Monday, March 30, 2015

Penne with Tempeh, Caramelized Shallots and Goat Cheese

Guys, let's talk about tempeh.  That's TEM-pay.  No, not tofu.  Even I as a vegetarian can agree that tofu isn't always the most appetizing thing.  I'm still not quite sure how soybeans turn into that.  No, this is tempeh.  Also soybean-based, but its more of a cake than a marshmallow.  You can still see the beans.  The texture is much more meat-like than you'd expect.

I was intrigued by tempeh ever since I heard about it a year or so ago.  I knew, however, that my family would not be as excited to try it out, so I waited for a night when I was home alone.  For my birthday, Alex gave me this awesome cookbook called The Meat Lover's Meatless Cookbook: Vegetarian Recipes Carnivores will Devour.  Isn't that an amazing idea for a cookbook!?  The recipes all look super intriguing and delicious, including this one.   I figured, even if the tempeh is gross, you have penne, goat cheese, and caramelized shallots to make up for it!

But then the tempeh was not gross.  Far from it.  It has made me a tempeh believer.  It gets marinated in soy sauce, dijon mustard, sesame oil, minced garlic, and lime juice (doesn't that sound like a marinade that you'd eat anything in!?).  Then it gets fried.  Hello?  Delicious marinade?  Fried?  What's not to like about this tempeh?  Trust me, if you aren't a fan of the texture of tofu, this is not like that.  It's got more of a meaty bite to it.  And the flavor is incredible.  The marinade really sinks in, and gets seared into it.  I kept thinking it would make a kick-ass sandwich.  I've never even said those words together, but that's what marinated tempeh makes me do.

The final dish altogether? Totally amazing.  I even got Mark to eat it despite his balking over the tofu.  Then I brought some to work for Laura to test, and she agreed that tempeh is far better than she expected.  It reheated well and I ate all the leftovers with gusto.  All I know is that there's another package of tempeh in my refrigerator right now and I cannot wait to try it out again!


penne with tempeh, caramelized shallots, and goat cheese
from  The Meat Lover's Meatless Cookbook: Vegetarian Recipes Carnivores will Devour by Kim O'Donnel
makes 4 servings

2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons dijon mustard
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 clove garlic, minced
juice of 1/2 lime
1 teaspoon hot sauce of your choice (optional)
1 8-ounce package soy tempeh, cut into 1-inch strips
vegetable oil for pan-frying
2 - 3 shallot bulbs, sliced thinly (about 1/2 cup)
a few sprigs worth of fresh thyme leaves
salt and ground black pepper
12 ounces short pasta, such as penne, rotini or ziti
3 ounces soft goat cheese
3 tablespoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
a small handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped roughly


1) Marinate the tempeh: in a small bowl, combine the soy sauce, mustard, sesame oil, garlic, lime juice, and hot sauce (if using).  Place the tempeh in a shallow dish in a single layer and pour the marinade on top, ensuring complete coverage.  Let the tempeh sit in the marinade at room temperature for a minimum of 20 minutes, or in the fridge for up to several hours.

2) Remove the tempeh from the marinade and gently pat with paper towels to minimize splattering when frying in hot oil.  Pour the oil to a depth of 1/4 inch into a wide skillet and heat over medium heat.  The oil is hot enough when it surrounds the tempeh with bubbles.

3) Gently add the tempeh and turn with tongs or a fork, until golden brown on both sides, about 3 minutes.  Add more oil as necessary and allow to heat sufficiently before adding more tempeh.  Transfer the tempeh to paper towels and allow to cool slightly.  Sprinkle with salt.

4) Lower the heat and add shallots.  Add more oil if need be, but be careful, you don't want shallot mixture to be overly greasy.  Cook over medium-low heat, so they soften, sweeten and reduce but not brown, about 15 minutes.  Add the thyme and salt and pepper to taste.  Remove from heat.

5) Meanwhile, boil water for the pasta and prepare according to the package instructions. Crumble the tempeh into small pieces and add to the shallot mixture, stirring to combine.

6) In the bottom of a serving bowl, place the goat cheese.  Drain the pasta when ready (saving a few ounces of pasta water just in case the end result needs thinning) and pour into the bowl over the goat cheese.  With two wooden spoons, coat the pasta with the melting goat cheese.  Add the tempeh mixture and the parsley, stirring gently until well combined.  Garnish with Parmigiano-Reggiano, if you like.  Serve hot.

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