May 02, 2009

Tempeh salad

Spring seems to finally be here at last, and that means lots of you are probably thinking about digging, planting and growing flowers, herbs and veggies. I was outside yesterday digging weeds, moving plants and thinking about the advice I wish someone had given me when I was just beginning to garden. So, for anyone new to gardening, thinking plants are hard to grow, worrying whether you have a green enough thumb, I'm about to give you a bit of advice that you should heed. As you peruse the garden centers, farmers markets and catalogs, beware, be cautious, watch out for the three words that can spell disaster. These words are: easy-to-grow. Easy-to-grow. Sounds so promising, doesn't it? Actually, easy-to- grow can be a euphemism for invasive species. That's right. They hook you with that easy to grow jargon and sell you something you will regret planting for a long, long time. Just google "plants I wish I'd never planted" and you will find lists of easy-to-grow plants. Plants like Lysimachia clethroides, otherwise known as gooseneck loosestrife. Ahem. Just do your research to make sure the easy-to-grow plants you've selected aren't also on an invasive plants list.

My house suffers from what I call the "sleeping beauty effect." Some day I fear I'll oversleep and have to hack my way out through the vines with a hatchet. The person who lived here before us planted every invasive plant in the universe, and we've spent countless hours (and dollars) trying to remove the tenacious plants that wreck our stucco walls and grow with abandon throughout the yard. Vines have damaged our phone lines and covered our windows. One thing is true of all the invasive plants on our property — they are easy-to-grow! Easy, easy, easy to grow.

Of course not all easy-to-grow plants are bad. Some are great. On a positive note, here's a tasty plant that's easy-to-grow and recommended! It's not hard to control if you give it its own area in the garden. Egyptian onions look like normal green onions at first, but grow bulbs at their tops, fall over and plant themselves, to reproduce and spread. They come up early in the spring and are used like green onions. I harvested two to use in the tempeh salad I'm about to describe.

We recently hosted a party for my husband's grad students and one of them graciously brought a vegan cake from Whole Foods. As I was putting the leftovers away, I noticed that the cake had come from The Chicago Diner, a favorite vegan restaurant in the windy city. It's been years since we've been there, but we have "The Chicago Diner Cookbook," and for old times sake, I got it out and found some recipes to try. I've changed the quantities and added an ingredient or two, but this recipe for tempeh salad is based on one from the cookbook.

Tempeh salad
  • 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
  • one 8-ounce package tempeh
  • 1 tablespoon tamari or soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup finely sliced green onions
  • 2 heaping tablespoons chopped parsley (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1/2 cup grated carrot
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 1/4 - 1/2 cup vegan mayo (I used Veganaise.) I think 1/4 cup, or even less, is enough but you might like more. Try the smaller amount first.
  1. Split the tempeh through the entire cake so you have two, thin, large pieces. Cut these pieces into small squares.
  2. Sauté the tempeh in the oil in a wok or heavy skillet until it turns golden, about 5 minutes. *see note.
  3. Turn off the heat and stir in the tamari to coat the tempeh evenly.
  4. Place the tempeh in a bowl and add the chopped vegetables and the mayo and mix well.
  5. This is delicious as a salad on a bed of lettuce, or as a sandwich filling. Even my tempeh-resistant son ate it and said it was really good.
*Note: My tempeh was frozen so I simmered it in a small amount of water for about 10 minutes until it was defrosted, before I sautéed it. Simmering or steaming tempeh gets rid of any bitterness and gives it a milder flavor, so you might want to do this even if your tempeh isn't frozen.

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  1. That salad looks great! I hope to have a garden someday, but am nervous about actually managing it right.

  2. I'm horrible at gardening, but love fresh home-grown herbs and vegetables. Someday - will have to take a gardening class first.

    Love the tempeh salad - was actually just thinking about such a recipe. Thanks and happy spring!

  3. The bite I tasted was so good, I'm going to make it myself :)

  4. I'm so tempted to get one of those easy-to-grow plants. I truly cannot grow anything. People have given me plants saying "No one could kill this plant," but I did. It's just sad.

    Since I don't eat tofu or tempeh, I always imagine recipes that include them with beans subbed in. I bet black beans would be a good sub here. I love grated carrots in salads!

  5. I wish I could grow my own herbs! One day when I have a house I plan on doing that for sure!

    Your meal looks soooo good. I bet it tastes amazing!

  6. Alisa, Krista and Melissa,
    I hope you have big gardens some day. It's wonderful to be able to grow your own herbs and veggies! And flowers.

    I used to consider myself a terrible gardener - that's why I always looked for easy-to-grow plants. Now I choose plants that grow well where we live, and I keep the soil healthy, so I have much more success. Also, I think I had a visit from the garden fairy. That's got to be it!

    I think black eyed peas or chick peas would work great in this salad. Maybe add some shredded beets :) and turn it pink.

    Let me know how yours turns out.

  7. Mihl,
    Not all easy-to-grow plants are invasive. It's just a warning to check before buying, since many troublesome plants are labeled easy-to-grow. The ability to grow vigorously and spread like crazy is what earns some plants both titles!

  8. if it ever stops raining, I'll be able to continue w/ my plan to get my herb garden started.

    I made your quinoa soup and it was really delicious.

    the tempeh salad looks good. I'm all for new sandwich spreads.

  9. Sounds great. I've never used Tempeh (new to vegetarianism)... This looks like a great recipe. Thanks a lot.

  10. Bethany,
    They don't call it Rain City for nothing. I'm glad you liked the quinoa soup, it's one of our faves. And this salad is really easy and delicious, too.

    Levenson &,
    New vegetarians often really like tempeh because of its "meaty" texture and pleasing flavor. For someone new to tempeh, I recommend simmering it before sauteeing.

  11. This sounds so good! What a great healthy dish!

  12. Love to try this Tempeh salad. I simply love this and this is perfect for dinner! thank you for sharing the recipe. Let me also share something, I also follow one website which talks about vegan food and fitness,
    take care!


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