If so, don’t feel bad. (And if not, we hope you got a giggle.) Most of us at VT botched our first attempts to prepare tempeh (a nubbly soybean cake), have overcooked seitan (pronounced say-TAN, a meat substitute made from wheat), and had to ask the staff at the natural foods store where we’d find egg replacer powder. Heck, even the prepared food sections in the stores don’t know what to do with them half the time. “Would someone please tell the deli counter at the store near me that tempeh needs to be cooked?!” laments VT’s executive chef Ann Gentry.
That’s why we decided it’s time to demystify these items once and for all. The history, handy tips and luscious dishes on the following pages open up a world of cooking possibilities—and will give you the confidence to prepare (and pronounce!) these ingredients.
What it is
An Indonesian staple made from partially cooked, fermented soybeans that are pressed into cakes. Tempeh has a mild, nutty taste and absorbs flavors well.
How it’s used
Cakes can be sliced or cubed, then marinated and baked, grilled or deep-fried. You can also crumble tempeh for chili or chop and shape into burgers.
To soften tempeh and help it absorb flavors, steam or simmer in a marinade, broth or sauce at least 15 minutes. Unopened packages of tempeh can be refrigerated up to two weeks or frozen up to three months.
Packaged blocks displayed with tofu in refrigerated sections. Tempeh should have few or no black spots, which appear when it is exposed to air. (You can still eat it with spots; the taste will just be stronger.) Flavored tempeh—often fermented with wild rice, vegetables or herbs—is delicious on sandwiches or in recipes where the flavors complement the other ingredients.
Vegan Tempeh Reubens
Serves 8 Vegan
Thinly sliced tempeh simmered in a flavorful broth makes a great sandwich “meat” in this deli classic. Look for Follow Your Heart vegan cheese, which melts better than other brands.
1/4 cup Bragg Liquid Aminos
1 small onion, quartered
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 bay leaf
1 8-oz. pkg. tempeh, sliced
Thousand Island Dressing
1/4 cup vegan mayonnaise
3 Tbs. relish
2 Tbs. ketchup
16 slices rye bread
5 oz. vegan Monterey Jack cheese, sliced
2 cups sauerkraut
- To prepare Seasoned Tempeh: Combine liquid aminos, onion, garlic, bay leaf and 2 cups water in saucepan over medium heat. Add tempeh slices, and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium low, and simmer 20 minutes. Cover, and let tempeh cool in broth.
- To make Thousand Island Dressing: Stir together mayonnaise, relish and ketchup in small bowl.
- To make Sandwiches: Toast 8 slices bread. Set aside. Drain tempeh, and discard liquid, onion, garlic and bay leaf. Place 3 slices tempeh on each slice of remaining bread. Top with cheese slices. Toast or broil 3 to 5 minutes, or until cheese has melted.
- Top each sandwich with 1/4 cup sauerkraut. Spread toasted bread slices with Thousand Island Dressing. Place tops on sandwiches, and slice in half.
PER SERVING: 276 CAL; 14G PROT; 9.5G TOTAL FAT (1.5G SAT. FAT); 33G CARB; 0MG CHOL; 971MG SOD; 6G FIBER; 5G SUGARS
What it is
This “wheat meat” from China is often used in Buddhist vegetarian cooking. Seitan is made by kneading a dough of flour, water and seasonings (such as soy sauce, tomato paste or fresh herbs) to release the gluten, or wheat protein. The dough is cut into smaller pieces, simmered in liquid, and sautéed for a firm, chewy texture.
How it’s used
In China, the raw glutenous dough is deep-fried then braised or boiled in stews. Seitan can also be baked, stir-fried or ground into patties.
Give packaged seitan a quick rinse to remove the high-sodium broth, and pat dry with paper towels. Tear it into bite-sized pieces with your hands, or pull it apart with a fork. Because packaged seitan is ready to eat, cook just long enough to heat through. Overcooking can make it tough and rubbery.
Tubs or boxed packages near tofu in refrigerated sections. Seitan has a shorter shelf life than tofu, so be sure to check the expiration date. Or make your own using vital wheat gluten, a flourlike product sold in many supermarkets. For an easy recipe, check out Vegan with a Vengeance by Isa Chandra Moskowitz or go to her website, theppk.com, and search for “seitan.”
