Coconut & Cilantro Noodles

Happy Halloween! Anyone going as Hurricane Sandy for Trick-or-Treat?

Here in Brooklyn, we survived the Frankenstorm. Spent all day Monday locked up in the apartment, listening to the wind howl and the rain beat our windows. We watched from our third story window as a few cars drove past, and people walked into the bar across the street. The power stayed on, and I made soup and apple cake. It wasn’t until Tuesday morning that we realized the extent of the damage.

In our neighborhood, trees have been uprooted:

and a crosswalk signal hangs delicately from it’s pole.

But through it all, the beer hall next door stayed open.
 I realize how lucky we are, and my heart goes out to everyone who’s lives have been effected by this storm.

Now, on to the food. My mom told me (so it MUST be true) that if you try any food ten times, by the tenth time you will like it. I’ve always been a broccoli hater, so I’ve been experimenting with her theory. Every year (sometimes even twice) I buy a little broccoli and make some fancy meal with it. I’ve discovered over the years that there are two ways to make it that really taste grand. Puree it into some kind of broccoli pesto or sauce – or roast it. Really, I can devour any vegetable that has been roasted. Especially when it has been doused in a thai-scented coconut and cilantro sauce.

I used a bright yellow cauliflower in here, but of course any cauliflower, or even brussels sprouts, will do. And I bet a homemade curry paste would be just fantastic in this, but with my only current method of transportation being walking – there was no way to get to any kind of shop that stocks lemongrass, galangal or kaffir lime leaves. Next time.

Coconut & Cilantro Noodles

1 small head of broccoli, cut into small florets
1 small head of cauliflower, cut into small florets
8 oz. tempeh, cubed
2-3 T. coconut oil
sea salt
6-8 oz. soba or udon noodles
1 bunch of cilantro
juice of 1/2 lime
1/2 c. coconut milk
1 T. green curry paste
1 tsp. agave syrup/sugar/honey
toasted large flake coconut for garnish (optional)

Preheat oven to 425. Place the broccoli and cauliflower either in a bowl or right onto the baking sheet and drizzle with the oil and some salt. Toss to coat. Spread onto the baking sheet in a single layer. This is where a good food blogger would tell you to roast the tempeh on a separate baking sheet so you can take them our as they are ready. However, I’m kinda lazy and I threw the tempeh cubes onto the same sheet as the broccoli. It all got done at the same time, and I had one less dish to wash. So, making sure your tempeh is also coated in oil and salted, place however many baking sheets you’ve decided to use into the oven and roast for about 30 minutes, flipping once halfway. You’re looking for browning all across the board.

Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to boil and add the noodles. Cook for the amount of time specified on the package (mine said 4-6 minutes) then drain. Set aside.

To make the sauce, combine most of the cilantro (reserving a little for garnish) the lime juice, coconut milk, curry, sweetener and 1/4 – 1/2 a teaspoon of salt in a food processor or blender and puree until smoothish. You’ll probably still have little bits of cilantro, and that’s quite alright.

In a serving bowl combine the noodles with the contents of your roasting pans. Pour the sauce over top and toss gently to coat everything evenly. Serve topped with the extra cilantro and coconut flakes, if you’re using them.

serves 3-4

Smoky Tempeh & Peppers

As the cold weather creeps in, bit by bit, our bodies start to crave more build-up foods. More protein and fat to keep the heat in and prepare for the Winter (what? already? I think we’ve got a while, but it never hurts to plan ahead). This dish fit the bill for me. Hearty tempeh and the last of the summer’s sweet peppers simmered in a paprika-chipolte-maple marinade and served with light but protein-rich quinoa. Quinoa, small as it is, is pretty mighty in this respect. The highest amount of protein of all the grains resides in this little guy (though he’s technically a seed…).

