Autumn tempeh and winter vegetable stew

October 3, 2009 at 3:22 pm (C (1 star, edible), Peter Berley, Root vegetables, Starches, Tempeh)

I felt a little guilty that I criticized this recipe when I deviated so much from the instructions, so I added it to my list of “to try again” recipe. But I wasn’t in a particular rush to make it again until friends of mine (who bought the cookbook on my recommendation) started raving about it. They don’t read this blog, and so their attempt and opinion were both entirely independent of my own. When they started gushing about how good the recipe was, I decided I had to try it again. Derek tried to discourage me from making it when we had company over, but I could not be dissuaded.

This time I made every effort to follow the recipe exactly. I used my heavy, cast iron, 6-quart dutch oven. I used all the butter and oil and soy sauce, and I added the kombu and scallions this time. I used just rosemary, but put in more than last time (I’m still not sure exactly what a “sprig” is.) I used butternut squash instead of Kuri since we disliked the Kuri squash so much the last time. I again forgot to make the pilaf, however.

I was cooking with my friend Alex, and we made sure to bring the mixture to a boil before putting it in the oven. Yet when we pulled it out of the oven the vegetables were still undercooked, and even raw in places. My only possible explanation is that we didn’t actually bring it to a full boil. So I put it back on the stove, added another 1/2 cup of water, and this time left it until steam was pouring out underneath the lid. I put it back in the oven for another 20 minutes. At this point everything was cooked, but there was surprisingly little liquid (even after adding the final cup of water + soy sauce at the end). It certainly didn’t seem to be a stew, and it didn’t taste like it had been “simmering on the stovetop all day”, as Berley claimed. The overall flavor was much better than my previous attempt, however. I attribute this mostly to the extra fat and salt and rosemary. It tasted a little like gravy/Thanksgiving, but the ginger and soy sauce and kombu gave it a slightly Asian attitude.

Still, however, I was disappointed in the vegetables. The butternut squash (despite being cut in 2-inch pieces), was almost falling apart. I thought the thick, wormy onion rings were kind of disgustingly slimy. The carrots and parsnips held their shape, but they weren’t nearly as tasty as roasted carrots and parsnips. Again, they almost tasted boiled/steamed. I really prefer them caramelized and roasted. I wasn’t sure if we were supposed to eat the Kombu or not. Derek tried a piece and said it didn’t taste like much–a mild seaweed flavor.

Even after all my corrections, Derek wasn’t too excited about the dish, but then he said “well I must like it more than I thought because I want seconds”. He gave it a B rating, but he wasn’t too interested in the leftovers. I’d give it a B-. It tasted okay, but I’m pretty sure I won’t make this recipe again.  I’d just rather have all those yummy winter veggies roasted, or use them to make a nice, country Thai stew.  In fact, I couldn’t eat the leftovers at all–I ended up tossing them.  Something about the dish gives me the heebie jeebies.   I might, however, try just cooking the tempeh on the stove top with ginger and garlic and rosemary and soy sauce, and then serving it with roasted veggies.

Original post: Oct 3, 2009

Fall is here, and parsnips and winter squash are finally in the stores again!  I decided to celebrate by trying this recipe from the fall section of Peter Berley’s Fresh Food Fast.

In a medium dutch oven you melt together butter and oil, then add kombu, garlic, ginger, and rosemary or sage.  On top of this seasoning layer you place 1 pound of tempeh cubes.  The tempeh is then covered with a mixture of water, soy sauce, and maple syrup.  Then come the remaining layers:  onions, winter squash, parsnip, and carrots, all cut into thick slices or chunks.  The casserole is covered, and the stew is brought to a boil, then transferred to a 400 degree oven where it bakes for 25 minutes.  Once everything is cooked, the vegetables and tempeh are transferred to a serving bowl, and a mixture of arrowroot and water and soy sauce is mixed in with the juices remaining in the pan, to make a sort of gravy.  The vegetables are topped with the sauce and some scallions, and served over a bulgur and buckwheat pilaf.

I didn’t have any kombu, so I just left it out.  I cut the olive oil by half, the butter by 25%, and used less soy sauce.  I didn’t make the pilaf since I felt like the dish had plenty of starchy vegetables already.  I used rosemary for the herb, and Hokkaido (red kuri) for the winter squash. I forgot the scallions.  Otherwise I followed the recipe’s ingredients exactly.

