Tempeh Stir-Fry

There’s a reason I had to come up with a decent-tasting tempeh stir fry.

tempeh-stir-fry

Read about it, along with the step by step instructions, unless you want to just jump to the recipe. Also know that, if beef is your thing—or chicken or shrimp—this will work just fine.

I’ve been very open about my no-beef policy. But guess what picture stops my little heart every time I see it? (In a good way, mind you, not a CPR-requiring way.) Beef stir-fry. I see them all the time, the strips of meat looking all dark and salty next to bright green broccoli or asparagus and shocking red strips of bell pepper. And I think, hmmm, I want that. But….beef! Ick.

I’ve never been a huge burger fan, either, so this stir-fried beef visual craving is just plain weird.

(I’m not, by the way, going to try to convert any of you beef lovers out there. Truthfully, I don’t eat beef because the texture freaks me out, and I just don’t like how it tastes. BUT at a recent show at the California Academy of Sciences, this incredible museum in the middle of Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, I saw the difference between the carbon footprint of a hamburger vs a turkey burger or veggie burger. Let’s just say I felt quite, quite smug and righteous, because that carbon footprint for one beef burger is Massive. Lessening your beef consumption really can make a huge positive difference to the planet. I mean, I believe the planet’s going to take care of itself; it’s just going to get pretty gnarly for us as a species to continue to live here, particularly with some of our more insane practices. One of which is destroying the rain forest—which we really require in order to breath—so MacDonald’s can make more money. And c’mon, those burgers are total crap, and also, how much money do those guys need? If you do eat beef, support a local ethical cattle farmer. They exist! That way, you help out a local farmer, which gets a big yay in my book, and you put higher quality fuel in your body. And if enough folks will make the switch, the rain forests and subsequently Planet Earth have a better shot at being healthy as well.)

Tempeh Stir-Fry: Why Tempeh?

According to many vegan cookbooks, the go-to alternative to beef is wheat gluten or seitan, which is pronounced very close to the name of the Great Deceiver Himself. Appropriate, because are you seriously going to chew on a big old piece of gluten? I mean, that just seems so, so wrong. Tofu I like, but it’s tofu. Nobody’s going to convince you it’s anything else, and I recognize that for most of the world, tofu is to them what beef is to me, i.e. a really bizarre texture and something most folks just don’t want to put in their mouths.

Tempeh Stir-Fry: The Marinade

So tempeh. Tempeh comes out of the package looking a bit weird and pebbly. You could just fry it, but you will probably be sad. Let’s admit that, in the flavor department, tempeh makes you wish for bland. Because bland is more interesting than tempeh. Here it is after marinating, and it STILL looks pretty boring.

tempeh stir-fry

But that marinade is the solution. And while I’m still experimenting, so far in my experience, only a soy-sauce based marinade does the trick. Tempeh needs the salt pretty seriously, or at least the salt flavor. A low sodium soy sauce will do the trick just fine. Give it at least four hours to soak, but for this recipe, I let it sit for 36 with no detriment.

My tempeh marinade was inspired by tempeh stir-fry

Last of all mix up a little sauce from sake. Yes, you can use cooking sherry or white wine if they’re what you have on hand. Sake, however, is my go to for cooking. For one thing, unlike wine, I’m not tempted to drink it. But that flavor I’m not crazy about in a glass is glorious in a saute pan: clean, bright, just a little sweet. Other sauce ingredients should include a little more soy—about 1 part to 2-3 parts sake—and a splash of rice vinegar, a pinch of sugar, and 4 parts broth or water. Carefully sprinkle in some cornstarch or potato starch, about a tablespoon for 1/4 cup of liquid, and whisk til smooth. This is how you get that syrupy finish that makes a classic Chinese stir-fry, well, classic. Make sure you have it made up ahead of time so you can just throw it in at the last minute.

Heat your pan, then your oil, and fry the tempeh first, about 4 minutes a side. Then remove it to a plate.

tempeh stir-fry

Add a little more oil—you really do need to be pretty generous with it if you don’t want stuff to stick. First add your minced garlic and ginger. Then sauté the veggies in the order of longest to shortest cooking time. Of this batch, eggplant cubes took the longest, then bell peppers, mushrooms, green beans, carrots, and scallions.

tempeh stir-fy

Give the starch/broth mix one last whisk, then pour it in. Steam will rise dramatically, so have a lid handy to capture it.

After a few minutes, remove the lid and mix in the cubed jicama and, if you like, chopped cilantro and a sprinkle of hemp hearts, sesame seeds, or even toasted nuts or seeds if you like. I put some noodles on the side, because I love them.

