Thursday, May 30, 2013

Peppery Tempeh with Cauliflower and Asparagus

"I can resist everything except tempeh." ~ Oscar Wilde

Tempeh is one of the many gifts bestowed upon us by the noble and generous soybean. Like its better known relative, tofu, it is packed with protein, and the fermentation process by which it is produced makes it a good source of B12 as well; it also has a nutty flavor that lends itself well to hearty applications like IndianThai, and Indonesian curries, "wings," and the ever popular Chesapeake Tempeh Cakes from Vegan Brunch. As an adult I love the stuff, but I remember trying it as a newly vegetarian teenager and being...underwhelmed by its putative greatness. This probably had something to do with the fact that (being the aspiring retro-hippie I was) I sliced it and ate it raw in a sandwich with sprouts and tahini rather than marinating, steaming, and/or sautéeing it like a reasonable person. But we live and (with any luck at all) we learn, and over time tempeh has taken its place in our ever-more-exciting diet. I am particularly fortunate to have a partner who makes frequent trips to Canada and returns with delicious Henry's Gourmet Tempeh, which has ruined me for anything else until the day I decide to A. visit Indonesia,  or B. hunker down and make my own. (NB this is not the only way I'm lucky in my partner; it's just the one most relevant to this post.)

This dish came about - like so many others - because I felt like cooking something new but was fresh out of inspiration. My available main ingredients were a head of cauliflower, a bunch of asparagus, and a package of tempeh; a quick Google brought me to my beloved Guardian food page (source of many a Quixotic veganization), from which I culled and combined several ideas to produce the dish below. Hearty and full of peppery goodness, it made the perfect dinner for a gloomy, coolish spring evening; so go ahead and give in to the tempeh. You know you want to!

Peppery Tempeh with Cauliflower and Asparagus
~ 1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
~ 1 tbsp. coconut oil
~ 1 medium onion, diced
~ 2 tbsp. each: grated ginger, minced garlic
~ 1/4 cup each: soy sauce, water
~ 1 tbsp. agave nectar (or sugar)
~ 1 tsp. Thai red curry paste
~ 1 tsp. each: red pepper flakes, chili powder
~ 1 8 oz. package tempeh, cubed (again, I do love Henry's)
~ 1 small bunch asparagus, cut into 2" pieces (about 3 cups)
~ 1 generous tsp. fresh black pepper

~ Preheat the oven to 400 degrees fahrenheit and coat a baking sheet with cooking spray. Arrange the cauliflower pieces, coat with another squirt of cooking spray, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for about 15 minutes, or until tender and just starting to brown. Remove from oven and set aside.
~ In a small bowl, combine the soy sauce, water, agave nectar, curry paste, red pepper flakes, and chili powder; set aside.
~ In a large, deep skillet or wok, melt the coconut oil and sauté the onion over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes, until softened and starting to color.
~ Add the garlic, ginger, and cubed tempeh; cook another minute or two, adding a splash of water as/if necessary to prevent sticking.
~ Pour in the soy sauce mixture, stirring to coat, and add the asparagus. Stir to combine, cover the pan, and cook about 5 minutes, until the asparagus is bright green.
~ Remove the lid, add the roasted cauliflower and the black pepper, and cook another few minutes, stirring occasionally and adding a little more water if needed. Serve hot over steamed, short grain brown rice.

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