Tuesday, February 27, 2007

An exercise in tempeh, and five things

I have not done many different, interesting things with tempeh in my vegan cooking days, and a recent goal of mine has been to get more "creative" with tempeh because it's a delicious, versatile food. Of course, the tempeh bacon and the sausage crumbles from VWaV are excellent, but I wanted to do something different.

Hence this dish. I read this post from Eat Air, and I thought the combination of tempeh, sweet potatoes, and kale sounded perfect. But instead of doing an Asian flair, I opted for Tex-Mex (though the peanut sauce variation from the original post sounds quite tasty), and I marinated my cubed tempeh (an 8-ounce block) in:

Lime juice
Olive oil
Chili powder
Chipotle paste

I didn't measure anything, but I tasted it until it seemed about right. It ended up marinating for about 24 hours, but that was a complete accident. I meant to marinate it about 2 hours and cook it yesterday, but after I put it all together Bob called and said he wouldn't be able to come home for lunch. So I saved it for today.

Tex-Mex Tempeh Skillet

8 ounces tempeh cubes, marinated as above
2 sweet potatoes, cubed
Splash of water
Several handfuls kale, roughly chopped
1/2 yellow onion, slivered
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
Hot sauce

Into the pan the tempeh cubes went, along with the sweet potatoes and a splash of water and the rest of the marinade. I let that steam with a lid on for about 15 minutes, then added the kale and let it steam a bit longer. In the meantime, I sautéed the garlic and onion; once the kale was tender I threw the onions and garlic in and stirred everything around. I tasted and decided it needed some more kick, so I added a few dashes of hot sauce and a bit more cumin. Then I put the lid back on, turned the heat way down, and let it all come together for a few more minutes. It was served on top of quinoa.

Verdict: Great flavor combination, and I think the tempeh really benefited from having the extra marinating time--it was flavorful all the way through. Next time I would mix up more marinade, so that it could have a chance to marry with the sweet potatoes and kale just a little bit more; I would probably also add the kale a little earlier. But really, I was happy with it just the way it came out. The sweet potatoes were a perfect answer to the tangy, spicy tempeh, and the kale was neutral and nice. Quinoa was the perfect accompaniment. So then, so far I am enjoying my tempeh adventures.

Made some more French bread--actually we made several loaves and froze some. The loaves came out much cuter this time.

I got tagged a while back on Eat Air to create my list of five interesting things you never knew about me. I've enjoyed reading what all of you have said, so I'll try to think of something good to share with you.

1) I met Bob in a play here at UGA. Our freshman year, there was a call for participation in a 24-hour competitive play competition. We met on a Friday night and were put into groups; then we were given a theme, and each group had to write and rehearse a play along that theme to be performed 24 hours later. Bob was there, as a drama major at the time, and I was there for no good reason at all. Needless to say, the play was absolutely horrible and ridiculous, but we stayed up all night getting to know each other and it was quite fun. Incidentally, my acting performance won an honorable mention--for what it's worth.

2) When I was in middle school and high school, I was labeled the "smart kid," and I hated it. I always wanted to be the pretty girl or the cool girl, but I wasn't--I was pretty much a nerd. I always felt pressure to excel at every academic venture that I made, and I was stressed out for most of my life. When I came to college, I didn't tell anyone for a long time about any of my previous academic achievements because I didn't want that label again. Now, finally, I am comfortable with who I am--a little nerdy but pretty cool. And my friends love me for who I am and don't expect me to perform in a certain way.

3) I've always been interested in a million different things, but the only thing that has stuck with me throughout my life is writing. Whatever I do with my life and however I impact this earth, I feel certain that it is going to be through creative writing in some way. I enjoy writing about the natural world and, in particular, about minimizing our impact on it.

4) I was fortunate enough to take a semester-long class from my favorite modern author, Philip Lee Williams. I remember hearing him give a lecture about his writing and his career several years ago, and it inspired me so much that I vowed that day to take a class from him before I left UGA. Two years later, my opportunity came, and I took a nature writing class from him last spring. It's by far the best class I've ever taken, and that is where I learned my passion for writing about the earth and being a "voice for the voiceless," so to speak. That was the last semester that he would ever teach a class, and so I know that I was destined to take that class for many reasons exactly when I did. I've read several of his books, and I think they're beautiful--descriptive and introspective and challenging, and pertinent to me because he writes about the landscapes that I'm familiar with, the north Georgia piedmont.