I used some cute little sweet peppers I found at the farmers market, but bell peppers will work just as well. And you won’t normally see me stirring delicate fresh herbs into a dish that is still cooking. The oils in the leaves that make them so fragrant and delicious dissipate quickly when cooked, so I almost always use them raw. However, in this dish I used the cilantro as more of a vegetable than an herb, and since I used a ton, I figured it was ok if a little of the flavor escaped. There’s still plenty to go around.

Smokey Tempeh & Peppers

2-3 T. olive oil, divided
8 oz. tempeh
1 lb. sweet or bell peppers, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 T. shoyu
2 T. maple syrup
juice of 1 lime
1 tsp. paprika
1/4 tsp. chipotle powder (or more if you’re feeling brave)
1 c. quinoa
1/2 c. cilantro, roughly chopped, plus more for garnish

Heat 1-2 tablespoons of oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the tempeh and  cook for 10 minutes, flipping once, to brown on a few sides. Stir in the peppers and cook for a few minutes while you prepare the marinade.

Combine the garlic, shoyu, maple syrup, lime juice, the other tablespoon of oil, paprika and chipotle in a liquid measuring cup that holds at least 1 cup. Quickly whisk together with a fork. Add water to make 1 c of marinade. Pour the marinade over the tempeh mixture. Simmer, covered for 15-20 minutes, until everything is tender and most of the liquid is gone. Remove from heat and stir in the cilantro.

Meanwhile, place the quinoa and 2 cups of water in a pot. Bring to a boil, turn down to low and simmer, covered, for 15-20 minutes, until tender and all the water is gone. Let sit for 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork.

Serve the tempeh mixture over the quinoa, and top with some extra cilantro.

serves 4

Smashed Tomato Penne with Crumbled Tempeh

My Papa and I are a lot alike. We both like hot weather, we’re both smart cookies (and, yes, we’re quite modest about it!), and we both like pasta. We  want to enjoy life, and live it to the fullest – well, who doesn’t, really? But one way we differ is in our philosophy about enjoying life, especially when it comes to food. Dad feels that he won’t enjoy himself unless he’s drinking a Manhattan, smoking a cigar, and eating lots of heavy, rich food. He refuses to compromise and think about his health, because, goddamn it, he’s enjoying himself. Me, I want to enjoy life too, and one way I do that is by eating delicious food (and sharing a drink with a friend). The difference is that I want to continue feeling my best, in order to do all the other things I enjoy. I know that I have a great yoga practice when I eat lots of greens, but that when my belly has been overstuffed with too much animal food my thinking gets foggy. One of my main goals in life is to help people, and I (usually) eat to support my body and brain, so I have energy for the challenge.

Good thing we were able to agree on this dish. I made a variation of it for him while I was visiting. Papa loves hot Italian sausage, so I flavored the tempeh with red pepper and fennel, and crumbled it up for a topping to the pasta. The cherry tomatoes got squashed in the pot, so that all their juices would release and thicken the sauce. Then at the last minute, I snuck in some baby spinach, chopped small and evenly distributed so that you never get a bite with a big hunk of wilted spinach on your fork.

This recipe was inspired by the great vegan cook Isa Chandra Moskowitz. Her Tempeh Orzilla was on heavy rotation when I was trying REALLY hard to eat vegan. Well, since then I’ve realized that my body does better with a little animal protein here and there, and slowly my nutritional yeast stash dwindled, to be replaced by cheese. So, sorry Isa, to de-vegan-ify one of your already delicious dishes, but understand, it was all for love.

Smashed Tomato Penne with Crumbled Tempeh

8 oz. whole wheat penne (or other short pasta)
2 T. olive oil, divided
8 oz.tempeh
1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1 tsp. fennel seeds
2 T. shoyu (natural soy sauce)
1 onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 T. fresh thyme, or 1 tsp. dried
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
3/4 tsp. sea salt
1 c. white wine
1/4 c. grated fresh parmesan
a few big handfuls of baby spinach, chopped

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add pasta and cook according to the package directions. Drain and set aside.

