12 February 2010

Tempeh in Sauerkraut; Also, Two Vegan Cookbook Mini-Reviews and a Cornucopasetic Bonus Recipe: What to Do With Rosario's Whole Wheat Baguettes

Dinner tonight: tempeh cooked with sauerkraut and tomatoes; roasted potatoes; Rosario's awesome whole wheat baguette in awesome sauce. The recipe for tempeh simmered in sauerkraut in Robin Robertson's Vegan Planet looked ridiculously simple and boring, so overlooked it at first. I'm glad I bothered to give it a try though.

Tempeh With Sauerkraut and Tomatoes
Adapted from Robin Robertson, Vegan Planet (2003)

Tempeh, sauerkraut, tomatoes. That's pretty much the recipe. It's almost too simple to post, but it was good and sort of satisfying in some way that I thought was worth mentioning.

  • One package of Lalibela Farm's tempeh, cut into a 1/2 inch dice;
  • 2 cups of Thirty Acre Farm's Sauerkraut (the kind with with the juniper berries and caraway seeds, but remove the juniper berries for this recipe);
  • Half a 28 ounce can of tomatoes, diced, with their juice;
  • 1 tsp. brown sugar, maybe a bit more; and
  • salt, pepper.
Brown the tempeh cubes in oil for a few minutes. I have notice that the Lalibela tempeh develops a nice nutty flavor when it is browned slowly; the lightlife tempeh I preferred before there was good local tempeh didn't do this at all. Once the tempeh is browned, add the remaining ingredients, cover, reduce the heat and simmer for fifteen minutes. If the result is too watery at the end of the fifteen minutes, remove the cover and let it reduce.

Cookbook Mini-Review: Vegan Planet (2003) by Robin Robertson
Vegan Planet isn't the book to turn to for a cashew cream bechemel or oolong smoked tofu, but it's great for a night when you want dinner in less than an hour and you're too tired to think. The recipe above is about the least of what's in it, so don't let it steer you away from the book, but it does highlight some of Robin's ability to keep vegan cooking dead simple, healthy and yet interesting without going over the top. Robin has a number of other books that I haven't read, and she maintains a blog that you might be interested in. Final verdict: highly recommended for vegans and vegan poseurs such as myself.

Cookbook Mini-Review: Vegan Soul Kitchen: Fresh, Healthy, and Creative African-American Cuisine (2009) by Bryant Terry

I'm going to do what I haven't yet seen done in the blogosphere: pan Bryant Terry's Vegan Soul Kitchen. Here's why: Bryant is working on all the right food issues in all the right ways, but he's not first and foremost a chef; he's a creative and effective writer, but he's not (yet) great at writing and testing recipes. We have to back up at this point and talk about why this book made such a splash. It's quirky as hell for a cookbook: it opens with music for a song that he wrote; each recipe is accompanied by recommendations not for wine but for tracks of music and art (and they're right on, too); and he takes on a cuisine that many don't off-hand associate with vegan cooking. However, many of the recipes are poorly written or were just not tested at all (the mafe recipe is a prime example). In places the book offers an interesting perspective and a few clever combinations, but it's not a book that you will learn any new tricks from if you have even a little bit of vegan cooking under your belt. Final verdict: it's a fun read but I'd suggest borrowing it from a library (if it's available) or me (just ask) before giving into to an impulse buy.

UPDATE: This is the age of Google alert after all, so I should not have been surprised when Mr. Terry commented on my post within hours after I posted it. I feel like a bit of a prick after reading his comment so I thought I ought to add this addendum to my review. Not only did I get Mr. Terry's name wrong, but I worried that I may have been a bit unfair. After some thought on the matter, I do stand by my review although I think I may not have expressed myself very clearly. What I was trying to say was that this is an interesting and fun book to read in its own right, but that if you already have some measure of experience cooking vegan food many of the recipes in this book will not be a revelation, although there are a few interesting recipes here and there. If vegan cooking is a new thing to you, this is a good place to start, although I did feel that some of the recipes were not as concisely written as they could have been.

Cornucopasetic Bonus Recipe: Better Than Garlic Bread

I like using Rosario's whole wheat baguette to make garlic bread, but it's even better when you spread on top: olive oil, a few cloves of garlic, a handful of walnuts, some fresh rosemary, salt and pepper all smashed like crazy to a paste in a mortar.


bryant terry said...

hi. my name is bryant terry (not terry bryant as written above).

i know i'm not a master recipe writer, but i thought i got a lot better since my first book.

and i actually tested the mafe recipe about 5 times. sorry it did not work out. what were some of the other recipes that did not work out so well?

if you'd like, you can email me: directly bryant@bryant-terry.com.

with all that i have on my plate, you would think that my publisher would foot the bill for a recipe tester. . . maybe one day (smile).

thanks for your perspective.

Brad said...

Thank you for posting, Bryant. I apologize for getting your name mixed up and I have corrected the oversight. I don't recall exactly now what my issue with the mafe was, but I think it had to do with having a really large amount of marinade for the tofu that did not ultimately end up in the stew. It seemed a bit wasteful. There were a few places in other recipes where ultimately I knew what to do, but felt that the recipe could have been better worded.

But, hey, as for testing, you have a lot of fans in the blogging world they will test recipes for you for free! I certainly would love to test anything you intend to publish for an upcoming book. This is done by several blogs for the authors of the Veganomicon, for example, and would provide you with a lot of pre-publication publicity. The blogs in question seem to have an agreement not to publish the recipe. If you do write another book, keep this in mind.