So, we all know about Tara of Seven Spoons, right? If you haven’t visited her incredibly special blog, you should head over there tout de suite. Her writing is some of the best out there, food blog or no. Her photos are spare, simple, and beautiful. Her food is complex, but not overly so. She always seems to be making exactly what I am in the mood for. And here is another thing about her. She is nice. And I’m not just saying that because she sent me a cookbook.
I can’t remember the exact series of events, but somehow Tara ended up with some extra copies of a new book called Clean Food. It is a vegetarian book and she sent me a message on Twitter asking if I wanted a copy. How thoughtful is that? As I have said here many times before, I have a lot of cookbooks and I have to say, this one is pretty different from others in my collection. It is extremely healthy, gluten-free, and vegan. There are those who say, “Why eat?” but those are very narrow-minded people.
The book is arranged seasonally and while some of the recipes are overly healthy for me (I like seaweed as much as the next vegetarian, but I don’t need a whole salad of it), many of them sound like just what the title says – clean food. I like clean food. Not overly fussy and really tasty. Having sampled two of the recipes the other night, I can tell you I am very excited to cook more from this book.
May will be the second anniversary of me starting this blog and I have never once mentioned tempeh (pronounced temp-ay). If you are not familiar with it, tempeh is a soy product. Technically, it is soybeans that have been put through a fermentation process to bind them into cake form. Doesn’t that sound appetizing? Although tempeh and tofu are both soy, they are very different. Tempeh is much firmer, denser, and actually quite a bit higher in protein. It also has a fairly distinctive taste which many people don’t like.
I do like it but don’t find it as adaptable as tofu. It also takes a bit more work to make it taste good. Tempeh almost always should be steamed first (this will remove the bitterness) and I have found that I like it best marinated and then roasted at a fairly high heat. That gives the tempeh a nice crust and terrific flavor.
Now I have a new favorite way to eat it. I was blown away by this dish. Simple ingredients and fabulous flavor. Tempeh braised in coconut milk is an excellent idea and I didn’t think I would like the raisins in there, but they add a terrific dimension. The side dish (from the same book) was almost as good as the main dish. Put the two together with some rice and you have my husband (who, remember, is not a vegetarian) saying, “This is so good. Make it again next week.” So glad he asked. Thank you Tara!
I really loved both of these recipes but I made several changes. I added some things, left some things out, and used more of other things. The recipes below reflect those changes. I would recommend that you do all the chopping in advance and put things in bowls so that you have everything at hand when you are ready to cook. Yes, more dishes but no frantic running around the kitchen because the cooking time is actually quite short.
2 8-ounce packages tempeh
1 cup snow peas, trimmed
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 large shallot, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp. fresh grated ginger
½ cup golden raisins
¾ of a 15-ounce can “lite” coconut milk, or more to taste
2 tbsp. tamari or other soy sauce
2 tbsp. maple syrup
1 tbsp. mirin
5 scallions, sliced
½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
Cut the tempeh into chunks and steam for 8 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.
Place the snow peas in a bowl. Pour boiling hot water over them, leave them for 2 minutes, then drain. Rinse with cold water and set aside.
In a large skillet over medium heat, sauté the shallot for 3 minutes, or until it begins to get brown. Add the ginger and garlic and sauté until soft, about 2 minutes. Add the tempeh, raisins, tamari, syrup, mirin, and about 1/3 of the coconut milk. Cook, adding more coconut milk as necessary to de-glaze the pan, until tempeh starts to brown, about 10 minutes. Add the snow peas and cook 2 minutes longer. Remove from the heat, top tempeh with scallions and cilantro and serve.
Bok Choy and Shiitake Mushroom Sauté
Adapted from Clean Food
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 large shallot, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp. grated fresh ginger
½ pound fresh shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and thinly sliced
2 tbsp. tamari
1 tbsp. water
2 tbsp. mirin
8 cups chopped bok choy (4 medium heads or 8 small)
1 cup chopped scallions
½ cup chopped cilantro
In a large skillet over medium heat, sauté shallot in olive oil until starting to brown. Add ginger and garlic and cook until soft, about 2 minutes. Add shiitake mushrooms, half the tamari, water, and mirin and sauté until the mushrooms start to caramelize. (Add more water as needed to de-glaze the pan.) Add remaining tamari and mirin and sauté until the mushrooms are a deep brown but not burnt.
Stir in bok choy until it wilts. Cover and steam for 1 minute. Remove from heat and add scallions and cilantro.