Wikipedia explains that "Like tofu, tempeh is made from soybeans, but tempeh is a whole soybean product with different nutritional characteristics and textural qualities. Tempeh's fermentation process and its retention of the whole bean give it a higher content of protein, dietary fiber, and vitamins. It has a firm texture and strong flavor." So what is this mean? Its like tofu but different. I bought the below pictured product (Three Grain tempeh) to use in the stew... wrong! As I was preparing this post, I did a little more research and found that there are many different styles and flavors available of tempeh and you can actually make tempeh at home! Crazy, I know. Next time, research first, and excitement over trying new product second. I'll may also have to travel a bit more to get some more options as this was the only tempeh product available to me at our local grocer.
So as mentioned, I only had a handful of the ingredients that I needed to actually make the desired recipe and I decided to press on and do it. I knew I had enough that I could actually make a soup/stew and decided that since we needed to eat, we were going to eat. I started by cracking open the tempeh and cubing it as the recipe states. Oh, still not sure how this stuff tastes, huh? Well, by looking at the picture below, you may be reminded of something, the same thing that I thought of... yup, suet. This stuff completely looks like bird seed and lard. Even when I picked it up at the store, it was the first thing that I thought. I explained this product to a friend who had asked about the texture and it took me a moment, but was able to describe the texture as similar to a Snicker's candy bar, but without the awesomeness (no chocolate, nougat or peanuts!). Its firm, yet squishy and soft... if that made any sense at all. The taste? It was a little nutty but really it was nothing... just boring and weird; again, sort of like tofu.
So here is how we went along with whipping up what I'm now calling Tempeh Tomato Soup (don't laugh... its worse then some dorm room concoctions):
- Cube one packaged of tempeh and brown over med-high heat in 2 tablespoons of olive oil until brown.
- Remove from pan and season with salt & pepper
- Dice two stalks of celery and add to pan - Cook until softened
- Add salt, pepper, dried onions (approx 1 tablespoon), dried tarragon (approx 1 tablespoon) and fresh thyme (leaves from approx 4 sprigs) and saute all for about a minute
- Add cooked tempeh back to pan
- Add 1 can of diced tomatoes
- Add 1 can of garbanzo beans (aka chickpeas)
- Stir and cook for approx 8 minutes
- Add 4 cups of broth (I had some chicken broth left over in the pantry so we used that up (no waste) but to keep veggie, use vegetarian vegetable broth)
- Simmer all over low heat for approx 20 mins
I served this up with a half a pita for dipping. It was actually a hit in the house, so that means Dan and I ate it. I took the leftovers for lunch today and it was really good. The downside? You guessed it, the tempeh. The soup was great without it and it didn't seem to really add anything besides volume. Dan said that he would have preferred the soup with just a little more chickpeas and no tempeh at all. So I've got another package of tempeh (yes this same three grain kind) in the fridge and might try something else this weekend. The Lightlife website actually has recipes, so maybe we'll try one of those and see if we have better results. Oh, and I'll make sure I have all the required ingredients, too.