Sunday, August 29, 2010

What do you feed someone you need to impress?

Recently, my brother brought his girlfriend home for a visit. We'd met her before, but I hadn't really had a chance to get to know her at all. I wanted to make her feel welcome, so I decided to prepare a late lunch for all of us on Sunday out of a new cookbook I'd just gotten, The Native Foods Restaurant Cookbook by Tanya Petrovna. I selected a tempeh pâté, a caesar salad, and "Le Benedict Florentine" sandwiches. I never made it to the salad, because I got so wrapped up making the sandwiches, which were very labor-intensive for the output. In between marinating and baking tofu, preparing the Hollandaise, steaming asparagus, and frying the fake canadian bacon, I prepared the pâté, which turned out to be the real star of the meal.


Tempeh Pâté from The Native Foods Restaurant Cookbook by Tanya Petrovna (paraphrased)

1 8-oz block of tempeh, cut into about 8 pieces

Combine:   1/3 c. soy sauce or liquid aminos
                  2/3 c. water
                  1/2 tsp. grated fresh ginger (you can keep a ginger root in your freezer for use any time)
                  1 clove garlic, chopped

Saute tempeh pieces in a little bit of oil until brown, turning until browned on all sides. When they are finished cooking, pour soy sauce mixture over them and let it simmer for a couple of minutes, turning so that the tempeh pieces absorb the mixture evenly. Pull them out, drain if needed, then chop as finely as possible. Then, combine with:
                        1/4 c. vegenaisse
                        1/2 c. chopped green onions
                        1/2 c. chopped dill (dried is fine, too - probably about 1-2 tsp?)
                        1/4 tsp. sea salt
Mix with a spatula; then, if you want a smoother texture, blend with a stick mixer or food processor.

One delightful thing to do with this pâté is to make little puff pastries, or "French Love Bites" as they are charmingly named in The Native Foods Restaurant Cookbook. I made those for brunch this morning along with the plain pâte, and both were completely devoured. Even the most conservative eater in the group grudgingly came back for seconds and thirds.

And yes, my brother's girlfriend loved it, too.

I have a little bit of history with stuffed mushrooms. When I was in high school, I worked for a caterer, and when there were left-over crab-stuffed mushrooms, I would pop those babies like candy. Later, on a first date, I ordered stuffed mushrooms that were bathed in some heavenly sauce, and I was so enraptured that my date suggested I "get a room." Suffice it to say, I have high standards when it comes to this particular dish. I used the leftovers of my last batch to make a sample batch of stuffed mushrooms. I had some baby portobello caps laying around, and I wiped them (I'm sure you all know this, but don't wash mushrooms...ever....which is why it's good to buy organic ones. Just wipe them down with a towel) and removed the stems, then chopped and sauteed the stems with garlic and olive oil, then added them to the pâté with some homemade bread crumbs to bind, then stuffed the mushrooms and baked them in an oiled pan for 15ish minutes at 375ish... and they were miraculous. I ate THEM ALL. Well, I gave one to my roommate, but I ate the rest. Don't judge.I'm sure there are lots of delicious ways you could tweak this recipe to stuff mushrooms, puff pastry, etc. No doubt substituting sage and rosemary would be delicious with a higher concentration of bread crumbs (fresher bread, rougher cut); I would even like to try something with some snap, like a bit of olive or caper. The richness of the pate should balance even relatively strong flavors with moderate to high acidity, but I'll report back when I've tried that.

Moving on, the "Le Benedict Florentine" sandwiches worked out well. Some credit for that belongs to my dad, who is quite a good baker, and I used thick, toasted pieces of his rich white bread to anchor this mix of textures. One problem I had was that the marinade for the tofu was too strong, or I marinated for too long, or just cooked it for too long (at such low temperatures, the tofu never changes consistency, but just absorbs more marinade and releases more water, distilling the flavor). The sandwich is composed of lemon-garlic marinated tofu, Hollandaise, steamed spinach or asparagus (asparagus! asparagus! It's so much more dramatic looking and holds up so well), fake canadian bacon, tomato, and some nice sturdy bread. Of all these, the only one worth reporting to you is the Hollandaise.

Hollandaise Sauce from The Native Foods Restaurant Cookbook (paraphrased)

1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 c. soymilk (plain, unsweetened)
1 1/2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp. dried tarragon
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/8 tsp. turmeric
pinch white pepper
pinch cayenne pepper
cornstarch, arrowroot, or kuzu for thickening (more on this later...)

Heat oil in a saucepan and saute shallots until translucent and lightly browned. Put shallots in a blender with 1/2 c. of the soymilk and blend well. Pour back into the pan and whisk in other ingredients, except for your chosen thickening agent. Mix 1 Tbsp. cornstarch or arrowroot with 1/4 c. water, then add little by little, stirring until thickened.

The only problem that I had with this recipe was that I tried to use the same amount of arrowroot as the recipe required of kuzu, which was too much, giving my Hollandaise a slightly jelly-like consistency. Take it easy with the thickener, add gradually, stirring consistently. Then drizzle over something delicious and serve hot. I'll be on the hunt for more uses for this classic tangy-creamy sauce, and I'd appreciate your thoughts...

Tempeh Pate

1 comment:

  1. YUM, After reading this I really think you should make stuffed mushrooms for our Vegan Thanksgiving. I fell in love with them when I had them at the Cheesecake Factory and I have been wanting to try to re-create them ever since.
    p.s. this is from josh --> paté ;)