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Today, Gena is boldly going where no Food52 column has gone before: she's cooking tempeh. And you are, too.
When I mention to people that tempeh is one of my favorite foods, I’m often given a blank stare. “Tempeh?” they ask. “Is that sort of like tofu?”
Sort of. Both tempeh and tofu are made from soybeans that have been shaped, in some way or another, into blocks. After that, the similarities start to dwindle. While tofu is made from soy milk, tempeh is made from whole and fermented soybeans, which makes it dense and textured. Like tofu, tempeh is versatile enough to be used in dishes from stir fries to salads, but it’s not a blank canvas in terms of flavor: it has a distinctively nutty taste, which people tend either to love or hate. Today, I’m determined to turn you into a tempeh lover.
I prepare tempeh a lot of different ways: I chop it into cubes and use it in stir fries; I make tempeh chili by grating it and stewing it with tomatoes and spices; I give it a spice rub and grill it. But my favorite way to eat tempeh is still one of the simplest: I marinate it with tamari (or soy sauce), vinegar, and ginger, and I either bake it or pan fry it. From there, I serve it over salads, layer it in sandwiches, or save it for stir fries.
Below, you’ll find my tried-and-true recipe for marinated tempeh slices, as well as instructions for a cool, crispy salad that contrasts nicely with the earthy tempeh. I have included instructions for baking the tempeh, but my personal preference is to sear it in a little coconut oil. Once you’ve tasted it this way, it’s hard to go back!
Basic Marinated Tempeh
2 tablespoons apple cider or rice vinegar (I prefer apple cider)
2 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon grated or minced ginger
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
8 ounces tempeh, sliced into thin strips (about 1/4 inch or a little less)
2 teaspoons coconut oil (optional, for frying)
Snow Pea, Cabbage, and Mizuna Salad with Miso Mustard Dressing
6 ounces snow peas, trimmed
2 cups shredded red cabbage
1 cup shredded carrot
2 cups mizuna
2 green onions, sliced thin
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
2 tablespoons mellow white miso
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1/4 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 small clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon maple syrup
Photos by James Ransom