Southwestern tempeh stew (4 servings)

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I'm a relative newcomer to tempeh. Made from fermented soybeans, tempeh originated in Indonesia. It can be baked, roasted, fried, grilled, or steamed and can be found in a variety of flavors. (I used West Soy Five Grain for this recipe.) It's less spongy and moist than tofu and has a nutty taste and a chunky texture. It contains a healthy amount of protein and soaks up marinades quite well.

I found Whole Foods' Southwest tempeh stew recipe last weekend when I was looking for a one-dish meal to make at the end of this week. I knew it was going to be a rainy, cold (well, "Carolina cold") week, and the warm, sunny flavors of a Southwestern dish sounded enticing and comforting. This was a quick and easy dish to make on a Friday night after a long week of teaching, meetings, and piles and piles of grading! (Why does the grading all seem to pile up at once?)

You will need:

  • One 8-oz package of tempeh
  • 1-2 Tbsp adobo sauce from canned chipotles (Quick tip: I divide a can of chipotles into batches of two or three peppers and store them in bags in the freezer, thawing the peppers or adobo as needed.)
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin, divided
  • 1 Tbsp canola oil
  • 1/2 medium bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 white or yellow onion, diced
  • 1/4 lb mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
  • 14-oz can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 cup corn kernels (thawed if frozen)
  • 4-oz can chopped green chilies (I skipped them)

Steps:

  1. Place tempeh brick in a steamer basket in a small stockpot; steam until cooked through (about 20 minutes). Place tempeh on a plate to cool a bit. Mix the adobo, soy sauce, and 3/4 tsp cumin together, making a soft paste. Rub the paste into both sides of the warm tempeh and set aside.
  2. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Sauté the onions and peppers until they are soft and beginning to brown (15-20 minutes). (If you can handle them less cooked, you can use a higher temperature for a shorter amount of time.) Add the mushrooms and cook and stir for another 5 minutes.
  3. Cut tempeh into cubes and add it to the pan, along with the rest of the cumin, the tomatoes, the chili powder, and the corn (and chilies, if using). Cook and stir for another 10 minutes. Add a bit of water if it's too thick and starts to stick to the bottom of the pan.
  4. Serve over rice, polenta, or a toasted biscuit.

This recipe makes a very thick, chunky stew. There was so little broth surrounding the ingredients that I hesitate to even call it a stew. Next time, I might experiment with adding a little broth or even beer during the last 10 minutes of cooking. The flavors were lively and warming though, and the tempeh made the dish hearty and filling.