Since my delightful new inability to consume wheat products without breaking out in a disfiguring and uncomfortable rash, I've been forced to leave my former gluten-heavy homemade meat-substitutes and head back to the soy fold. And while it seems the jury is still out on what effect soy phytoestrogens actually have on humans, I try to make certain that the majority of my soy intake is fermented. (And GMO free, as soy & corn are the most genetically modified crops out there.)
That said, for most of my life, I have hated tempeh. HATED IT. Texturally displeasing and bitter, it's usually presented grilled in a crumbly, disappointing mess, or flooded in sauces that fool no one. I am talking to you, generations of hippie-cafe-style reuban sandwiches!
However, I recently realized that there are ways to render tempeh not only palatable, but delicious. The key is in a mildly annoying but eventually worthwhile multi-step process.
1. Slice the tempeh, and then steam it for about 10-15 minutes.
OR throw it in a pan over medium heat with a half cup of dry sherry or vegetable broth (or a combination thereof), and braise until all the liquids are absorbed.
2. In a dry or lightly oiled pan, sear the tempeh on each side until just crispy-brown
3. Use in your original recipe as desired
This definitely adds a few minutes and dishes to the process, but it really is a game changer. If time does not allow for each of these steps, omit 2, but do not skip 1! Last night I baked braised & seared tempeh in a pineapple barbecue sauce, and ate it with a bowl of brown rice and a side of lemon-garlic kale, and it was a dream. Totally worth all the cooking, even to this former tempeh-hater.
(Also if you are gluten-free, you should make sure there isn't any barley in your tempeh! It's a fairly common additive, a fact I learned the hard, itchy way.)