Heat 1 T. of oil in a skillet over medium heat. Tear up tempeh and add to skillet. Use a wooden spoon to break up tempeh chunks into crumbles. Stir it occasionally for about 10 minutes, until it turns golden brown, then add the pepper fakes, fennel and shoyu. Stir to coat and cook for a few more minutes. Mine always sticks to the pan, and I throw 1/4 cup of water in the pan and swirl it around to scrape all the bits of stuck food from the skillet.

Once the pasta is done, use that pot (or while it’s cooking use a separate saucepan) and heat the other tablespoon of oil over medium. Cook the onion for 10 minutes, until soft and translucent. Add the garlic, thyme and salt, and let cook for one more minute. Stir in the tomatoes, crushing them with the side of the spoon when they get soft. After about 3 minutes, when the tomatoes are starting to break down, pour in the wine. Simmer until the liquid has reduced by half. While it’s cooking, use the back of your wooden spoon to crush the tomatoes on the side of the pan/pot.

When you have a thick, crushed up sauce in the pan, turn off the heat. Stir in the cheese, then the pasta (you may have to rinse it in some hot water if it’s been sitting and all stuck together). Finally, while it’s still warm, stir in the spinach, making sure it gets evenly distributed.

To serve, transfer the pasta to a bowl (they’ll be lots of saucy stuff at the bottom) and top with the tempeh.

serves 3-4


Grilled Sandwiches

Happy Summer! I know it’s a few days late, but for the first official weekend of Summer I really wanted something grilled. Of course, it’s a little difficult on the 3rd floor of a Brooklyn apartment, so instead I hauled my grill pan out from under the bed, wiped the cat hair off it, and grilled up some tempeh, veggies and bread.

Usually when people hear “grilled sandwich”, they think panini. That’s not really what this is. I brushed olive oil over thickly sliced zucchini, bell pepper, tempeh and  whole grain sourdough, slid them between the grill pan and the press, and waited until they were tender and showed some sweet-lookin’ grill marks. To assemble these open faced sandwiches I stacked everything up, and slathered a cilantro-based chimichurri sauce between each layer. They are slightly messy to eat, but they really hit the spot. If you’ve ever been to an Argentinian restaurant then you’ve had chimichurri. It’s an herb and oil based sauce, similar to pesto, but without the cheese and nuts.

Go ahead and experiment with different vegetables if you like. Eggplant and portobello mushrooms stick out to me as being great choices to grill. This recipe is based on the Food Matters Project pick for the week. Mark Bittman’s recipe grills lots of veggies and some chicken on a real grill (he says you can also use the broiler), but the times on my version are for the grill pan, which are about half as long as what Bittman suggests.So if you are using a real grill, leave everything on for 18-20 minutes. Try to cut all everything approximately the same size, it will be easier to stack and eat.

Grilled Sandwiches

1 zucchini or summer squash, thickly sliced lengthwise
1 bell pepper (any color you like) sliced into 4 big slabs
8 oz. tempeh, sliced into 4 thin-ish slabs
4 slices of good quality whole grain bread
1/4 c. olive oil, plus more for brushing
1 tightly packed cup of cilantro (parsley is good too, and more traditional)
1 T. lemon juice
scant 1/2 tsp. sea salt
1 plump garlic clove
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes

Heat a grill pan over medium high heat, laying the press on top to warm as well. While it warms up, slice all the ingredients and brush them with olive oil.

When the grill is hot, lay some of the vegetables out, lay the press on top, and leave it for 10 minutes. Don’t overcrowd the grill, you may have to do it in batches. When you grill the tempeh, leave it for 5 minutes, then give the slices a quarter turn and leave for another 5 minutes, to get the cross grill marks.

Grill the bread for 3 minutes only.

While everything is grilling, make the chimichurri. Combine cilantro, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper flakes in a food processor. Start it up and drizzle the olive oil in while the machine is running. You’ll have to stop it and scrape down the sides a few times along the way.

