11 April 2011
Tempeh tempeh tempeh!
Sadly, we have no reliable source of tempeh downtown, i.e. within walkable distance of our apartment. This means that since we moved back to CA, we haven't been eating it, um, almost at all. So the other day, when I missed the bus that stops right in front of Whole Foods, I thought, "Hey! I should use some of this boring ten minutes of waiting to go inside and find lots of tempeh!" So that's how I ended up bringing two slabs of tempeh home for us to devour.
After reading about Pupcake's clearly excellent green salad with salmon, I had a serious desire for our classic tempeh preparation, the Ol' Reliable. This consists of a similar big pile of greens with seared marinated tempeh on top. It's always delicious and satisfying, yet never makes you feel glurgy.
Ol' reliable: seared tempeh salad
rice wine vinegar
salad greens of your choice
any other salad veg that sounds good
Over the past few years, it's become common knowledge that steaming tempeh before marinating helps it absorb more of the delicious flavor. So we're going to start by steaming the tempeh.
Bring a pot of water (that fits your steamer of choice) to a boil. While it's heating, cut your tempeh into bite-size pieces. Steam the tempeh over the water for about ten minutes.
While the tempeh is steaming, make your marinade. I made mine in a loaf pan, but you can use any bowl, or even a plastic bag if you prefer. Note: make absolutely sure any plastic bag you use has no holes whatsoever; otherwise, you will shortly have to clean up a huge mess. In fact, forget I said anything about bags. Just use a bowl.
Marinade proportions can vary quite a bit according to your preference. Since we wanted spicy tempeh, I used a substantial 3 or 4 tbps of hot sauce, plus 1-2 tbsp each of soy sauce and olive oil, 1 tbsp rice wine vinegar, four or five cloves of crushed garlic, the juice of a lemon, and the bruised leaves from a 5-inch sprig of fresh rosemary. Then I added about two cups of vegetable broth to make up the liquid content. Keep in mind that I don't ever measure, and am thus estimating from memory. In short: use the amounts that you want. Whisk the marinade together with a fork (another excellent reason not to use a plastic bag; can you imagine?), and you're ready.
Take your steamed tempeh off the heat and discard the steaming water. Put the tempeh pieces into the marinade pan, making sure each piece is as subsumed in liquid as possible. If you don't have enough marinade, add more vegetable broth. Ideally, you want the marinade to just barely crest over the top of the tempeh pieces; this avoids waste while still making sure the tempeh absorbs plenty of flavor.
Now set everything aside for at least a half hour. A full hour is even better. Yes. I know you're hungry, but it's worth it.
Things to do while you wait for the tempeh to soak up all the delicious flavors:
- Wash, dry, and chop up all the greens you want in your salads.
- Chop up any other vegetables you may want. I wanted cherry tomatoes.
- Arrange salad greens and vegetables nicely on plates.
- Turn your tempeh pieces once or twice, to make sure all sides absorb equal deliciousness.
- Laze about.
Ok! When you're ready to sear, heat up a nonstick or cast-iron saute pan. Ideally, this should be large enough to fit all your tempeh pieces in one layer. If you're feeding a ton of people, you may need to sear the tempeh in batches. It's all good.
Lay your tempeh pieces in the pan; they should sizzle. Cook without moving until browned on the bottoms; then flip and brown a new side. You can add spoonfuls of marinade occasionally, but try to keep the pan fairly dry; this ensures a nice brown crispy crust on each piece.
Speaking of the marinade, ladle about half a cup of it into a measuring cup or small bowl. Add a few glugs of olive oil, some salt and pepper, and an additional squirt of lemon. Whisk briskly until emulsified. This is now your salad dressing. See, because no raw meat has contaminated your marinade, you can just eat it! SHAZAM! (You can also use a different vinaigrette, of course, but what fun is that?)
Flip your tempeh a few more times, being careful not to break the pieces. When all sides are sufficiently browned, turn off the heat. Drizzle dressing over your greens; divide tempeh evenly among plates; top with the dregs of the dressing.
Now you can eat it. Hooray! Don't you feel better? I know I do. Clearly, eating salad will continue to build up my immune system. Salad FTW!