It was a hectic Thursday of CSA pick-up and more sad goodbyes. Everyone is leaving town and I’m swimming in beautiful farm-fresh vegetables, not a terribly opportune moment to have a kitchen so plentiful, but so be it. James and I have somehow managed to get the stuff eaten, even if a few items end up sacrificed.
And I’m getting better and better at using what we have on hand. Just a quick (and unfortunately photo-less) recap:
- The Swiss chard ended up in another vegan frittata
- The carrots and summer squash went into a salad of shredded red cabbage
- The beans and broccoli were steamed and eaten as a late-night snack
- One tomato was used in the production of TLTs. The others were diced up and served on pasta, along with fried zucchini and summer squash.
- The Chinese eggplant was sliced, sauteed, and eaten over rice.
- The array of small tomatoes made their way into various pastas and salads
- The onion and garlic were used throughout the week, portioned out over various dishes.
We’ve eaten pretty darn well thanks to the CSA subscription. I’ve been holding onto the beets, but I’m thinking a beet and spinach salad might be in order for later on today. With the fair amount of cooking done over the weekend, the simpler the better for this rainy Monday afternoon.
I didn’t get time to take pictures of the entire CSA bounty for this past week, but among the highlights:
- Another robust eggplant
- A beautiful assortment of tomatoes
- Braising greens
- Potatoes (all were promptly eaten the next morning)
- Purple beans
Last week also marked a transition for me as I went from casual to utterly devoted fan of tempeh. While I eat tofu at least five out of seven days a week and have even tried my hand at making my own seitan more than a few times, I have only worked sparingly with tempeh. The earthy, slightly nutty, slightly mushroom-y flavor has always been something I was hesitant to work with, not so much in regards to my own palate as others. No matter what you do with tempeh, it’s always going to have those underlying flavors. The trick to working with it is to use it in dishes where its primary qualities play into the overall flavors of the dish. Tempeh doesn’t change, it changes you.
Tempeh has been a staple of Indonesia for thousands of years. Soy beans are plentiful, the production method is fairly simple, and the result is a versatile substance that is a protein powerhouse. Seriously, in a nutritional battle between tempeh and its Southeast Asian soybean brother, tofu, tempeh wins every round. The traditional starter for the fermentation process even boosted the B12 levels of the tempeh to ridiculously high proportions, although production stateside tends to be without this property.
While tofu is available in nearly every supermarket now, tempeh is still mostly relegated to specific larger groceries (Whole Foods) and specialty food stores. Its stunted availability is probably one of the reasons why many vegetarians and vegans don’t acquaint themselves with tempeh right away. Getting to know tempeh allows one to adjust to its unique flavor properties. Learning the intricacies of the food allows you to better utilize its strong points in the dishes where it is incorporated.
Unlike tofu, which is a veritable flavor sponge, tempeh has restrictions, but not as many as you might think. The nutty flavors play well against most basic sauces and its texture makes it easy to use for sandwiches, stir fry, pasta, etc. The best way to get to know tempeh early on is to grill it. Grilled tempeh toughens up the texture to a chewy, meaty consistency, and accentuates the smokey qualities. It also takes to a marinade really well, so there’s no excuse for lack of flavor.
Because most of my cookbooks are still packed, I’ve been steadily working my way through the indispensable Vegan Brunch. For months, I have been eyeing up “Tempeh Sausage Pastry Puffs,” thinking two things: 1) “What a great way to use tempeh!” and 2) “Holy shit, puff pastry!” When I had my family over for brunch to break in my new residence, I figured now was the time to shoot for something a bit more advanced than pancakes and scramble and potatoes.
Given all the skills I have developed over the past few years, surely I could make something as simple but sophisticated as these lovely little puffed squares. Surely something this manageable was within my purview. I could even make a decent vegan gravy to match. It was all going to be so simple.
Of course I screw it up. Not having ever worked with puff pastry, I didn’t exactly interpret the instructions correctly. Or maybe I did but became convinced that I hadn’t. Not really sure, but either way, I had to abruptly alter plans. That’s how square pastry puffs turned into pastry puff pinwheels. The rest is quickly devoured history.
Note on the recipe: The original called for at least an hour of marinading the tempeh, but I suggest overnight for full flavor. And don’t skip the fennel. It really brings together the sausage flavor of the filling mix.
Tempeh Sausage Puff Pinwheels
- 8 oz. tempeh, crumbled
- 1 package puff pastry (as recommended by Vegan Brunch, Pepperidge Farm puff pastry is vegan)
For the marinade:
- 1 cup vegetable broth
- 3 tbsp soy sauce
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
For the tempeh filling:
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 2-4 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tsp fennel seeds, chopped
- 2 tsp dried basil
- 2 tsp dried rosemary
- 1 tsp red pepper flakes
- Salt and black pepper to taste
- Extra olive oil
- Combine the ingredients for the marinade in an airtight container. Toss in the crumbled tempeh and seal. Keep in the fridge overnight.
- Prepare the a large pan over medium heat. Saute pepper and onion until the onion is translucent, then add garlic and spices and saute until garlic is slightly browned. Add drained tempeh and turn the heat to medium high. Cook for up to 15 minutes, stirring often to prevent burning.
- Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Apply a fine layer of olive oil to a large baking sheet.
- You should have two sheets of puff pastry. Cut each sheet into nine squares. You should have a total of eighteen rectangles.
- To assemble the pinwheel, take a rectangle and unfold it so that it is a single layer. Brush a little olive oil on the inside, then apply some of the tempeh filling. Gently roll up the dough around the filling. Whatever falls out can be stuffed back in once the edges are sealed. It does not have to look perfect, but the edge should be sealed with your fingers or a fork so that it does not fall apart while baking.
- Repeat steps until you have all eighteen filled or have run out of filling. Line the finished pastries on the baking sheet about an inch apart.
- Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, until the pastries are puffed and golden. Serve warm.
(Recipe adapted from Vegan Brunch by Isa Chandra Moskowitz)