Jes's Coriander Tempeh & Zucchini with Couscous Upma ~ Ham Pie Sandwiches

16 July 2012

Jes's Coriander Tempeh & Zucchini with Couscous Upma

Coriander Tempeh and Zucchini with Couscous Upma

Welcome to Ham Pie Sandwiches' first guest post! Well, it's the first guest post if you don't count that one time I was going crazy studying for the GRE and John wrote up a delightful pasta recipe. So. Welcome to Ham Pie Sandwiches' second guest post!

This post comes courtesy of Jes of Eating Appalachia. I’ve been reading about Jes’s food adventures for years--from her vegan days in Atlanta to her current locally sourced Virginia cuisine.

Jes sets a perfect example for eating a truly varied diet. From Pesto-Stuffed Eight-Ball Zucchini and Vegan Pulled Pork with Rhubarb BBQ Sauce to intriguing baked goods like Balsamic Chipotle Roasted Strawberry Brownies and Buckwheat Sauerkraut Rolls, the range of different delicious meatless options is stunning. But Jes also features local and sustainable meat and dairy delights, especially in her restaurant reviews--a great resource for visits up and down the Appalachian range, as well as farther afield. It reads like a perfect Michael Pollan-y dream: food (& not too much of it) made from mostly plants, with some tidbits of delicious meat mixed in here and there. What's not to love?

This year, both Jes and I have been elbow deep in our respective gardens, eager to grow and eat the most local vegetables we possibly can. The zucchini is just starting to run amok--and what better way to use abundant garden zucchini than in Jes's Coriander Tempeh & Zucchini with Couscous Upma?


Coriander Tempeh and Zucchini with Couscous Upma

This is the first year that I’ve worked to create a semi-diverse garden. I planted my first garden two years ago as a joint effort with friends, but we ended up harvesting only potatoes and some collards since no one took responsibility for the management of it. So we let it grow wild and we harvested what was edible. Last year, I planted my second garden in the same space and grew mostly tomatoes and peppers with a few eggplants thrown in for color. While I harvested enough tomatoes to can as sauce and last through the winter, it wasn’t extraordinarily diverse and, overall, I didn’t put in the effort or creative thinking to make the garden thrive.

This year I’m a woman with a plan. (Which isn’t to say that the plan hasn’t derailed at least ten times already…)

Garden boxes built in our new front yard (we don’t have a backyard and thankfully the neighbors are fantastic about the non-traditional vegetables), seeds dutifully ordered and started, now, by mid-July, I feel like I can finally say the words “I tend to a vegetable garden.”

I tend to a vegetable garden. Or, more accurately, I cater to a vegetable garden. I say “cater to” because, by now, I’ve learned that the plants have a mind and will of their own, and, supplied with an auto-timed watering system (my partner is an engineer, and, as a writer, I consider his garden contributions akin to magic) and some soil amendments, they’ll outgrow their boxes and take over the sidewalk and rest of the front lawn. I’ve begun to think that the butternut squash vines are just using me for their own end. But I can’t walk away, I’m in love with them too much. I’m truly that woman.

If you think I’m waxing a little too poetically (or overdramatically), let me tell you about the time this year I went on vacation for five days and came home to four 2-4 pound zucchinis. Those zucchinis were only dreams in the mother zucchini’s imagination, maybe a flower at most. Four pound zucchinis. One was adopted, the other three left to me and my endless all-zucchini-all-the-time dinners. Pasta with sautéed zucchini. Zucchini & mozzarella pizza. Zucchini quiche. Zucchini and garlic as a side dish. Zucchini noodles. Pickled zucchini.

It’s too early in the year for this, so help me, and I actually ripped one of the plants out of the garden. Three was just too many zucchini plants. Now that we’re down to two, I’m hoping to keep the harvest manageable, but I’m more than ok with dropping bags of zucchinis on my neighbor’s porches if it comes down to it. Don’t tell them.

In the meantime, as I’m drowning in zucchini, one of my favorite dishes thus far has been Coriander Tempeh and Zucchini and Couscous Upma. A marriage of two different recipes with a little adaptation, this Indian meal is a crowd pleaser. Not hot at all (depending on if you use peppers) but with plenty of savory spice, the meaty tempeh pairs well with the fresh zucchini, the couscous upma a fun take on a traditional dish.

Coriander Tempeh Mise en Place

Key to the meal is preparation, preparation, preparation. Having a fully prepared mise en place will expedite the cooking, which is necessary since you’re working with very hot oil and spices. If you waste a second, the spices will burn and you’ll have to start all over again. This isn’t to say that it’s a difficult meal to prepare, just that you need to think ahead and have all of your ingredients laid out and ready to throw in the pot.

Feel free to use whatever vegetables you have on hand for the upma or to use shrimp as the original recipe calls for with the zucchini. As far as it goes though, this light yet filling vegetarian meal is pretty darn good just the way it is—not to mention its powers of making zucchini disappear into everyone’s bellies.

