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Breaded Tempeh Batons

Breaded Tempeh Batons
Tempeh. That old standby of dusty natural foods restaurants, tofu’s more mysterious cousin, the fermented food that just screams “Commune circa 1971, dude,” over every bumpy inch of its beige surface. Even though tempeh has kind of an unsexy vibe, I have been a fan ever since my early days of stumbling through my quickly dog-eared copy of The Moosewood Cookbook when I was in college. I had a teeny-tiny kitchen – the oven was about five feet from my “living room” couch – but I was able to impress one farm-raised boyfriend or another with my Indonesian gado gado. Or maybe he wasn’t impressed but just terrified. It was sometimes hard to tell the difference.

In any case, I am an unapologetic tempeh fan and I would recommend this dish to those who are as well. Unlike seitan or even tofu, tempeh is not the best at mimicking something else except for chicken salad. Tempeh is what it is. The things people say they don’t like about it – the weird texture, the slight bitterness – I don’t mind. I’m good with bumps, I guess, and steaming tempeh reduces its bitterness. I am proud to say that this dish is the first time I successfully got my son to enjoy tempeh. Give it a try with a sauce for dipping and some bright green veggies on the side. By the way, I did not prepare these to be crispy. They will have a decent coat of crunchiness with seasoned sesame seeds, but if you want it to be crispy, fry it with more oil. I won’t tell.

It is a savory, protein-rich meal with no gluten for those with sensitivities or allergies.

16-ounces tempeh (two eight-ounce packages), cut into four squares

1/3 cup tamari or soy sauce
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 teaspoon “poultry” seasoning

1 cup nutritional yeast
1 tablespoon garlic granules
1 teaspoon dried dill
1/8 teaspoon cayenne

1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon Liquid Smoke, optional
cup sesame seeds
2 teaspoons “poultry” seasoning
teaspoon paprika
Salt and pepper to taste

2 tablespoons safflower oil, divided

Steam the tempeh over a couple of inches of boiling water for 15 minutes. Mix together the marinade in a small bowl.

When cool enough to handle, cut each square into four rectangles, and then each rectangle into four smaller pieces, giving you 16 “batons.”

Place in a large, rectangular baking dish with the marinade. Let the tempeh marinate for 30 minutes or more, carefully flipping occasionally to baste. Most of the marinade will be absorbed.

After marinating, start a large skillet warming over medium heat, and coat the bottom of the pan with one tablespoon of the oil.

Combine all the breading in a large bowl and mix together. Dip the tempeh in the breading and stir with your hands or a large spoon to coat. After eight have been dipped and coasted, cook in the skillet, three or four minutes per side, until each piece is browned all over. Remove from the pan, heat the remaining tablespoon of oil, and brown the second batch of eight pieces of tempeh.

Serve warm with a dipping sauce. I bet barbeque is nice, or what I used, vegan mayo with a bit of Dijon and some fresh parsley mixed in.

2013, 2014, Vegan Street

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