Tempeh Taco Bar


Tacos are a weekly occurrence at my family’s house, and have been since I was a tween.  Back then it was skirt steak, now grilled vegetables are our go-to filling, especially during the summer. They’ve always been my favorite thing that my Dad makes, but I decided to take control of taco night this week (it helped that he had gotten 4 hours of sleep the night before, so he wasn’t looking forward to slaving away in the kitchen on this particular night).  As much as I love grilled vegetables (which is more than almost any other food), they don’t have that stick-to-your-ribs quality that proteins provide.  So, I decided to (gasp!) switch things up a bit this week, and I’m so happy I did.  This turned into an experiment gone very, very right.

TEMPEH TACO FILLING

– 1 block organic tempeh

– 1/2 small can diced tomatoes + liquid from can

– 1 tablespoon soy sauce

– 1/2 tablespoon agave

– juice of 1/2 lime

– pinch each of: cayenne, cinnamon, and cumin

– 2 tablespoons vegan parmesan (2 parts walnuts to 1 part nutritional yeast, processed/blended together until crumbly; salt to taste). Plain nutritional yeast would be fine as well.

1. Cut tempeh into 1/2 inch cubes

2. Heat 1/2 tablespoon olive oil in a saute pan over medium high heat

3. Crisp tempeh in pan for 5-7 minutes, turning once.  Bring heat down to low

4. Combine all other ingredients in a bowl; Pour into pan with tempeh

5.  Reduce the sauce for about ten minutes, until it has thickened and coated the tempeh

Serve this filling with your favorite taco fixings.
I went for grilled sweet potatoes, eggplant, peppers, and zucchini alongside avocado, tomatoes, and cilantro.



 

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Orange Glazed Tempeh and Tofu

If there’s one thing that I really dislike about vegetarian culture and perceptions of vegetarian food, it’s that all of the emphasis is placed on tofu when it comes to plant proteins.   I definitely enjoy tofu when it’s prepared well, but it takes a bit of work.  I hate to think that most omnivores completely skip over vegetarian proteins because the only thing they’re familiar with is the bland, white cubes of ‘fu available at the salad bar.

Tempeh, on the other hand, is delicious on it’s own, without the hassle of pressing/marinating/trying to imbue it with any bit of flavor possible.   Plus, it’s made from whole soy, so it’s high in protein and fiber and all of those lovely things.

Generally I just slice it into strips, crisp it up in a pan, add a bit of salt, and throw it on top of whatever vegetables I might be eating.  The other day, though, I wanted to use it in a dinner for my family, so I thought I’d go for a recipe that I’ve been meaning to try for months now: Heidi’s Orange Pan-Glazed Tempeh.

1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (3-4 large juicy oranges)
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
2 teaspoons tamari (or soy sauce)
1 1/2 tablespoons mirin
2 teaspoons maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
2 small garlic cloves, crushed
roughly 10 ounces of tempeh (or extra-firm tofu)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 lime
a handful of cilantro (coriander) leaves

Put the orange juice in a small bowl. Squeeze the grated ginger over the bowl to extract the juices, then discard the pulp. Add the tamari, mirin, and maple syrup, ground coriander, and garlic. Mix together and set aside.

Cut the tempeh (or tofu) into thin-ish, bite-sized pieces, and if working with tofu, pat dry with a paper towel.

Put the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot but not smoking, add the tempeh and fry for 5 minutes, or until golden underneath. Turn and cook the other side for another 5 minutes, or until golden. Pour the orange juice mixture into the pan and simmer for 10 minutes, or until the sauce has reduced to a lovely thick glaze. Turn the tempeh once more during this time and spoon the sauce over the tofu from time to time.

The only change I made was to sub out maple syrup for agave

Sadly, I realized that I only had half a block of tempeh left, so I had to supplement it with tofu.  It was still delicious, but the tofu didn’t compare in this preparation.

I pressed the tofu for about 30 minutes before cooking it to improve the texture.  I also accidentally pressed it with an embroidered towel, so there were a few pieces that got indented with flowers:


mmm. crispy

fresh squeeeeeeezed.

mmm. glazy.


I served the dish with brown rice + shaved brussel sprouts, which ended up being a bit bitter.  Kale would have been much better, but the tempeh and tofu made up for the mediocre side.

Baked Ziti with Tofu Basil ‘Ricotta’

I have an incredibly detail-oriented memory, especially for food.   I could tell you exactly what I ordered in a restaurant six years ago, or the first time I ever tasted a certain food, but I’m strapped to remember what day of the week it is right now.

The first time I remember having baked ziti was in 2007.  My parents were religiously devoted to The Sopranos and wanted to make a night of the much-anticipated series finale.  And what better way to celebrate the end of the uber-italian mob classic than with a classic baked ziti?  So, I cooked some pasta, mixed it with mounds of mozzarella, parmesan, ricotta, and tomato sauce, threw it in the oven and awaited the formation of a gooey, bubbly, golden brown top.  It was absolutely delicious, and became one of our regular meals until I moved out for school.

It’s been a few years since I cooked that dish for my parents and I wanted to reinvent it this week.  I probably single-handedly caused every Italian grandmother to roll over in her grave when I decided to get rid of the cheese altogether, all for the sake of experimentation.  This ziti is a far cry from the original, but still really delicious

BAKED ZITI WITH TOFU RICOTTA AND GRILLED EGGPLANT (makes 6 servings)

3/4 box rigatoni or ziti

1.5 to 2 cups tomato sauce of choice

1 16 ounce container firm tofu

3-4 tablespoons  nutritional yeast

8 leaves basil

2 cloves garlic (optional)

1 large japanese eggplant, sliced into rounds

Olive oil, for grilling

(Preheat oven to 375)
1.  Cook pasta according to package directions until al dente

2.  Toss eggplant slices with about a tablespoon of oil and a couple pinches of salt.  Grill until tender

optional: if using garlic, saute for 2 minutes in a teaspoon of oil at this point

3. Blend tofu, nutritional yeast, basil, and garlic (if using) in a food processor or mash tofu by hand with a fork and add nutritional yeast and finely chopped basil and garlic.

4. Combine about 1/4 of the tofu “ricotta” mixture to the tomato sauce.

5. Drain pasta and add to tomato sauce; stir until coated

6. Pour pasta into a greased baking pan

7. Top pasta with remaining “ricotta” and grilled eggplant

8.  Bake for 25-30 minutes, until top starts to brown