Coriander Tempeh and Zucchini with Couscous Upma

Coriander Tempeh & Zucchini with Couscous Upma

Slightly adapted from Ruta Kahate & Geetha’s Kitchen

For the Coriander Tempeh & Zucchini:

2 packages tempeh
1 tsp turmeric
2 tbsp Indian sesame oil
1 bay leaf
2 green Thai/Indian chilis
2 tsp ground cumin, divided
2 tsp ground coriander, divided
½ tsp freshly grated ginger
1 tsp salt
2 lb zucchini, chopped into ½ inch cubes

For the Couscous Upma:

2 tbsp Indian Sesame Oil
1/2 tsp Brown Mustard Seeds
1 tbsp split skinless chana Dal
1 tbsp split skinless urad Dal
1 pinch Asafetida powder
1 tbsp fresh Ginger, finely grated
2 Thai/Indian chilis
1 sprig fresh curry leaves, chopped
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 handful cherry tomatoes
1 c frozen or fresh peas
1 carrot, grated
1 tsp salt
1 ¼ c couscous
1 c water

Fill a medium saucepot ¾ full with water. Bring to a boil.

Meanwhile, prepare all of your ingredients to cook—-before cooking it is essential to have everything measured and ready to throw in the pot or pan as these dishes do not take very long to cook but have a decent-sized ingredient list.
  • Cut each block of tempeh in half. Set aside.
  • Place 1 tsp cumin, 1 tsp coriander in a small bowl and set aside.
  • Cut the zucchini into ½ inch chunks. Set aside in a bowl.
  • Cut the ends off 2 of the green chilis (if using) and slice length-wise. Use a spoon to scrape out the seeds (if you’re sensitive to the burn the oils will leave on your hands, wear gloves). Slice into super thin ribbons. Set aside in a small bowl.
  • Repeat with the other two chilis (if using) and set aside in a different bowl.
  • Place the bay leaf, 1 tsp cumin, 1 tsp coriander, ½ tsp freshly grated ginger, and 1 tsp salt in one of the bowls with the chili ribbons. Set aside.
  • Place 1 tbsp freshly grated ginger, 1 spring’s worth of chopped curry leaves (I used 6 leaves), and 1 tsp salt in the other bowl with the chili ribbons. Set aside.
  • Place the mustard seeds, chana dal, and urad dal in a small bowl and set next to the stove.
  • Place the Asafetida powder next to the stove.
  • Place the chopped onion in a small bowl and set aside.
  • Place the cherry tomatoes, peas, grated carrot in a bowl and stet aside.
  • Measure out the couscous and the water and set aside.
Now that everything is prepared and the water is boiling, place the tempeh halves into the boiling water and add the 1 tsp cumin and 1 tsp coriander to the water. Reduce to a low boil and let boil for 10 minutes. After ten minutes, drain the water and set the tempeh aside.

In a heavy bottomed pot (I used a cast iron Dutch oven), warm 2 tbsp Indian sesame oil over medium heat. Add the mustard seeds, chana Dal, and urad Dal. Cover the pot with a lid and let the mustard seeds pop.

Once they finish popping (or are very close to it—the popping noise slows down as with popcorn), lower the heat to medium-low and stir in a pinch of Asafetida powder. Immediately add the 1 tbsp grated ginger, curry leaves, chilis, and onions. Stir to combine. Let cook for 4-5 minutes, until the onion softens.

Add the remaining vegetables (cherry tomatoes, peas, carrot) and the water (1 ¼ c) and bring to a boil. Once boiling, add the couscous, stir, turn off the heat, place the lid on top, and leave on the stove until ready to eat.

After the couscous has been prepared, return to your pre-boiled tempeh. Cut the tempeh (it will have expanded) into bite-sized chunks (mine were ½” chunks).

In a wok, heat 2 tbsp Indian sesame oil over medium-high and add the turmeric, bay leaf, chilis, cumin, coriander, ginger, and salt. Stir and cook till fragrant, 20 seconds or so.

Add the zucchini to the oil & spice mixture. Coat well and cover with a large pot lid (the lid from my largest stock pot works well for this). Lower to medium. Cook until the zucchini begins to soften, ~5 minutes, stirring every now and then.

Once the zucchini begins to soften (and liquid is in the bottom of the wok), add the tempeh, and stir to combine. Once everything is coated in the spice mixture, turn off the heat and serve with the couscous upma.

Serves Six.


Jes said...

Wish my life were truly as idyllic as Michael Pollan (let's not talk about the occasional Five Guys burger...eep), but thank you for the wonderful intro! I love the guest posts we did--we'll have to keep it up every now and then. Thanks for sharing my recipe! Just finished the leftovers today, still as yummy as the first day. Ohhh zucchini...

Eileen said...

You are allowed an occasional burger! This is a no-judgement zone! ;)

fabiola@notjustbaked said...

This looks awesome! And congrats on the "planned" garden. I too am trying to "plan" a bit more, and get organized. We'll see how that goes.

Aylin @ GlowKitchen said...

I never tried tempeh until this past weekend and I absolutely loved it. I'm bookmarking this recipe -- I have to start making it my own kitchen!

Kat said...

I like anything with zucchini in it and I love the flavors of this dish. I've never actually tried tempeh, so I'd love to give this a try.

Stephanie said...

What a great post! I love the idea of zucchini and tempeh together. Good combo and great photos!

Anonymous said...

You are right Jes - plants have a mind of their own. Your meal looks great!