5) When people find out that I am a Christian and they ask me what denomination I am, I always say that I have no denomination. The truth is, I have been influenced by a lot of denominations--Methodist, Episcopalian, Presbyterian, Pentecostal, Catholic, etc. I have never been a part of a denomination that I felt 100% in line with, but I don't think that's a very important distinction to make anyway. I think we should focus more on unity and on embracing our differences and learning from each other. That also applies to my view of social interactions as a whole--I love variety and diversity. Anyway, the church Bob and I attend now is part of the Vineyard movement, and we love it there.

Very, very interesting, eh? I don't know who has not yet been tagged, so if you haven't been tagged, I tag YOU!


theONLYtania said...

Hey, thanks for that tempeh dish. Tempeh and sweet potatoes are both things I've only had a few times, and I'm definitely interested in giving something like this a try!
The bread looks great (again) and those are 5 things I definitely did not know about you! Hehe. Very cute about how you met Bob!

KleoPatra said...

Lovin' the bread, Laura! And they are cute :) in their own way. I'd give 'em a squeeze or two.

It's great that your extra marinating (an accidental experiment, no?) worked out just fine. I always like to and want to marinate tofu and tempeh, etc., a lot longer but i'm usually too rushed to do so. I'm still kinda new to tempeh, and i like what you did with yours here. Nice combo with the sweet po's and the sauteed garlic, onion and kale. Mmmmmmm! It looks groovy.

I enjoyed reading your five "things" - the personal insights to you. You are complex and intriguing... and as you probably noticed, i have been enjoying your nature writing on your other blog! Thanks for sharing part of yourself with us. Way to get the honourable mention for the acting, Laura.

Smart = good. Really good.

springsandwells said...

Hi Laura,
Way to go, experimenting with tempeh! Looks very tasty. Our bread loaves look quite similar, don't they? :)

I enjoyed your 5 things. I liked reading your reflections on Christianity... it sounds like you and Bob have found a path that comes from the heart. It's also neat to find out that you are so into writing. I will have to check out your other blog. :)

scottishvegan said...

Your tempeh dish sounds yummy. I need to get a bit more creative with my tempeh too. Thanks for giving me an idea! I liked your 5 things about you. Your story about meeting Bob was sweet and you should be proud that you are clever. I wish I was cleverer!! And thanks for the nice comment on my blog!

Melody said...

Oh, I adore kale and sweet potatoes together.. and tempeh would be a great addition too.. I always marinate it at least a day, otherwise it just doesn't taste that good to me.

Your bread looks fabulous! When I add vital wheat gluten, I will add anywhere from 2 tbsp up to a cup. When I add a cup, the bread is really hard to manage, but I do that when I'm making lower calorie bread. I think I added around 1/4 cup to that loaf. I never measure, I just throw things in when I bake bread. I've been doing it for so long that I just know by feel..

laura jesser said...

Tania, have fun playing with tempeh! I'm going to keep varying it and playing with the marinade until I have a whole repertoire of things to do with it.

Kleo, thanks for your compliments! I was so excited to see your comments on my other blog--thanks for reading. Oh yes, and the tempeh thing was definitely a happy accident. I usually don't plan far enough in advance to marinate something for very long!

Amey, our bread does look quite alike--it must be equally delicious! I am glad you enjoyed my comments about Christianity. It can be a difficult thing to address sometimes, at the risk of sounding closed-minded and arrogant.

Scottish vegan, I look forward to reading all about your tempeh ventures! I enjoy your blog very much. :)

Melody, kale and sweet potatoes are two foods that I seem to pair together quite often... I don't know if it's the colors or what that causes my tendency to do that, but they're definitely a good match! Thanks for responding to my question... I'm really trying to learn as much about bread-making as I can so I can do it the way you do, by instinct. I think it's fascinating. Next time I make it I will try adding the wheat gluten and see what happens.

bazu said...