Glazed Seitan Stir-Fry
Serves 4 Vegan
Have all ingredients chopped and ready, and keep them in constant motion over high heat while cooking so they get crisp on the outside and stay tender inside.
3 Tbs. maple syrup
3 Tbs. orange juice
1 Tbs. low-sodium soy sauce
1 Tbs. toasted sesame oil
1 12-oz. pkg. seitan, shredded
3/4 cup cashews
1 Tbs. plus 1 tsp. sesame oil
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1/4-inch strips (about 1 cup)
1 cup frozen shelled edamame
1 Tbs. minced ginger
3 cloves garlic, minced (about 1 Tbs.)
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
6 Tbs. orange juice
1 Tbs. arrowroot powder
- To make Glazed Seitan: Combine syrup, juice and soy sauce in small bowl.
- Heat oil in nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add seitan, and stir-fry 4 minutes, or until golden. Add maple syrup mixture, and simmer 3 minutes, or until seitan is coated with glaze. Transfer to bowl. Wipe out skillet.
- To make Stir-Fry: Toast cashews in dry skillet over medium-high heat 3 minutes, or until fragrant. Transfer to bowl. Heat 1 Tbs. sesame oil in skillet over medium-high heat. Add bell pepper and edamame, and stir-fry 2 minutes.
- Move vegetables to sides of skillet, and pour remaining 1 tsp. oil in center. Add ginger, garlic and red pepper flakes, and stir-fry 1 minute. Stir in 2 Tbs. water, Glazed Seitan and cashews. Cover, and cook 2 minutes, or until pepper is tender.
- Combine orange juice and arrowroot powder. Stir into vegetable mixture. Bring to a simmer, then remove from heat, and serve.
PER SERVING: 421 CAL; 32G PROT; 19G TOTAL FAT (3G SAT. FAT); 33G CARB; 0MG CHOL; 346MG SOD; 4G FIBER; 15G SUGARS
What it is
A combination of tapioca starch, potato starch and leaveners (like baking soda) that keeps baked goods moist and light and holds veggie burgers or patties together. But don’t expect it to beat up into meringues—and you definitely can’t make an omelet.
For each egg equivalent, whisk 1 1/2 tsp. egg replacer into 2 Tbs. water or other liquid. For thick-batter cakes and muffins, add 1/8 tsp. baking powder or baking soda to help them rise.
Boxes in the baking aisle of natural food stores. Or make your own: Combine 1 tsp. baking powder, 1/2 tsp. baking soda and 2 Tbs. flour with 3 Tbs. water, and whisk until foamy. Mixing 2 Tbs. ground flaxseeds with 3 Tbs. water will also do the job and give foods a light, nutty flavor.
Banana Buckwheat Pancakes
Serves 6 (makes 18 3-inch pancakes) Vegan
Egg replacer keeps these breakfast treats tender without dairy or extra oil.
2 cups plain soymilk, divided
2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1 cup buckwheat flour
1 cup flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking soda<
2 tsp. egg replacer powder
2 Tbs. canola oil
1 Tbs. maple syrup, plus more for serving
2 bananas, thinly sliced
- Mix 1 3/4 cups soymilk with lemon juice in small bowl. Let stand 5 minutes.
- Combine flours, baking powder, salt and baking soda in medium bowl.
- Whisk egg replacer and remaining 1/4 cup soymilk in small bowl. Add to soymilk mixture. Whisk in oil and maple syrup.
- Stir flour mixture into soymilk mixture. Fold in bananas.
- Lightly oil griddle, and heat over medium heat. Pour 2 Tbs. batter onto griddle for each pancake, and cook 2 minutes, or until batter bubbles and pancakes begin to brown around edges. Flip, and cook 2 minutes more. Serve with maple syrup.
PER SERVING: 258 CAL; 8G PROT; 7G TOTAL FAT (0.5G SAT. FAT); 44G CARB; 0MG CHOL; 412MG SOD; 4G FIBER; 9G SUGARS