To serve, lay the bread out, brush a thick layer of chimichurri on it. Lay the tempeh on top of that and brush on more sauce. Continue stacking veggies and brushing chimichurri sauce until you are out of stuff to stack. Finish with the sauce on top.

serves 2

Salad with Strawberry-Lime Tempeh

Last Saturday the Farmer’s Market was just exploding with strawberries!  I snatched up 2 quarts of the bright red, glistening berries for snacking and cooking all week. I also picked up a big bag full of fresh spring lettuces that had been all mixed together. So, a salad with strawberries was definitely in order for the week.

I took the berries, along with some lime and chili, and ground them into a marinade for tempeh – to create the protein base for this salad. The tempeh broiled in the oven, while the leftover marinade became the dressing for some lovely mixed lettuce, toasted pumpkin seeds and some cheese, if you so desire. You could also use tofu, or your protein of choice.

These days I purchase much of the produce I eat from the farmer’s market. Especially all my fruit. Fresh, local fruit that’s allowed to ripen on the “vine” (or tree, etc…) and trucked in the day it’s picked can’t even be compared to it’s grocery store counterpart. Strawberries are no exception. You’ve never even tasted a strawberry until you’ve had a small, plump, sweet berry, pink all the way through. Seriously. Try it. Sooo worth it!

Today’s Food Matters Project is “Mexican Fruit Salad with Broiled Fish”. This is my take.

Salad with Strawberry-Lime Tempeh

1 pint strawberries
juice of 1 lime
1 jalepeno, seeded
1/4 tsp. salt
2 T. olive oil
8 oz. tempeh
enough salad greens for 2 big salads
2 T. pumpkin seeds
2 oz. cheese (I used cheddar, feta or goat would be delish)

Preheat the oven to 400.

Combine most of the strawberries, lime juice, jalepeno, salt and oil in the food processor or blender, and pulse until it turns into a chunky liquid. Set aside.

Cut the tempeh in quarters. Slice each piece like a hamburger bun to make eight skinny slices. Lay them on a baking sheet and brush them on both sides with the strawberry mixture. Let them sit for 10 minutes, then brush them again with the strawberries and slide them in the oven. Bake for 25 minutes, flipping and basting once or twice. You will use about half the marinade for this.

While the tempeh bakes, toast the pumpkin seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat until they start to pop. Slice the rest of the strawberries.

To serve, combine the salad greens, seeds, sliced strawberries and cheese if you’re using. Drizzle with the leftover marinade and top with a few tempeh pieces.

serves 2 as a full meal, 4 as a side

Chermoula Tempeh

I spent all day cleaning the house in preparation for a very special night (which I hope to share with you soon).  And while I clean, I always turn on some peppy, get your bum in gear music. Today I listened to Hall and Oates. Go ahead, shake your head and glance down at the floor, embarrassed for me. I know. It’s ok though, because as a musician, I used to be a huge music snob. For years the only music I let willingly pass my ears had to be unique, inspired and well-performed. No silly love song pop ditties for me! Somewhere along the line, though, I loosened up. These days, I’ll listen to pretty much anything that’s not death metal or hard core punk. As it turns out, the universe only lets us be snobby about a certain number of things, and I’ve moved on.  I am now a food snob!

 I really don’t mean to be. And, don’t get me wrong, I still find myself happily munching down cheap diner food about once a month, and I’ve even been known to whip up a quick bowl of pasta with - gasp! – jarred tomato sauce. However, I really have found that good, quality home cooked food tastes SO much better. When I make that tomato sauce at home I use great olive oil, ripe tomatoes and fresh basil. And when I use quality ingredients, I feel so much better. When things get hairy around here, and I fall back on quick prepared foods and take-out, I’m not as well-equipt to handle all that extra stress. I get tired easily, yet have a harder time falling asleep. My digestion goes all wonky, and I always come down with a cold. Needless to say, making dinner from scratch has become a top priority round here.