Enjoy with chopsticks or—sigh—if you must, a fork.

tempeh-stir-fry

Tempeh Stir Fry: The Recipe

Autumn Harvest Salad

I love a big old bowl of rainbow crunch. This Autumn Harvest Salad, inspired by a June 2017 Clean Eating recipe, fits the bill and sums up for me the things I love about this time of year: the rich colors, the produce bursting with vibrant flavor and color, and that wonderful feeling of newness that hits me every September.     autumn-harvest-salad-with-chicken Read the step by step or jump straight to the recipe.

The dressing is a citrus-y yogurt concoction, though I adapted it to be a little lighter on the acid. I just don’t like dressings that are too liquid or have too high a proportion of vinegar. I did add the juice left over from sectioning an orange I had on hand. The original recipe calls for a bigger amount of juice and no fruit. It made a lot more sense to me to add the sections. The approximate tablespoon of juice that resulted was pretty much perfect, without me feeling like the salad was swimming. See this quick tutorial to efficiently slice up an orange.

how-to-slice-an-orange

Beyond that, it’s a pretty straightforward operation. Make the dressing (see details below if you don’t have the basics down). Chop a bunch of stuff. In my case, that included plenty o’ cabbage….

cabbage-autumn-harvest

….along with  some carrots, mint, parsley, jicama, and fresh corn, with a few hemp hearts and golden raisins thrown in for good measure.

autumn-harvest-ingredients

You can keep your Autumn Harvest Salad entirely vegetarian by adding tofu, tempeh, beans, or nothing….

autumn-harvest-salad-chicken

But if you happen to have some protein on hand, like, say, this tasty best damn chicken (hey, here’s the recipe!), add it, by all means.

best-ever-chicken

Shrimp or salmon would work, too. Build it all up on a dish. Enjoy with gusto.

autumn-harvest-salad

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Autumn Harvest Salad: The Recipe

 

quick pickled vegetables sparkle up a plate at Le Chou Fou

Quick Pickled Vegetables

Quick pickled vegetables are exactly what they sound like. You make a pickling brine, quick. While it heats and then cools, you slice some veggies paper thin. When the brine cools, you add the veggies.

Done.

quick pickled vegetables sparkle up a plate at Le Chou Fou

Jump to recipe.

Here’s why these things are genius: Quick pickled vegetables sparkle up ANY meal, and they do it fast. Planning a sandwich for lunch? Throw a few pickled veggies on for crunch, bite, and color. Add ’em to a bowl of rice and beans, or on top of some Asian pasta with nut butter sauce. You just changed the game from biz as usual to an impromptu party. Mix some pickled radishes into your salad bowl for a burst of sweet tart happiness. I had some on hand recently to top off the Baja Mole Bowl. Lovely.

My favorite quick pickle candidates are:

  • Carrots, especially the multicolored ones. Carrot sticks bore me, and I don’t like the way the carrot core so often tastes like wood. Slicing the veggies super thin and then giving them a brine soak makes them fun again.
  • Radishes. I’m crazy about those white/pink/purple radishes known as Easter Eggs. Radishes fulfill their destiny when pickled.
  • Onions. Raw onions cause stinky nightmares without a soak in some water. The brine perfectly mitigates their sulfurous nature.
  • Bell peppers, seeded and sliced.
  • Celery, slivered. You may also want to de-string the stalks, a tedious but worthwhile process if you don’t like having to gnaw through a tough old celery string.

You may be surprised that cucumbers aren’t on the list, but I’ve never really liked the texture of pickled cucumbers. So I choose denser veggies with a more intense crunch factor. Of course, cukes are the classic pickle base, and they make swell quick pickles if you don’t mind them a little less crisp. But cucumbers have so much water that I never eat them unless I’ve seeded and salted them, then let them stand until some of the water drains out.

For me, cauliflower is TOO dense, so I nix that, even though it’s a popular choice. I never eat raw cauliflower when it’s on a crudite platter, either, and it does seem to be left in a forlorn little mountain long after the carrots, celery, and peppers have been dipped and consumed. I’ve also seen pickled green beans, a great candidate in the crunch department. The problem is, they turn a REALLY ugly color. If this doesn’t bug you, go for it. Broccoli, for me, combines the density issue of cauliflower with the hideous color transformation of green beans. I’m highly visual. But as always, do what floats your boat, not mine.

While there’s nothing wrong with mixing the veggies together in the brine, I like to keep them separate and distinct. I would slice all the veggies, put them in separate containers, then pour the cooled brine over the top of each. You just need it to cover. If you run out of brine, it’s super fast and easy to make another batch.

