Friday, July 28, 2006

Time for Tempeh

Starting in about 1990, I stopped eating meat. No real reason, it just disgusted me. I swear it started with a dream about ground beef that grossed me out. That dream apparently made a lasting impression - I didn't eat meat again for at least 7 years!

I credit that time for making me a more creative cook. (And I was lucky to have a patient and tolerant DH who was willing to go along with the ride.) When you're not relying on burgers or steak and potatoes, you need to get a bit creative. or eat pasta every night. I tried lots of things I might never have tried - hummus, falafel, tabouli, millet cakes, etc. And tofu.

I like tofu, but I have a texture problem with it. It's best at a restaurant where they prepare it really well, but I've never been able to recreat that texture at home. I don't like it to be soft and mushy - firm and chewy, please. I tried all the recommended methods - freezing and thawing, draining, squishing, you name it. Still couldn't quite get into it.

Picture from Wikipedia

Tempeh, however, is a different beast. I was really surprised how high in fiber it is - apparently this is because it has parts of the whole soy bean in it.

I did an internet search for tempeh recipes and came upon a recipe for tempeh quesadillas. Quesadillas are a family favorite in this house, so I figured it would be a good way to introduce this new food to the family (we've tried tempeh before, but I've never cooked with it). I decided this recipe from Whole Foods Market. I did hesitate - the combination of wild mushrooms and Mexican flavors didn't quite seem to fit. Still, you never know until you try, so why not?

Overall these were quite good, but I probably wouldn't make them again without some modifications. As I feared, the earthy flavor of the wild mushrooms just didn't seem to fit with salsa and Mexican flavors. I would consider using tempeh in quesadillas again, but I'd pair it with more traditional fillings such as corn and black beans.

We thought the tempeh was a bit bitter. Perhaps I need to do more research in to tempeh preparation before I try it next time. And there will be a next time. I still have an 8-ounce package in the fridge - 16 ounces seemed like too much for the amount of mushrooms and for the amount of filling I needed for four of us. Even with one package, we had much more filling than we needed.
This meal was made especially healthful by preparing the quesadillas with La Tortilla Factory whole wheat tortillas. These have 8 grams of fiber per tortilla! I don't know that I would use these for regular quesadillas, such as steak fajita quesadillas - the whole wheat flavor comes through pretty strong - but they paired well with the earthy wild mushrooms. The texture of these is a little off (a bit flaky, not as tender and flexible) since they are low fat, but they worked well for a quesadilla since they are fried in oil.

I served the quesadillas with a salad of fresh tomato and avocado dressed with olive oil, lime juice, cumin, ground chipotle pepper, salt and pepper. was delicious.

I look forward to trying tempeh again, but more research first.............


  1. I've been reading about the health benefits of tempeh recently. I look forward to reading more about your experiments with it.

    We eat those tortillas all the time. They do have a different texture, but the nutritionals are top notch!

  2. my best friend is a vegetarian and as a result I've used tempeh a few times whilst cooking for her - the easiest recipe for tempeh that I have is just to use it as a mince substitute in a spag bol sauce, I find that after the long simmer, it's soft without any bitterness.

  3. Jill - I will try to use it up in the next week or two - just to keep up the momentum and so I don't forget about it and let it go bad. :) And yes, the nutritional content of those tortillas will probably keep me buying them for certain things.

    Ellie - I'm hoping that a different cooking method - like the slow simmer you mention - will produce a more palatable product. I look forward to more experimenting.

  4. Our no meat ~ return to meat timelines are the same! I never really did get into either tofu or tempeh though ... actually eat tofu more often now, as a carnivore, than when a vegetarian!

  5. AK - That's funny! How did you end up eating meat again? I was pregnant with DS #2 and we were at a BBQ - I suddenly couldn't stand it anymore and had to have a hamburger. Turns out I was anemic - I think my body was trying to tell me something! My return to meat was pretty slow - very gradual - and it was a couple of years before I could actually cook it again.

  6. I've made some really bad quesadillas with La Torilla wraps. They're pretty good uncooked and used as wraps and they're *okay* stuffed, wrapped in foil and baked, But when you try to cook them on a grill pan quesadilla style, they get hard and chewy.

  7. Anna - Yes, I'm not entirely sold on these tortillas. I like the idea of all the fiber and no trans fats, but I still love Mission tortillas best. :)

  8. I recently started cooking with tempeh as well. So far, I've found two recipes that I like: this stir-fry with peanut yogurt sauce (scroll down), and a recipe for tempeh with coconut curry from The Healthy Hedonist. Marinating the tempeh ahead of time helps remove the bitterness. (Teriyaki sauce works for the stir-fry.) Another trick is to prepare the dish a day ahead and let it sit in whatever sauce you're using.