June 16, 2024
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Tempeh Made Tempting, Vegan and Delish

In urban areas, we enjoy a far greater selection of kosher ingredients than any generation before us. Meat, dairy and pareve, we do them all with a panache that would make our grandmothers raise an eyebrow.

But in this 21st century of culinary choices, we also face the perplexing issues of gluten, egg and dairy intolerance as well as cholesterol and glycemic-index concerns. Toss in the overnight vegetarian adolescent, and perhaps, too, the fully-committed vegan. Watching your teenager or pregnant daughter-in-law, fill up on potatoes and barley salad—if you’re lucky—is a mother’s singular brand of spiritual torture.

This rescue recipe is dairy-free, egg-free, gluten-free, low cholesterol, with a low glycemic index, yet high in flavor. You will actually relax, watching your vegetarian teenager and vegan D-I-L eat several helpings while the rest of the family enjoys it too, alongside your unbeatable roast chicken. Or, to keep the peace, boneless breasts.

What you need for two main courses or four sides dishes: (Double recipe if it is for four main courses or eight side dishes.)

One package of gluten-free tempeh. I prefer LightLife brand tempeh. While they do not state “gluten free” on the label, the ingredients in the following types of tempeh are essentially gluten free: Organic Soy Tempeh, Organic Flax Tempeh, Organic Wild Rice Tempeh and Garden Veggie Tempeh. However, since the LightLife facility also produces products with gluten, the company cannot claim that their tempeh is 100%gluten free. LightLife does assert that people with celiac have successfully used their tempeh. Still, some individuals must be vigilant. Turtle Island Foods offers certified kosher, 100% gluten-free tempeh.

One half a large sweet onion, diced. If you have a bit more energy and a dash more time, a sofrito will add additional flavor and depth. To make a sofrito with some zip, use a chopped shallot instead of the onion, a minced stalk of celery, and a smaller amount of minced carrot.

One pint of little grape tomatoes, cut lengthwise in half.

Your favorite brand of shredded non-dairy, “mozzarella” product. I like Daiya brand mozzarella style shreds. They seem to have that mozzarella-style “stretchy-melt” down pretty well.

Olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste, dash of dried oregano, a dash of dried crushed thyme. Cayenne too, for those who want a bit of heat.

Fresh summer herbs such as basil, oregano, even chives and parsley, chopped to garnish, add color and brighten flavors.

A lightly oiled casserole.

A wide sauté pan.

During these munificent summer months, you can add diced zucchini, peppers, eggplant, any vegetable that will blend well with the tomatoes and the sautéing technique. Sauté eggplant—even zucchini—in advance, as they take longer to reach a soft stage. Avoid cruciferous vegetables such as cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage and broccoli. These vegetables are fantastic for the health, with high concentrations of di-indolylmethane, sulforaphane and selenium. However, it is precisely those beneficial components that emit that unpleasant odor. These vegetables should be prepared in specific ways. And since smell is the great dictatorof taste, you don’t want them in this dish.

What you do:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees

Cube the tempeh. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Heat the skillet and add olive oil. Add the tempeh to the hot olive oil, browning it well on all sides. When the tempeh has attained a nice brown, crispy looking exterior, put it into the casserole.

Heat the pan and add olive oil again. Sauté the shallots, celery and carrot to make the sofrito or sauté the onion until soft. Add the halved grape tomatoes. Sauté until the tomatoes have softened a bit but are still intact. At this point, add any other sautéed vegetable that you have prepared. Sauté together to blend flavors for another minute, adding salt and pepper to taste, the oregano and thyme, and a dash of cayenne if you’d like a bit of heat. Pour this blend over the browned tempeh.

Sprinkle the dish liberally with the mozzarella style shreds. Drizzle with some olive oil, as these shreds lack the natural fats/oils in real mozzarella. Bake until cheese melts, approximately 15-20 minutes. Since you do not want this non-cheese to brown, check the oven and take it out as soon as it is properly melted.

Remove from oven, and sprinkle with your choice(s) of fresh herbs.

Serve right away. Watch everyone eat it right away. Relax.

By Lisa Reitman-Dobi Photo credit: Lisa Reitman-Dobi

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