Monday, June 27, 2011

I Like Tempeh Now!

Look at this hearty, healthy, rustic panful! Inspired by Isa Chandra Moskowitz'"Smoky Tempeh & Greens Stew" from Appetite For Reduction, I actually followed a recipe instead of perusing it and doing whatever the heck I want in my usual, lazy pattern. I followed the recipe because I was working with an unfamiliar ingredient.

Heretofore, I've been under the impression that I am not a tempeh kind of girl. Accustomed to the lovely, bland, homogeneous nature of tofu, tempeh did not appeal to me the one time I attempted to cultivate a taste for it about a year ago. I had bought a shrink-wrapped portion of tempeh with no plan in mind, and cut into it and popped a chunk of it, cold and unadorned, into my mouth. Not knowing anything about tempeh at the time, I was put off by the slightly sour flavor of this fermented soybean product. I was not entirely sure I did not have a bad batch of it, so I am ashamed to say it went into the trash, and I resolved to stick to beans and the occasional tofu meal.

I'm so glad I finally bothered to actually follow Isa's recipe! This stew is positively delicious in an uber-wholesome way. So I am a big fan of tempeh now! Even more shocking, my omni-husband also enjoyed the stew. Knowing how my husband's psychology works, I am better off not asking him about whether he indulged in any tempeh chunks. He's more likely to eat "funky" vegan food if I keep it under the radar and just sneak it in there stealthily. So, I don't know if he ate any or not, and I don't really care. He liked the stew!

We ate the stew with some jasmine rice, which I know my daughter loves.

Some notes about my actually following a recipe:  Isa says the active time for this prep is 15 minutes and the total time is 45 minutes. I agree with the 45 minute figure for the actual cooking time, but only 15 minutes for the prep time? No ma'am! I spent at least half an hour chopping, but that may be because I didn't actually weigh my gigantic sheaf of collard greens, and I may have prepped much more than a pound of them. My collards were at least as large as the biggest Miss America congratulatory bouquet you can imagine. That's how we grow 'em down here in the deep south, I guess. No matter, as the greens cooked down, I was able to work all of them into the pot. Otherwise, I think most measurements matched the recipe's. I did use full-grown organic carrots instead of the baby ones (which aren't really babies anyway - they just carve 'em that way).

In shopping for smoked paprika, I had no luck. I went to the ethnic aisle first (I can call it that because my kids are ethnic) because the spices are soooo much cheaper than in the baking aisle.

There was only this regular paprika in the ethnic aisle, so I went to the expensive aisle in search of the smoked paprika. There was no smoked paprika in the expensive aisle either, so back to the ethnic aisle I went. The ethnic paprika cost $1.53 and the ethnic bay leaves cost $.59! You won't find any spices in the non-ethnic aisle for less than $3! Marketing -- pricing can be so random.  My ethnic spices did the trick, with the addition of a few drops of liquid smoke.

I love Isa's recipes and am grateful for this chance to expand my vegan ingredient repetoire.


  1. Isa also co-wrote Veganomicon, which is the vegan version of "How To Cook Everything"'s a great resource. I had trouble finding smoked paprika too, and initially substituted Hungarian Paprika, but then found the real deal on I CAN'T find liquid smoke though. Any suggestions?

  2. Mmm I love tempeh too! It has to be cooked correctly though. I love to make Isa's Tempeh recipes too.

  3. Hi Colleen -- I love Veganomicon too! Thanks for the resource. Liquid Smoke . . . I remember using this bottle when my son was an infant, shockingly, and he's 17 now. It doesn't go bad, I guess -- vinegar base. You only use about three drops at a time. I believe I got it at a Whole Foods in Williamsburg, VA, when my husband was in MBA school. Liquid smoke does a lot to impart an authentic smoky flavor (not artificial or synthetic) but it does contain MSG, I'm told. Still, three drops -- how much MSG could that have? It's great in beans.

  4. This looks great. I have been afraid of tempeh too, but now you have me thinking......great tip about the spices as well. Thanks Cheryl!

  5. too funny about your 17 year old liquid smoke. a little goes a loooong way! this dish looks awesome (i love my collards) -- i need to add it to my ever-growing list of AFR recipes to try. i've found that i like tempeh thinly sliced. that way it seems to absorb more of the dish's flavors, and lose its natural bitter taste.

  6. Sara -- I know -- 17 years! It seems like yesterday, though. Great tip on the tempeh.