Pickling brine scarcely needs a recipe, it’s so simple: 1 part vinegar to 2 parts water, with a generous pinch of sweetener and a discreet amount of salt. You can also add some mustard seeds or cloves or some other spice you like as you please. I gently heat the mix on the stove, stirring to make sure the sugar and salt dissolve, then cool completely before adding to the veggies.

As usual, I’ve included a recipe, but you really don’t need one. In fact, this is SO easy, teach your kids to do it and get them in the raw veggie habit for life.

Quick Pickled Vegetables: The Recipe

 

Kale Salad That You’ll Actually Want to Eat

In the kale post (and in the soon-to-be released video), I lament the sad state of kale salad everywhere. Mistreated, disrespected kale garners undeserved Yuck Faces and eye rolls far too often. “NOT KALE,” I have heard many a time.

Jump to recipe.

kale, destemmed and ready to slice thinSo why does this happen? 3 reasons:

  1. The cook fails to remove the big, chewy stems, evident in the picture above.
  2. S/he then tears or hacks the leaves into big, indigestible chunks (as opposed to the delicate shreds the vegetable deserves, pictured directly below).
  3. Adding insult to injury, the cook now throws the kale into the salad bowl as if it were ordinary lettuce.

shredded kale for kale salad

To which I must bellow, Unfair to the eater and the kale! Why, for the love of Michelle, would one create any barriers to ingesting this nutritional powerhouse? Of course kale teems with fiber and vitamin A. But Did You Know that every bite also delivers loads of calcium and potassium? Well, it does (and you can read up on vitamin stats to your heart’s content at this link.)

But the primary reason that I find kale so easy to love is its sturdiness. The stuff holds up under an avalanche of pretty much any dressing you want to slather on it, including heavy ones based in mayo or nut butter. (i provide an easy one with these ingredients below.)

ingredients for an almond butter dressing for kale salad

In fact, it holds up a little too well. Which is why I recommend the kale massage, in which you place the de-stemmed, ribbon-cut slices in a bowl with olive oil and salt, put on some sexy music, and give it a good rub-down for about 2 minutes. The results, especially when tossed with some sweet crunchy cabbage or romaine, will make your palate smile.

kale gets an olive oil and salt massage

Kale salad follows the same rules as other salads: 3 pieces of flair added to the kale/cabbage combo. Some suggestions here:

  • Apple, carrot, beet, and radish are all delightful for crunch; grate any one of them, or cut in a fine julienne.
  • Dried fruit adds wonderful chewiness; for a juicier sweet, sliced kiwi and grapefruit work beautifully.
  • Add roasted veggies like squash or cauliflower.
  • Sprouts and microgreens provide a nice flavor contrast when sprinkled on at the end.
  • For meat-eaters, kale and pig are friends. Crackling bacon is a glorious kale salad adjunct for the unapologetic carnivore.
  • Roasted walnuts or tamari-spiked sunflower seeds add meatless crunch.
  • kale salad ingredients include kale and cabbage, carrot, grapefruit, and an almond butter dressing

As usual, a main salad can go more flair-wild. Should you choose the nut butter dressing here, you’ll get some protein. But add more if you like. In addition to the usual animal options, goat cheese is wonderful for vegetarians, smoked tempeh or coconut bacon for vegan.

For a fully-spelled out recipe for a superb, flair-crazy vegan kale salad, see Teagan’s amazing detox version here. (I eat this one about once a month, but I always shred the kale rather than tearing it roughly as she suggests.) Or make up your own, and instead of carefully choosing three pieces of flair from the list above, go crazy with 5 or 6 or even more. And the fine thing is, kale’s chewy goodness won’t get lost in the shuffle no matter how many things you throw at it.

kale salad with grapefruit, sunflower seeds, and shredded carrot

Kale Salad: The Recipe

 

sweet savory cranberry beet ketchup from Le Chou Fou

Sweet Savory Cranberry Beet Ketchup

In holiday food magazines, I see lots of cranberry sauces with savory elements. Those might include onion, vinegar, rosemary and/or thyme, and less sugar than the typical cranberry sauce recipe. Cranberry beet ketchup may be the ultimate savory cranberry sauce.

Jump to recipe.

Ingredients to make Sweet Savory Cranberry Beet Ketchup from Le Chou Fou.

Here it is on a potato waffle, which I promise to get in the recipe index soon.

Savory Sweet Cranberry Beet Ketchup is scrumptious on a potato waffle. (For a sweet cooked cranberry sauce, try this recipe. If you prefer raw cranberry relish, try this recipe. And to learn more about cranberries in general, visit this link.)

