Another fine source of protein made from the mighty soy bean is tempeh. Tempeh is produced by the controlled fermentation of cooked soybeans with a Rhizopus culture also called a tempeh starter. Sound like a science project? Maybe! But the results are delicious and nutritious. The fermentation process produces some great anti-oxidants. The fermented cakes are also a complete protein. Each 4 oz serving has a whopping 20 g of protein! Tempeh has a bit of a nutty flavor and a very interesting firm and chewy texture that lends itself to working in many types of recipes. It is sold in cakes in many stores these days. Again try to find organic non-GMO types. Below is one brand I love.
One important thing I have found with tempeh is that it is truly best if you steam it for 10 minutes before using it in recipes. There are two reasons for this. The first is that it seems to make the tempeh "pores" open up, making it absorb flavors better, but more importantly it can take out some of the slight bitter flavor tempeh can have. Now, there are times when I don't steam it, for instance, when it is marinated for extended periods of time. Even then, I am always tempted because I want that marinade to soak in.
My first experience with tempeh was several years ago. There was a great little tea house in Scottsdale called the Mandala Tea Room (sadly they closed their doors several years ago). They had a TLTA (Tempeh, Lettuce, Tomato and Avocado) Sandwich on the menu. I was still far from veg, but was trying to eat healthier, so a bacon alternative was very intriguing to me. I hate to use a cliche, but it was truly love at first bite!!!
Today I want to share with you my favorite tempeh bacon-ish recipe. It is not going to fool anyone into thinking it is the actual fatty nasty original, but it is awesome in its own rite. This one comes from Joanna Vaught, the illustrious author of Yellow Rose Recipes. This recipe and lots of other awesome recipes are included in her awesome 'zine Potluck Mania!
Maple Ginger Tempeh Strips
by Joanna Vaught
8 oz. tempeh
1/2 cup soy sauce or tamari
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup peanut oil
2" knob of ginger, peeled and julienned
2 cloves garlic, smashed and chopped
2 teaspoon balsamic or apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons liquid smoke
1/4 - 1/2 cup veggie broth
Slice Tempeh into 10-12 - 1/4 inch thick and 8" long strips.
In a long container with a cover whisk together all ingredients except for the tempeh. Gingerly slip tempeh strips into the marinade, being careful not to break them. If the marinade does not completely cover the strips, add a bit more broth.
Marinate for at least 8 hours and up to a week.
When you're ready to cook the strips, heat a nonstick, heavy-bottomed fry pan over medium eat. There is not need to add any oil because of the oil in the marinade. Add as many strips as will fit the pan (or how ever many you need). Allow to fry for 2-3 minutes, until they are dark brown. When they are dark enough, flip the strips.
Whisk the remaining marinade in the container and then, using a teaspoon, drizzle the marinade over the strips, "sealing" the strips. Saute until the second side is dark brown. Serve immediately.
I also love to cut them into cubes and use them as a smoky tempeh crouton on salads. The left over marinade is a good base for a smoky dressing for the very same salad!
I hope you try Joanna's awesome recipe and fall in love like I did!