Monday, April 12, 2010

An Easy Square Meal with Local Tempeh

I'm a big fan of stews, stir-fries, and other one pot dishes, but lately I've been enjoying a good old-fashioned square meal—protein, carbohydrate, and vegetable—several times a week.

Each time I visit the Belfast Co-op, I pick up a few packages of Lalibela Farm Tempeh, made in Maine from Maine soy beans. Like tofu, tempeh absorbs the flavors of marinades (it's particularly good with barbecue sauce). Tempeh is higher in protein and fiber than tofu, with a substantial nutty texture; I enjoy its slightly sour, fermented flavor, but this can be toned down by boiling the tempeh. Lalibela tempeh is softer and absorbs marinade better than Lightlife, the brand available in most grocery stores here. (Jaime and Andy Berhanu of Lalibela are currently testing several types of non-soy tempeh, including chickpea and navy bean; read about their black bean tempeh here).

Some nights I make my tempeh hot and smoky, and other nights I prefer this rich, mild marinade with warming Asian flavors. Truthfully, there's no need to measure the ingredients—it's more instinct and whimsy than science. Main dishes don't come easier than this; the only trick is planning ahead and placing the tempeh in the marinade at lunchtime, or in the morning before you leave for work. Serve hot with rice and Asian vegetables, and serve the leftovers cold with peanuts, scallions, and sesame noodles.

Sesame Garlic Tempeh

8 ounces tempeh
¼ cup tamari (gluten-free if necessary)
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 teaspoon maple syrup (or other sweetener)
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger

Bring a small pot of water to boil. Cut tempeh into four triangles (cut a typical rectangular block into squares, then cut each of these squares in half diagonally). Place tempeh in boiling water. Set timer for 10 minutes.

In a container big enough to fit all four tempeh triangles, whisk together tamari, sesame oil, maple syrup, garlic, and ginger (a sandwich-sized tupperware works well). When 10 minutes are up, use tongs to remove tempeh from boiling water and place in marinade. Spoon some marinade on top of tempeh slices. Refrigerate 4-8 hours.

Place tempeh in a shallow baking dish and top with a few spoonfuls of marinade.* Broil 10-15 minutes on each side, until tempeh is golden brown and edges begin to blacken.

Serves 2.

*Don't throw away the remaining marinade! Add 1 tablespoon of rice vinegar and toss with salad greens or steamed vegetables.


  1. thanks for the tip about the local tempeh. My outdoor literature class is working on cooking a meal with all maine ingredients. I'll tell them about this tempeh. I'll be posting about it (our date is May 2), if you're curious what they'll come up with. They are really into it. Thanks!

  2. Tempeh looks so good when other people cook it! Yours looks super-delish, all caramelized and golden. I have to locate a source of local tempeh, too...another quest!

  3. Those are some damn fine tempeh photos, missy!

  4. I love the expression square meal! And that tempeh looks absolutely fantastic.

  5. That tempeh looks perfect, such a nice colour to it. I wish I could eat it more often.

  6. Tempeh isn't available here, I wish it was. It always looks so chewy and delicious. Your meal looks fabulous, what a great picture!

  7. I tried tempeh for the first time from Lalibela Farms- it's delicious. And she is making black bean tempeh, which I got a sample of at Saturday's market... but which then got lost in the shuffle of our evening BBQ party. I don't know if it made it on to the grill and got eaten or if it's languishing in the grass somewhere... sad.

    Anyway, I know Meredith Eaton, who knows you through a volunteer literacy program. We are planning a road tripping episode of the Blueberry Files, so she and I are making a list of places to eat in Bangor! I hope to come visit this summer and go to bagel central and chopsticks. :) Hope we can meet up.

  8. I still haven't wholly embraced tempeh though I've tried twice. Always willing to give it another shot though! These flavors sound tasty but I love its simplicity.

  9. Your tempeh looks and sounds absolutely amazing! I love this simple recipe, can't wait to give it a try:)

  10. I loved this tempeh! I didn't have much luck cooking it in the broiler, but I don't have a great broiler. Now I put it in a non-stick pan and cook it over medium/medium-low heat until it browns. (I think I reduce the heat as it cooks---it gets sizzle-y.) I've been making it once a week lately. Thank you!


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