For many in my generation, the very word “ketchup” immediately brings to mind Carly Simon bleating “Anticipation” over an endless wait for the tomato variety to emerge from the Heinz bottle. But pectin-heavy fruits make great ketchup. Cranberries teem with pectin, which has tons of health benefits that you can read about here.

And if you feel like you’re overdoing the sweets this time of year, cranberry ketchup’s your buddy. You know, if you’re someone who starts to mildly pig out around Halloween, building to utter debauchery by New Year’s Eve. Cranberry ketchup makes a great sauce for turkey, and is perfect for day-after turkey sandwiches. It pairs beautifully with game, should you eat it. I don’t, but in Michigan, everybody knows and loves a hunter.

This recipe has been inspired by one in American Cooking: The Northwest, by Dale Brown and the editors of Time Life Books (1970). I’ve adapted it a bit, including not pureeing the final mixture. I guess, for some people, it ain’t ketchup if it ain’t pureed. If you’re one of them, feel free to throw the whole thing in a blender at the end. Otherwise, enjoy this unusual take on traditional cranberry sauce.

Sweet Savory Cranberry Beet Ketchup is a great accompaniment to savory treats, like this potato waffle with sour cream from Le Chou Fou.

Sweet Savory Cranberry Beet Ketchup: The Recipe

 

The Raw Salad Fitness Plate

The Swiss are famous for piling on the food, whether it’s an outsize serving of fondue (approximately 1 pound of cheese per person), or the outright terrifying Bernertafel, or “Bern plate,” a manhole-sized platter heaped with sausages with a little potato and pickle on the side “for digestion.”

Fortunately, they’ve devised a remedy for those of us who aren’t packing in the calories at lunch in preparation for a day of scrambling up mountaintops with goats. They call it the Fitnesstafel, or “Fitness Plate,” and we found it on various menus as we traipsed from Bern to Vaud to Basel a few months ago. I snapped a picture of one that Steve ordered, and here it is:

bern-fitness-tafel

It’s basically a bunch of shredded veggies and some salad, lightly dressed, surrounding some type of protein. What better way to consume a ton of raw veggies? So I went to work developing this version. And since the key to the original inspiration is its simplicity, I assembled just a few workhorse seasonings that basically take care of everything. The lucky winners are: brown sugar, celery seed, salt, and cider vinegar, with some shallots lending support.

fitness-seasonings

Now you chop, grate, and/or, in my case, play with a new toy. I had bought two crappy spiralizers because they were cheap. How could I lose?? D’oh. Fortunately, the sum total I paid for my two dumb spiralizers was still less then I would have spent in the first place. Lo and behold, my sister Becky said, “I have a spiralizer, do you want it?” So now I got the real deal, baby.

fitness-beets

As you can see, it makes awesome psychedelic work of beet. I still haven’t gotten the knack of it with a carrot; this particular version likes a big round thing like a beet, not a skinny long round thing like a carrot. But seriously, this is fun, and I’ll try it more. That said, grating is also dandy.

For your cup o’ herbs, choose what you have on hand, or what sounds good, or both. I have learned from Yotam Ottolenghi (you can see his book Plenty, a personal favorite, in the background of the seasonings picture, along with books from my hero Bert Greene) that you really can mix fresh herbs with a fair amount of impunity. Dill seems particularly Swiss to me. The overall mix above—dill, parsley, mint, and chives—transported me to a Swiss meadow, which I hope everyone can experience at least once because Switzerland is awesome.

fitness-herbs

And then there’s cabbage. Wherever I am fortunate enough to travel, I can always count on cabbage. The stuff grows absolutely everywhere, no matter if you’re in the tropics or the Alps, and it’s always crisp. I get very Zen when I cut it, which I recommend, because it just takes a while to plow through.

fitness-cabbage

Now, you have all these fabulous little raw salads.

fitness-components

I sort of picked and chose my herbs to keep each component somewhat distinctive, which you’ll see outlined below  fitness-cabbage2But if you want to just mix everything together in one carnival of flavor and color, feel free.

Protein is the key in the Fitness Plate, and it’s important to me to be able to offer a vegan version, so I relied on the awesome Seeds of Change rice/quinoa mix combined with chickpeas and some pine nuts. Using a little yogurt, either dairy or plant-based, gives you a little additional hit and just the right amount of creaminess to complement the crunch.

fitness-plate4

Steve could use a protein hit, and we had some leftover grilled chicken; you can see his salad in the background of the picture at the top of this post. Do what sounds good, but I can promise you that the vegan version will keep you full all day long as it sparkles up your tastebuds.

fitness-plate1