Tuesday, February 19, 2013

How to make tempeh not gross

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.) 

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I'm working on some stuff! For now, it is just about vegetables.