Sunday, January 20, 2013

Tangy Tempeh in a Red Wine Balsamic Reduction

I'm a much bigger fan of eating more meat substitutes during the week than Ari is, so I've been trying to find ways to make them tastier. Though I'm not a vegetarian, I do believe that it is better for us and for the treatment of animals to eat meat less often. Therefore, I've been looking for ways to incorporate  tofu, tempeh, seitan, and more into our food in ways that taste good and is still healthy for us

One of the healthy and protein-filled options, tempeh, has been particularly challenging to get right, but I believe I finally did it with this recipe. Tempeh is made from fermented soybeans and can be particularly tough in texture. The trick is to steam it first so that other flavors can permeate it, turning it from a tough and flavorless substance into a hearty and delicious dish. Then, the tempeh marinates so that it fully absorbs the flavor, followed by quickly pan-frying to make it crispy on the outside.

As Ari is a meat lover, I also wanted to incorporate some of the flavors typically found in meat rubs and marinades to imitate some of that meaty, savory flavor. I had some red wine leftover from the weekend, which was still ok to drink, but not as great as it had been before, so I decided I had to use it here. Turns out this is a great recipe to use up some red wine you have on hand that is going but is not quite gone yet. Then, using this sauce recipe for inspiration, I composed an easy marinade that would compliment the heartiness of the tempeh well.

It came out really delicious - savory and sweet, soft with a bit of crispiness. After tasting it, Ari declared that using this recipe will actually make him crave tempeh for dinner! Knowing my husband, that is quite an endorsement.

Tangy Tempeh in a Red Wine Balsamic Reduction 


8oz Tempeh, sliced thin
1 cup Red Wine
1/4 cup Balsamic Vinegar
2 tbsp Honey
2 tbsp Maple Syrup
3/4 tsp Garlic Powder
1/2 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp Pepper

Serves 2 as a main, 3-4 as a side.
  1. Place the sliced tempeh in a steamer and place it in a pot with water that goes up until the bottom of the steamer. Boil the water while keeping the pot covered and then turn the flame to medium high while leaving it covered for about 10 minutes. Then turn off the flame but still leave the pot covered for another 2-3 minutes. The tempeh should look light in color and plump up a bit. 
  2. While the tempeh in steaming, begin making the marinade in a sauce pan: bring the wine, balsamic vinegar, honey, maple syrup, garlic, salt, and pepper to a boil. Make sure to whisk the mixture so that everything is mixed well while boiling. One it comes to a boil, turn the flame low and let the mixture simmer for about 20 minutes 
  3. Place the steamed tempeh in a bowl and pour the marinade over it. Let it cool a bit, then cover the bowl in place wrap and put it in the refrigerator to sit for about 45 minutes to an hour. 
  4. Take out the tempeh and place it in shifts in a pan with the bottom sprayed with a mist of oil or Pam. Every slice should fully touch the bottom of the pan and let it sear on each side for a minute or two, until the color deepens and carmalizes a bit. Transfer each shift to a plate. 
  5. Once all the tempeh is fried, pour the rest of a marinade into the pan and simmer it for a few minutes until it thickens a bit. Pour it over the plate of tempeh. (Note: marinades for meat need to reduce longer to kill the bacteria. Please only use this shortened method for non-meat items)  

Some Process Pictures:

This is about how thin I sliced the tempeh: not so thin that they would break
after steaming, but not so thick that they wouldn't absorb flavor.
While the tempeh is steaming, it should be about a single layer, with a
double layer if needed. Unlike in this picture, make sure the  pot is covered!
When searing the tempeh, it's important to keep it to a single layer with
some space between the pieces so you can flip them.
This is what the tempeh should look look before you reduce and add the
rest of the marinade. The color starts deepening on the outside, looking almost
burnt in spots where in fact the sauce is caramelizing. 

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