Grab a cup of tea and pull up a chair. Because this week I'm dedicating a longer post to introduce tempeh (an Indonesian protein staple you'll want to get to know) and share tips for managing holiday stress. (And yes, the two happen to be related.) This may be one of the more polarizing recipes I've posted. Polarizing in that you may feel strongly about the timing of this recipe, the choice pairing of ingredients, and the ingredients themselves, namely the tempeh. Keep reading to find out why!
Tempeh is a staple in my protein rotation. I love that it diversifies my protein options and keeps meals interesting. After a client showed interest in learning how to cook it, I decided it was time to share a recipe on the blog as well.
What is Tempeh?
Tempeh is a fermented soybean cake where soaked and partially cooked whole soy beans are mixed with a fermentation starter and spread into a thin layer to ferment and form a cake mold. No, tempeh is not one of those processed "fake meat" products with 20 ingredients. It's a whole food staple in Indonesia and is widely available to all of us in health food stores these days. A complete plant-based protein that's easier to digest and more nutritious, thanks to fermentation, tempeh has a mild, earthy flavor and loves being paired with bright and bold flavors such as soy sauce, curry, mustard, vinegar, citrus, smoky spices, and sweeteners like maple syrup and honey. I like to slice or cube it and either roast it in the oven or saute it on the stove. Today I'm sharing the stovetop method, and I'll share the roasting method in the future.
This platter brings together two opposing components. One is the umami rich pan-seared tempeh. The soy, maple, orange glaze caramelizes in the pan resulting in delightful savory, sweet, and chewy bites of tempeh that almost taste like candy. To cut through the richness, the tempeh is topped with a fresh and bright broccoli salad with grapefruit, avocado, and cilantro. I love the contrast of these two components, but you might find them too different. That's the beauty of a blog and working in a creative field. I aim to offer practical, accessible, nourishing solutions for your everyday food dilemmas. And part of that is sharing new ideas for ingredient pairings that you may not use as is but that I trust will spark your own creative ideas.
Managing Holiday Stress
To be honest, I was afraid this was the "wrong" kind of recipe to share this time of year. (Who the hell wants a tempeh recipe for the holidays? Isn't everyone cooking ham or turkey or some other animal?) Well, not necessarily. There's at least one veg eater at many of our dining tables these days. And when you take a look around social media, there's evidence that plant-centered holiday feasts are becoming more mainstream. So whether you cook this platter for a holiday meal or not, I'm embracing the timing of this post. Rather than shying away from sharing it because it may not be the most appropriate post for the season, I'm using it as the catalyst to shed light on a similar but broader issue that can really drag us down during the holidays: doing what's "expected" and over-committing ourselves.
Shopping, baking, decorating, hosting parties, attending parties, cooking up a storm -- there's a crushing pressure to do it all. And to do it all right. We take on too much, oftentimes to please others or conform to some arbitrary expectation, while neglecting our own self-care. We're not incorporating activities that feed our soul, which leaves us depleted or sick come the New Year, making it that much harder to get back to the middle (remember living in the gray!).
This is on my mind because holiday commitments and setting boundaries is a hot topic with my clients right now. Plus I personally get overwhelmed just watching the busyness around me. So I'm sharing two questions that I have my clients answer, and act on, to relieve some holiday pressure:
- What activities give you energy during the holiday season?
- What activities zap your energy? And what can you give yourself permission to say no to this holiday season?
Write down the answers to these questions. Then prioritize the activities that give you energy. Literally block out time in your calendar! And be very discerning committing to the rest.
This was a longer than usual post. If you've read all the way through, thank you! I hope the recipe and holiday strategies help you in some way or another. I'll be back next week for the final post of the year. And yes, it will end on a sweet note.
If you'd like to incorporate this platter into a holiday meal, below are a few suggestions for sides to round it out.
- Sorghum Salad with Kale, Cranberries, and Pecans
- Sweet Potato Gratin
- Pear and Spinach Salad
- Shredded Brussels Sprout Cranberry Salad
- Cauliflower Parsnip Apple Mash
Maple-Glazed Tempeh Platter
Serves 3-4, depending on appetite and whether platter is part of a larger meal
Notes: Most tempeh is sold in either a log shape, one thick block, or two thinner blocks. If it's one thick block, slice in half to get two thinner blocks, then continue with instructions below. Although I really hope you give tempeh a try, this broccoli salad would also be a great topping for a mild white fish or chicken.
- 250 gr tempeh
- 2 1/2 Tbsp. ghee (or coconut oil), divided
- 3 Tbsp. tamari (gluten-free soy)
- 2 Tbsp. maple syrup
- Juice from 1/2 juicy orange (reserve other half for broccoli salad)
- Broccoli Grapefruit Salad (recipe below)
- To finish: pomegranate seeds, toasted pine nuts (toasted hazelnuts or almond slivers would also be nice)
- Slice thin blocks or log into 20-24 slices (10-12 slices per block). Slices should be fairly thin (~1/4 in or 1/2 cm).
- Melt 1 Tbsp. of ghee in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Place tempeh in pan. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and cook 2 minutes until lightly browned. Flip and cook another 2 minutes. If you couldn't fit all slices into the pan, remove browned tempeh and repeat, adding more ghee (1/2 Tbsp.) to cook the remaining slices. Turn heat down to medium if pan gets too hot.
- In the meantime, mix soy, maple and orange together in a small bowl.
- Reduce heat to medium low, add all tempeh back into pan. Pour in soy maple sauce and add remaining tablespoon of ghee. Stir ghee into sauce to melt. Then turn tempeh around in sauce so all sides are coated. Remove pan from heat immediately.
- Arrange tempeh on a large platter, top with broccoli grapefruit salad, pomegranates, and pine nuts.
Broccoli Grapefruit Salad
- 1 small head of broccoli, tender stem & florets chopped
- 2 small grapefruits, supremed (reserve juice)
- 1 medium avocado, pitted and cut into bite-size pieces
- Handful cilantro (10 gr.), chopped
- 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
- Juice from 1/4 orange (reserved from tempeh recipe)
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- Place a steamer basket inside a medium size pot over simmering water. Add broccoli, cover, and steam 2-3 minutes, until broccoli is bright green and just tender but still with a bite.
- In the meantime, supreme grapefruit over a small bowl to catch the juice. Transfer broccoli to a medium bowl along with grapefruit supremes, half the juice, and remaining ingredients. Gently toss to combine.
- Spoon salad over tempeh. Note, you'll have salad left over to serve at the table.