Now, on to the tempeh. For a more in depth look at the benefits of tempeh, check out this post. This recipe is adapted from Peter Berley’s in Fresh Food Fast.  Chermoula is a Moroccan marinade usually used on fish or seafood. All the spices used makes it extremely flavorful. When I’m making someone tempeh for the first time, I head straight for this dish. I’ve even converted die-hard carnivorous tempeh haters into lovers with this recipe. It’s that good.

Chermoula Tempeh

1 8 oz. package of tempeh, cubed
1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. cumin seeds
1/2 tsp. coriander seeds
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/4 c. olive oil
Juice of half a lemon
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tsp. sea salt
a handful of chopped fresh herbs (I used chives, but cilantro or parsley are both great here) 

Preheat oven to 400.

Place tempeh in a single layer in a baking dish. Set aside.

Combine paprika, cumin, coriander and pepper flakes in a mortar and pestle and pound until most of the seeds are split open.

Whisk together oil, lemon and 1/2 of water. Add the garlic, salt, crushed spices, and stir well.

Pour this mixture over the tempeh, making sure all sides are coated.

Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes; until most of the marinade is gone.

Serve sprinkled with the herbs.

serves 2-4

Potato and Tempeh Curry

Last week New York City exploded into Springtime. About a month too early. The look on everyone’s faces was “Is this for real?” No one knew if this sunny, 70 degree weather would be over in a few days, or if Spring had really come early this year. Yesterday, we all found out. The forecast was cold and rainy.  Just like New York to change it’s mind.

During the “heatwave” I picked up a ton of Spring veggies, and was wolfing down salads like it was my job. I was not prepared for the sudden cold rain that followed. My belly ached for a warm bowl of soup, yet the only thing in the fridge was baby spinach. Good thing I had a few ingredients stashed away for a rainy day. The thing I love most about this dish is that it is a one pot meal, and most of the ingredients can be stowed in the pantry. The only things I pulled from the refrigerator were the potatoes and cilantro.

For those of you who are new to tempeh, here’s the rundown. Tempeh is originally from Indonesia, and is made from crushed, fermented soybeans. Some compare it to tofu, but since it is made from the whole bean, not soymilk, it is much heartier and more flavorful. Don’t be afraid of the fermentation part. It actually makes tempeh easier to digest, and makes the nutrients more available to your body. If you can, go for the raw, unpasteurized stuff in the freezer section (here in NYC I found Barry’s Tempeh – locally made from NY state beans and grains), but if you can’t find it, the tempeh in the refrigerator section of your health food store will do the trick.

The inspiration for this dish comes from Heidi Swanson’s Tempeh Curry, and I believe she got the recipe from this cookbook. I switched out the cream for coconut milk, and adjusted the cooking times a bit to turn it into a lazy day stew. Since I wanted it to be pretty, I decided to puree the curry this time. But if you’re not feeling it, just skip that part and you’ll end up with a delicious, rustic stew.

Potato and Tempeh Curry

1 T ghee, butter or coconut oil
1 yellow onion, diced
1 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. whole cumin seeds
1 tsp. curry powder
scant 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper
1/4 tsp. turmeric
1 15 oz. can crushed tomatoes (I like the fire-roasted ones)
1 c. water
3/4 c. coconut milk (preferably full fat)
1-1 1/2 lbs. waxy potatoes (I used 6 small yukon golds), cut into 1″ dice
8 oz. tempeh, cut into 1″ dice
a handful of chopped cilantro

Heat the ghee, butter or oil in a large, heavy bottomed pot over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the salt, cumin, curry, red pepper and turmeric and stir to combine. When it smells amazing, tip in the tomatoes and water.  Let it come to just barely a boil, then turn it down and add the coconut milk.

If you want a smooth sauce, turn off the heat and purée with a hand blender.

Add the potatoes, bring to a boil then turn down to low. Simmer, covered for about 20 minutes, or until the potatoes start to soften. Add the tempeh to the pot and cook for another 10-15 minutes until both the potatoes and tempeh are tender. Transfer to serving bowl and top with cilantro.

serves 4