tempeh two ways

Besides the “stuffed” part, these two recipes have little to do with our Canadian Thanksgiving up in Ottawa this past weekend. Fermented soy beans don’t have much in common with turkey and pumpkin pie, but somehow, last week’s discovery of tempeh reminded me of all I have to be thankful for.

The weekend was a cornucopia of food delights. Friday we scarfed injera and doro wat at an Ethiopian restaurant with an old friend of mine. After a delicious brunch at my aunt and uncle’s, Mark and I indulged all afternoon in delicious home-roasted coffee and mile-high ginger cookies — this time, the old friends were his.

tempeh fajitas

All that food fueled a good cause— the true highlight of the weekend. On Sunday morning I hit a personal best half marathon time at the Ottawa Fall Colours Marathon. With the hubby’s support and 8 weeks of hard training, I achieved a time of 1:51:35. Knocking 2 minutes a mile off my last half marathon time made me finally feel like a woman who doesn’t just finish. She races.

It was a great way to begin a day stuffed with turkey, cabbage gratin, and pie (of which there were multiple slices).

tempeh fajitas

And there were other, non-homemade treats. Sunday, at one of Ottawa’s esteemed Bridgehead coffeehouses, we got to try Clover coffee for the first time.  A late lunch at Von’s Bistro in the Glebe chased down the luscious mugs nicely. Both get five Fresh Cracked Pepper stars.

As I got to thinking about what I’m thankful for, a few things came to mind. One, the incredible variety of food available to me here, today. I’m so grateful to be able to sample the abundance of the world so freely, and so relatively cheaply. This brings me to my latest discovery and the topic of this post: tempeh (pronounced temp-ay), my latest experiment with a new plant-based protein source.

tempeh poblanos

Tempeh is an old food. It’s been made for centuries in Indonesia from fermented soy beans, and it’s more nutty and chewy than even the firmest tofu.

I tracked some down at the Syracuse Real Food Co-op, and quickly discovered that tempeh can be used just about anywhere: stir-fries, burritos, pastas, and sandwiches are all worthy vessels. It’s low in fat and high in protein, and best of all, it’s fermented. (Yes, I have a thing for fermented things. Case in point.)


I searched for a few tempeh recipes online, and taking a pinch of inspiration from this one, concocted fajitas that showcased tempeh’s satisfying chew (pictured above). The next day I mixed up the leftover filling and stuffed it into poblano pepper halves, one of my favorite ways to use up leftovers.

One dinner is often a door opening into another. Along the way, two fabulous new ingredients boldly introduced themselves: tempeh, and canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce. As I face the lows that a cold and rainy, post-race week will bring, I look forward to new experiments in the cozy refuge of my kitchen.

Spicy Tempeh Fajitas

serves 2, yielding 8 small fajitas

grapeseed or vegetable oil
prepared tempeh, cut into 16  3-inch long strips (2 for each fajita)
1 white onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup diced peppers: use poblano for medium, red or green bell for mild
1 tsp cumin
1 15-oz can of black beans, drained
1-3 canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, chopped up (check the Mexican or Latino aisle)
8 small flour tortillas
mozzarella or similar cheese, finely grated

  1. Preheat the oven to 375. In a cast-iron skillet, heat 3 Tbsp of the oil over medium until it’s hot but not smoking. Fry the tempeh strips until golden brown (about 2 minutes per side). Set aside on a paper towels lined plate.
  2. Add the onions, garlic, peppers and cumin to the remaining oil and cook, adding more oil if necessary, until softened. Add as many chipotle peppers as you can handle: 1 will deliver a subtle heat, 2 will be spicy, and any more, probably deadly. Add some of the adobo sauce from the can and refrigerate the rest. Turn the heat to medium-low and add the black beans,  cooking and stirring until they’ve heated through. Mash about half the beans with the back of a wooden spoon to achieve the “refried” texture, or just leave them whole.
  3. Line each small flour tortilla with the bean mixture. Place two tempeh strips on top of the beans, and top with grated cheese. Fold each one over, enchilada-style, leaving the ends open.
  4. Place the fajitas back in the cast-iron skillet (or casserole dish), nestled tightly together. Bake until cheese is melted, and serve with sour cream, salsa, and guacamole.

Stuffed Poblano Peppers

yields 8 halves of stuffed goodness, a small dinner for 2 or a side for 4

4 poblano peppers, cut in half and seeded, but with stems left intact
cooked brown rice, quinoa, or millet
fried tempeh (from above recipe) chopped into small piece
black-bean-pepper filling (from above recipe)
mozzarella or similar cheese, finely grated

  1. Preheat oven to 375. Prepare the peppers, and bake cut-side up (on a baking sheet or shallow casserole dish) while you mix the filling — 10 minutes max.
  2. Mix your grain, tempeh, bean mixture, and a bit of the cheese together in a large bowl.
  3. Remove the peppers from the oven, and using your fingers or a large spoon, stuff the mixture tightly inside each pepper half. Bake for 20 minutes, or until the filling is hot and the peppers look browned. Remove from oven, top with cheese, and broil until cheese is melted.
  4. Serve with salsa, sour cream, and guacamole.

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