Saturday, September 7, 2013

Have You Tried Tempeh?

Move over tofu, tempeh is easy to find, store and cook.  Like tofu, it absorbs marinades and sauces beautifully but, for many, has a much more appealing mouth feel than tofu.  That’s due to tempeh’s more chewy texture, a result of its unique production process.

Most tempeh found at supermarkets here is a mix of grains and whole soybeans.  The taste is reminiscent of mushrooms with a little nuttiness. In fact, it goes very nicely in dishes with mushrooms like this starter tempeh recipe with pasta and mushrooms.  Despite having some Asian flavors in the marinade, this is not an Asian dish.  The cheese and mushroom flavor is what comes forward most.

The key to really tasty tempeh is to pre-steam before marinating.  This takes only 10 minutes in a steamer basket.  It opens the pores of the tempeh and allows the marinade to really penetrate. Cut your tempeh into the size you will use before steaming and simply cover and steam over (not in) boiling water or flavored broth.  Once steamed, cover with marinade and let rest turning occasionally for at least a half hour.  Now you are ready to grill, sauté or mix into stir-fries. 

Tortellini with Tempeh and Mushrooms
4 servings

1 package tempeh, cut into ½ inch blocks and steamed for 10 minutes
2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon sherry
2 teaspoons lemon juice or rice wine vinegar
8 oz sliced mushrooms (try a mixture of portabello and morels)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 16-ounce package fresh tortellini (cheese or your favorite flavor)
1/4 cup cream or while milk
2-3 tablespoons grated fresh Parmesan cheese (plus more for serving)
Black pepper to taste
Optional garnish: fresh herbs (basil, parsley)

  1. Place sliced, steamed tempeh in marinade of soy sauce, sherry and lemon juice.  Set aside for half hour, turning tempeh several times to coat completely.  
  2. When ready to cook, Boil water and cook tortellini according to package directions.  
  3. Meanwhile sauté mushrooms in a wide skillet in olive oil over medium high heat.    When mushroom are almost tender, lower heat and add tempeh and cook until tempeh is heated through.  
  4. When tortellini is ready, carefully drain pasta, reserving ½ cup of the pasta water.  
  5. Add cream and about an ounce of the pasta water to the mushroom-tempeh mixture.  Fold in tortellini and let all the ingredients cook together over low heat for a minute or two.  
  6. Sprinkle with cheese and add more pasta water as needed to create a light sauce.  
  7. Add black pepper and herbs, if using.  Serve at once.  Pass around extra cheese or herbs at table.