I never spent a lot of time experimenting with protein alternatives in the kitchen, but when my sister and I were baking and she was out of yogurt, we used pureed silken tofu instead, and that started a conversation about her favorite ways to use it. Tofu is something I had seen a lot of but tempeh was completely foreign to me. I picked up a ‘multi-grain’ type package at the store and stuck it in my fridge until inspiration struck. That inspiration, not surprisingly, came in my bon appetit magazine with a recipe for vinaigrette which I adapted slightly to come up with this hearty grain-based salad.
Grilled Veggie & Tempeh Salad w. Toasted Spice Vinaigrette // Serves 3-4
1 c quinoa or your favorite grain (barley or farro perhaps?)
2 c vegetable broth
1 medium zucchini
½ red onion or 1 small
1 pint cherry tomatoes
1 pkg tempeh (I used multi-grain)
Baby spinach (optional)
Toasted Spice Vinaigrette:
1 tsp coriander seed
1 tsp cumin seed
1 tsp dill seed
¼ c olive oil
2 T white wine vinegar
1 tsp dijon mustard
Kosher salt & fresh cracked pepper
To make the vinaigrette, begin by toasting your spices. In a small, dry, skillet, toast the coriander, cumin, and dill seeds over medium heat until the color richens and you can smell their delightful scent, shaking the pan every so often. Transfer to a mortar and pestle to crush them; it does not need to be a fine powder, but small enough that the flavor distributes well.
In a small bowl, whisk together the spices, vinegar, and mustard. Pour oil in at a slow, steady stream, whisking constantly, to emulsify the dressing. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Slice tempeh into 8-10 pieces and place in a shallow dish. Add just enough of the vinaigrette to lightly coat and allow the flavors to soak in; set aside.
Rinse the quinoa in a fine mesh strainer to remove any of the bitter outside before cooking. I have tried cooking it without rinsing and I much prefer the flavor when rinsed, in case you were wondering (like I always did) if it really mattered! At this point you can cook your quinoa however you please, this is how I go about it: transfer rinsed quinoa to a medium saucepan, add 2 cups of vegetable broth, cover, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and set a timer for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, heat a grill pan over medium high to start cooking the veggies. Coat the tomatoes in a little olive oil, then throw them on, tossing occasionally, until they are charred in spots and starting to pop open. Remove from pan and transfer to a plate. Slice the zucchini, lengthwise, flip it on the flat side, the slice lengthwise again to create ¼ inch strips and add them to the grill. It’s a personal preference how you like them cooked so just pull them off when they look good to you, and repeat with thinly-wedged red onions.
Once your timer goes off, remove pan from heat and allow quinoa to rest for another 5 minutes. Give the grill pan a light spray if needed, then add the tempeh strips and cook until heated through, turning once. Fluff the quinoa with a fork and transfer it to your serving bowl. Give the vinaigrette a quick whisk and drizzle some over the quinoa, stir to incorporate and then taste for seasoning - you may need to add a bit of salt here. Arrange the grilled vegetables and tempeh on top, add a little more dressing, some fresh-cracked pepper, and then serve over baby spinach with remaining vinaigrette alongside the meal.
I really enjoyed this meal. Really and truly. Much more than any tofu dish I have had. I think it’s the texture - I like the sturdier texture of tempeh as a replacement for meat. For someone who never eats meat, it may not matter as much, but it did for me! My husband did not touch this meal; I made him a hot dog with all the fixings. He likes what he likes and I love him for that. Even if you are not ready to make your first a-tempeh with meat alternatives, at least try the salad and vinaigrette, and don't you dare skip the toasting step - it makes all the difference in the depth of flavor.
With a full heart and an empty plate,