Saturday, January 28, 2012

Ginger, Maple & Mustard Glazed Tempeh with Patatas Bravas

If you ever want to buy me a present, cookbooks are usually the way to go. I am obsessed with them and have way too many already, but am always searching for more. Everyone knows how I feel about vegan cookbooks, so it is always the go-to gift idea for Christmases and birthdays and I could not be happier about it.

One of the awesome new cookbooks I got for Christmas last month was Spork-Fed. Paul picked it up for me because we have a running joke in our house regarding the massive quantity of meals we cook that would ideally be eaten with a spork, a kitchen tool we don't have. At least twice a week we stand at the utensil drawer trying to determine if a spoon or a fork is the best food shovelling tool for whatever has just come out of our kitchen. As an aside, do you know how hard it is to find a spork that's not plastic or part of a Swiss army-style set of utensils meant for camping and outdoor shenanigans? Oh yes, we've looked.

Paul liked the look of the recipes, although neither of us knew about the Spork Sisters Jenny Engels and Heather Goldberg until we already had the book. Which is weird, because they are so well-loved in the vegan world! These lovely ladies own and operate Spork Foods out of Los Angeles and along with catering they also offer vegan cooking classes and in-home dietary consultations. Spork-Fed is an amazing way to let those of us who aren't fortunate enough to live in the vegan heaven that is L.A. try some of their recipes.

This is the first meal we tried out of the book and we are madly in love with it. Gluten-free and full of flavour, combining it with a salad or some steamed greens makes it a great weeknight dinner.

These little potatoes are lethal. You will fight over the last bit of them and you will be more than comfortable physically attacking someone you love if it means you get one extra bite. The flavour comes from a combo of ketchup, vegan mayo and the most glorious component of all - a healthy dose of smoked paprika. Organic, sugar-free ketchup is best, although I'll admit that this time I was bad and used the sugar-laden variety that no one should ever eat. There are also lots of options for vegan mayo - premade Vegenaise works, or you can make your own at home with silken tofu. There are even a few nut-based raw vegan mayo recipes floating around the web that would work, too (this one from one of my favourite blogs, Addicted to Veggies looks particularly wonderful).

I'm sure you've already seen this article in one of its many incarnations floating around the web over the last week or so. You have no idea how much I used to be like this girl. I went vegan for the animals, but my love of chicken fingers and nuggets never went away - I just chose not to eat them. Now, I love to indulge that side of me with a plate full of tempeh fingers!

The ginger, maple and mustard flavour is amazing; reminds me a bit of the honey concoction I used to dip those god forsaken chicken nuggets in before I went vegan.

Because Spork-Fed is a relatively new cookbook, there isn't all that much online about it quite yet. I haven't got a digital copy of either recipe for you either, sadly - you'll just have to check out the book. I still wanted to share the pictures, because these are two of our favourite new recipes.

While I can't share the recipes, I will use this as an opportunity to talk about tempeh. I'm overwhelmed at the amount of support my previous post on soy received! It's a very controversial topic and one that I think no one is right or wrong about - we all need to decide if and how soy fits into our own diets.

Tofu is definitely the more easily identified soy product, but tempeh is slowly starting to give it a run for its money. Although by no means a thorough analysis of the differences between tofu and tempeh, here is a basic list:

- Tofu is made by curdling soy milk with a coagulant. The curds that result are then pressed into blocks. Tempeh, on the other hand, is made with whole soy beans rather than a milk. It is produced via a fermentation process that involves soaking and cooking the soybeans with a mold and then allowing it an appropriate amount of time to incubate. Yes, I'm aware of how gross that sounds, but this process actually makes the soybeans and their many nutrients more easily processed by the human digestive system. Similarly, the fermentation process seems to neutralize the more controversial components of soy, such as phytic acid.

- While tofu is essentially tasteless, tempeh has a uniquely nutty, earthy flavour that is loved as much as it is hated. The intensity of this taste depends on who you ask. Tempeh newbies seem to notice/fear it the most. It can be mellowed out by boiling or steaming the tempeh block before proceeding with baking, pan frying or grilling. I did this for years, but now we're at the point where we love a nice, strong tempeh flavour. If I'm feeding a non-vegan, however, or a newly transitioned vegan, I wouldn't think of giving them tempeh that hasn't been boiled for a solid ten minutes first.

- Tempeh has more calories than tofu, but it also has more protein and fiber. Double the protein and six times the fiber, actually.

- While tofu comes in many forms and consistencies, tempeh really only comes in one shape. There are differences in flavour combos, though - Red pepper, curry and kasha are some of my favourites. Henry's Gourmet Tempeh is my favourite brand.

- There are some dishes where tofu works best, but a lot of the time tempeh makes a great substitute. Here are some of my favourite ways to use tempeh.

Which do you prefer, tofu or tempeh?


lulufisk said...

I'm a tofu fan all the way! I've tried so hard to get into tempeh, but I haven't had success yet :( I'm a canadian ex-pat living in the UK and I can attest to this nasty "beige diet" described in the article you linked to. SO many people here in the UK have a take-away of fish+chips or a kebob or fried chicken multiple times per week for their meals. it's disgusting to watch and aggravating as well as I know ultimately, my tax money will go to pay for their poor decisions when they wind up with diabetes, cardiac disease, obesity etc.

Helen said...

I'm more of a tofu fan, though the tempeh scramble I just ate will attest to my trying to eat more tempeh. Tofu is just so much more versatile, but tempeh has a unique flavor (and actually has flavor).

Your Spork-Fed dinner looks so delicious -- I need to get my hands on that book! Those potatoes... nom.

Sarah B @ Bake + Bike said...

I love tempeh!! I actually eat it raw sometimes, which grosses people out but I really enjoy the flavour and texture. I recently made curried cauliflower with tempeh (I usually use tofu) and it turned out so well.

The spork cookbook sounds awesome - what a great utensil for meatless meals :)

Mary said...

Lulufisk - My love of tempeh came way, way later. I just couldn't understand what everyone was carrying on about, but I've learned to love it so much! Ah, the beige diet - frightening how it's become the "norm" in so many societies all across the world.

Helen - Tempeh scramble! I haven't tried one of those yet...I'll have to get on that!

Sarah - Before I was vegan I never really thought much about sporks; it's so funny how many vegan meals work best with them! Must be because we like sauces so much!

janet @ the taste space said...

I've never heard of the Spork sisters, either, actually.. and didn't know you could even buy sporks (although I suppose everything is possible these days). The recipes definitely look great. I prefer tempeh and recently made a lovely braised tempeh and green beans with tahini that I will post tomorrow. Yummers!

Meg said...

Im going to put up zuccini bars. but the tempeh sticks look good to. Ill have to try to make these

Mary said...

Janet - sounds delicious!

Meg - zucchini bars, yum!

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