Difficulty: Steady paced run up that gradual hill that always seems daunting, but is never as bad as your mind makes it out to be.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Growing up, I was far from the kid who only ate french fries and chicken nuggets. If a food was exotic, I tried it. And by exotic, I mean not baked chicken or Shepherd's Pie; those were my mom's staples. Going away to college and now living in a city has expanded my palette beyond elk, oysters, and trotters, though. I've eaten authentic Kenyan cuisine, Ethiopian wat, Afghani stews, Thai noodles, Turkish kabobs, French delights, and the list goes on. Yet, despite trying (and liking) an array of game meats, seafood, vegetables, and cuisines from around the world, somehow, tempeh has evaded my taste buds. Until tonight, that is.
Tempeh is a slab of fermented soybeans. Sounds appetizing, right? It definitely looks a little funky and despite reading some so-so reviews of the unseasoned taste, I tried it and didn't mind the plain, straight from the package eathiness That being said, I wanted to use the tempeh as part of a complete meal so I crumbled it, seasoned it, cooked it, and WOW! This stuff is really good! I'm pretty sure if I hadn't told Jordan it was a vegan product, he would have assumed it was ground hamburger. The silence at the dinner table as he chowed down bite after bite of his tempeh taco was seal of approval enough. And, more importantly, it's easy to make and not too tough on the wallet.
I cooked these tempeh tacos like I cook most things- a dash of this and a shake of that. Measurements are to taste and ingredients incorporate what is in my fridge. If you don't have an ingredient, don't fret! Improvise! Feel free to think of the tempeh as a hamburger substitute and to season how you and your family like it!
Package of tempeh (I used Lightlife Three Grain)
1 tsp. Cayenne pepper
1 tsp. Chili powder
1 tbs. Cumin
1 tbs. Black pepper
3 tbs. Soy sauce (I used sodium free)
4 oz. Salsa
1/2 head Green cabbage
1/2 head Purple cabbage
2 tbs. Olive oil
1 Lemon (juiced)
2 tbs. Apple cider vinegar
2 tbs. Celery seeds
Alder smoked salt
Shredded Mexican blend cheese
Taco shells (hard or soft)
Zesty Cabbage Slaw
Shred cabbages and mix in a bowl with olive oil, lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, celery seeds, and salt. Massage the cabbage as you mix the ingredients. Cover mixture and place in refrigerator.
Pro tip: If you're not into shredding the cabbage, work smarter, not harder. Purchase a bag of coleslaw mix or preshredded cabbage. Also, take it easy with salt. You can always add more, but it's pretty darn tough to take that taste out.
This is the intimidating part, right? Don't worry, it's painless.
Heat a little olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
Remove the tempeh from the packaging. Smell it. Take a little taste. Nutty, earthy, and neutral, right? Now take the slab and begin to crumble it into smaller pieces in a mixing bowl. If it's easier, chop the slab into small pieces and the pieces will crumble as you season and mix them. Now, add all of the spices (or spices of your choosing) and a few splashes of soy sauce. The soy sauce may be substituted with water or another liquid. Top the mixture with salsa.* Mix.
Once the skillet is hot, add the tempeh mixture to the frying pan. Allow the mixture to brown with occasional stirring for about 10 minutes.
*I used salsa because I had half a jar of mild corn and tomato salsa in my refrigerator that needed to be used. You could also use fresh tomatoes, beans, corn, or any other vegetables in the mixture.
Putting It All Together
As your tempeh mix is almost finished, heat your taco shells according to package instructions. In a warm taco shell, sprinkle cheese, and top with heaping scoops of Zesty Cabbage Slaw. Top the slaw with heaping scoops of the browned tempeh mixture. Garnish with a scoop of plain Greek yogurt and scallions.
Roll up your sleeves, sit down, and enjoy!