaki when I prepared this tempeh. By grating a block of tempeh and sautéing it in olive oil with fresh herbs, you can achieve the perfect texture for a salad topping, while infusing a lot of fresh flavor. I am really excited about this tempeh that bursts with fresh oregano flavor. I can’t wait to expand it from salads to pastas, soups and wraps.
One serving of this salad boasts over 24 grams of protein and contains over half the recommended daily amount of vitamins A, C, and K. The recipe below is a hearty portion that kept me full for hours.
Greek Spinach Salad with Herbed Tempeh (2 entrée sized servings)
- 8 oz. tempeh
- 4 Tbsp olive oil
- 2 Tbsp fresh oregano, chopped
- 1/4 cup lemon flavor Chobani Greek yogurt (or 1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt + 1 Tbsp lemon juice)
- 1 small clove garlic, minced
- 4 cups spinach, roughly chopped
- 1 small cucumber, diced
- 1 medium tomato, diced
- 1/4 cup kalamata olives
- 2 oz. feta
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Into a medium sized bowl, grate the tempeh with a large cheese grater.
- Heat 2 Tbsp oil over medium heat. When hot, add tempeh to pan and sauté for 2-3 minutes.
- Add oregano to tempeh and sauté for 4-5 more minutes, until tempeh is golden brown.
- While tempeh is cooking, make the salad dressing. With a whisk in a small bowl, or in a salad dressing shaker, mix together the yogurt, garlic, 2 Tbsp oil, and salt and pepper. Set aside.
- Mix together in a large bowl: spinach, cucumber, tomato, olives, feta and salad dressing.
- When tempeh is done cooking, season with salt and pepper and toss with other salad ingredients. Divide into two bowls and serve.
In my last post I discussed my first experience making vegetable dumplings.
We’ll call that the trial run. Now, ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the main event.
Hot and Sour Vegetable Won Ton Soup!
To make things even more interesting, I created this dish as the prelude to a meal that featured all dishes I had never made before, and I made them without recipes. Crazy! That’s right, despite being a meticulous planner in general, I pulled this one off on the fly. I must have been drunk or something. Whatever it was that got me into this Top Chef elimination challenge mood, it was delicious.
I have to be honest, I am kind of proud of myself. I experiment and create recipes all the time, but to turn a few random ideas into a three-part meal with no cookbooks, internet, or backup plan, it felt like I was doing a trapeze routine without a safety net. And I didn’t fall!
Unfortunately I did not write down any recipes, but I think I can tell you how to make the soup. You might just have to figure out the measurements on the fly until I can recreate this dish with a pen and paper nearby. Now without further ado, the meal. We started with the hot and sour vegetable won ton soup and then we enjoyed spicy baked tempeh over a bed of sesame ginger slaw.
So you want to know how to make the soup, huh? Well here’s a story about the soup but you really can’t call it a recipe. Here’s how it all went down.
First, start with a bag of broccoli slaw, like this one. This is going to be the filling for your dumplings. Heat a little oil in a pan and when it’s hot, add the broccoli slaw (not the whole bag, just enough to make as many dumplings as you need) and cook over medium heat until tender. Meanwhile, whisk a little cornstarch (1 teaspoons?) into some soy sauce (1/8 cup?). Add to the veggies and cook until sauce thickens, a few minutes. Ta-da! Filling.
When the veggies have cooked and cooled a bit, open a package of won ton wrappers like these. Follow the package instructions to fill and fold the won tons. I used about a teaspoon of filling per wrapper and then folded each in half into a triangle, sealing all of the edges, and then folded the two longer ends together so that the side of the triangle with the original fold was bent in half. This method keeps the won tons together better. Make as many dumplings as you think you will need in your soup.
Now for the soup part. Heat vegetable broth in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add black pepper and spices as you see fit. When the broth starts to boil, add the dumplings to the soup. They will cook in less than 5 minutes. While the dumplings cook, add the following ingredients to taste: soy sauce, sriracha chili sauce, rice wine vinegar. Add salt and pepper if needed. That’s it!
The best part about this soup is when you cut into the dumplings with your spoon, the filling spills out into the soup. You can’t help but to fill the broth with tasty shredded vegetables, which enhances the flavor and texture of the soup. It is seriously fun to eat!
Because of this meal, I have decided to “wing it” a lot more often. But next time I promise I’ll write down the recipe, so you won’t have to “wing it” too.
I have been a vegetarian for 2 1/2 years and I have never prepared tempeh. Tofu is a staple in my refrigerator, and beans are a staple in my pantry. I always have eggs, milk, and yogurt on hand. I have the protein thing down.
However, meat substitutes are strangers to my kitchen, except for those that arrive in little white Chinese takeout containers tucked inside brown paper bags. We have a small Chinese restaurant around the corner with an extensive vegetarian menu with plenty of mock meat options, mostly made with seitan. I recently ventured into the world of cooking seitan, which I wrote about here.
In celebration of our new dining room table, I embraced the theme of new beginnings and chose to make tempeh for the first time. And that is how Korean BBQ-Style Tempeh became the first meal served on our new table.
I picked up my tempeh at Trader Joe’s awhile ago and it has been sitting in my refrigerator, waiting for this occasion. When I popped it out of the package, I thought, what on earth is this?
Mystified, I left the grainy beige blocks on my counter and hit Google.
Tempeh is a whole soybean product that originated in Indonesia on the island of Java (ooh, I love me some Java Estate coffee) that is created by a controlled fermentation process which binds the soy into blocks. The soybeans are soaked to soften, dehulled, and spread in a thin layer for fermentation. This process causes the beans to fuse together and form a large cake which is then sliced into blocks before packaging. The tempeh that I chose also included other grains: rice, barley, and millet.
Tempeh is a very nutritious food that is high in protein, fiber, and vitamins. They’re not kidding when they call this block of tempeh a “powerhouse.” Check out the great nutritional information at World’s Healthiest Foods. This site is great for looking up the nutritional value of certain foods plus the reasons why your body needs these nutrients. Here are the nutrition facts for TJ’s Organic 3 Grain Tempeh, which I used in the recipe below.
20 grams of protein per serving? What?!?! Amazing. Now let’s get cooking.
I decided to marinate the tempeh in a Korean BBQ sauce for starters.
When the sweet and tangy smell of this sauce hit my nostrils, I thought of a Korean barbecue place I had been to in Manhattan that served up steaming hot rice bowls stuffed with tofu, that came with a variety of vegetables, toppings, and sauces on the side. My friend Melissa and I delighted in tossing the ingredients together as we ate and seasoning the results to taste. It felt like we were cooking our own meals, which is probably why we loved it so much.
I decided to do my own take on the concept by serving the components of the dish separately and lightly seasoned so Kyle and I could build our own bowls. In the spirit of construction, why not? We started with black pepper linguine.
Then we added sauteed vegetable slaw (onion, broccoli, carrots, cabbage).
And then I pan fried the marinated tempeh and crumbled it into bowls.
And made complete with seasonings…
It was totally delicious – almost like the real thing!
Oh how I miss NY…
Our tempeh adventure was made complete with the addition of a locally brewed beer. Cheers to new beginnings!