The first mistake I made was using a 3 quart casserole pan.  I only have a 6 quart dutch oven, and that seemed too large.  But the 3 quart pan was not large enough.  Once all the veggies were layered in the lid couldn’t quite close.  I tried cooking it anyway, with the lid mostly closed, but after 25 minute the parsnips were still hard in spots, so I left it in the oven for a while longer, maybe another 15 minutes.

In the end the vegetables were definitely cooked, but they tasted more like boiled vegetables than roasted ones.  The onions were particularly slimy and unappealing.  The starchy vegetables weren’t overly soft, just bland and not very flavorful.  The Hokkaido was particularly unpleasant–overly dry and starchy tasting.  Maybe I should have added more salt, but I don’t think that alone would have been transformed the vegetables from unappetizing to delicious.   I can’t imagine that Berley intended the vegetables to come out as they did.  They were just too gross.  Could I have really screwed up the recipe somehow?

Despite the dish’s name, the final product was not anything like a stew.  There were only about 1.5 cups of sauce for almost 3 quarts of vegetables–not even close to a stew in my book.

The tempeh wasn’t bad. It had absorbed all the fat (the vegetables didn’t get any), and was sweet (from the maple syrup and veggie juices) and salty (from the soy sauce).  Plus the garlic and ginger added lots of flavor.  However, I couldn’t taste the rosemary.

Derek and I ended up eating all the tempeh out of the “stew”, and then I pureed the vegetables together to make a creamy soup.  I added some spices and the soup tasted okay, but not great.

Stew: D

Tempeh: B-

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Bell peppers stuffed with black beans and quinoa

October 3, 2009 at 3:00 pm (Beans, B_minus (2 stars, okay), Isa C. Moskowitz)

Stuffed bell peppers are a standard in any 70’s vegetarian cookbook.  Despite being a pretty easy way to disguise “brown vegan mush”, they’ve never really become part of my repertoire.  Before the summer peppers completely disappear, I decided to try the stuffed pepper recipe from Vegan with a Vengeance.

  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 cup finely chopped onion
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups finely chopped mushrooms
  • 1 Tbs. chile powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 15 oz. tomato sauce
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup quinoa
  • 4 large red bell peppers
  • 15-ounce can of black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 tsp. maple syrup
  • fresh cilantro for garnish

The technique is to saute the onions until soft, then add the garlic and mushrooms and cook until dry.  Then the chile powder, salt, 1 cup. tomato sauce, water, and quinoa are added, and the mixture is simmered for 20 minutes. Afterwards, the black beans and maple syrup are added to the mixture.  The bell peppers are blanched in boiling water for 5 minutes, then filled, topped with the remaining tomato sauce, and baked at 350 for 15 minutes.  The peppers are garnished with cilantro before serving.

My notes:

I followed the recipe exactly except I added 1 minced jalepeno with the onion.

The biggest problem I had with this recipe is that 1/4 cup of water was not enough water to cook the quinoa.  I think at least 1/2 cup of water, and maybe 2/3 cup is needed.  After 20 minutes my quinoa was still in hard, white balls, and I had to add more water and cook it for another 10 minutes.

The flavor of the mixture is good.  I wouldn’t have known that there was maple syrup in it, or mushrooms.  Since the quinoa is cooked with the veggies and tomato sauce, it doesn’t become extremely light and fluffy–it has more of a gooey texture. The mushrooms and quinoa form a brown, starchy glue that helps the beans stick together, and adds nuttiness and depth.  The cilantro garnish added a lot of flavor.  The bell peppers, although not overcooked or undercooked, didn’t add that much.  They were sweet, and tasted like bell peppers, but the flavor just didn’t meld that well with the filling.  Derek said he wouldn’t make this recipe again, but he would make the filling again.  He gave the whole recipe a B/B- and the filling a B+/A-.  I liked the filling, but didn’t love it. I think the filling might work well in enchiladas or burritos, or maybe could be used to fill zucchini or halved winter squash.  I’d give the recipe a B-, and the filling a B.

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