I'm a hopeless tempeh fanatic, so I loved reading about your tempeh, and glad it came out ok. And your loaves are so very cute. I keep saying I'm going to do a big batch of baking and freeze some bread and pizza dough, but haven't gotten around to it yet. but soon!

And your 5 things were interesting. I was kind of the opposite of you in junior high and high school- I got really bad grades. I think adjusting to the new language/culture after moving to the U.S. had something to do with it. And then, in college, I went back to my nerdy ways and graduated with an A average. And now, I'm the nerdiest I can be: a graduate student, and I'm embracing it too!

Vicki said...

hi laura! your tempeh dish looks fabulous -- i'll probably try it with seitan (art doesn't like tempeh) but we're both big fans of sweet potatoes & kale. i really enjoyed reading your 5 things getting to know you better. it's cool how you met bob & congrats on your acting award. :o)

Kati said...

I think my tempeh journey went from dislike to love in a matter of only a few meals, so keep at it and you'll be a fanatic in no time!

I really enjoyed reading your five things. I share your passions for creative writing and nature - I really miss the natural world being here in the city. It's also refreshing to hear your take on Christianity, especially after living in OK where the evangelical movement is very strong and not very tolerant of differing viewpoints. I imagine the climate in Georgia is much the same, so I commend you for taking what many may feel is an unpopular stance.

Why didn't I know you had another blog? I will definitely have to check it out!

Urban Vegan said...

nice to know more about you! nothing like homemade bread--you are quite the backer. keep writing, laura!

aTxVegn said...

Your tempeh dish sounds great - you really came up with a nice combination of flavors.

I loved reading about your 5 things. I'm mostly impressed with the fact that you're so young, but have such a great sense of who you are. My high school was kind of small, so it was easy to be cool and popular, and it was also cool to be smart. But deep down we knew we were nerds, and we even joke now that we're still nerds!

I'm glad you enjoy writing and I look forward to reading some of your works someday.

laura jesser said...

Bazu, one of the handiest things to have in the freezer is a batch of pizza dough! That's funny about you in junior high and high school--you are obviously very smart, but I'm sure that being thrown into a completely new culture can have some pretty dramatic effects on a kid. How long have you been in the US now?

Vicki, using seitan sounds like a good idea. Seitan is still on my list of things to try--if you use it for something like this, I'll be interested to see how you did it.

Kati, I agree--tempeh is SO delicious when you learn how to cook it just right! I always love to find out that people I know also love to write--that's cool. Maybe I will get to read some of your writing sometime. And yes, Georgia has that kind of religious atmosphere that can be downright oppressive--while there are perfectly cool people, there are also people who don't seem to share much love, when I think love is what God is all about! Sorry, now I'm ranting. :) Thanks for your comments.

Urban vegan, thanks! I love baking bread--there's something refreshing about it.

Diann, thanks for your comments. My high school was really small too, but extremely cliquey. I'm so glad the "real world" isn't so much like that--that would be a tough world to live in. It's so much better when everyone can be who they are, and we learn to accept and appreciate each other for the qualities that really matter!

Johanna3 said...

im happy to know more about you!

Webly said...

I liked the way you answered those questions.
Seems like a tempeh wave has struck the blogging community because I've seen so much of it lately! It's such an interesting substance but my allergies prevent me from eating it.

Candi said...

Hi Laura!! Oh, I loved reading about you! I enjoyed the part about meeting Bob. :) Very cute.

Whoever told you that you were not the pretty one? Oh! They are so wrong. I've seen lots of your photos and you are beautiful!!

laura jesser said...

Johanna, thanks! :)

Webly, I'm sorry to hear about your allergies... I love tempeh but I think I still like tofu more anyway. It's more versatile and picks up more flavor than tempeh does.

Candi, I'm so happy to hear from you! And thanks for making me blush! :)

Midwest Vegan said...

I enjoyed reading about you. I, too, feel that you can learn a lot from all different types of religions. I've been Catholic, Baptist, Presbyterian, Penecostal and non-denominational. Different doctrines but same basic truth. It's all good.

laura jesser said...

Midwest vegan, my thoughts exactly! Sounds like your background is very similar to mine.

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