Kim O'Donnel's meatless medley
Tuesday, September 28, 2010; 2:13 PM
If anybody can persuade Americans to eat more tempeh, it's Kim O'Donnel.
Washingtonians may remember her 12 years at washingtonpost.com as a pioneering food blogger with a closetful of vegetarian recipes that appealed to her ominovorous appetite. The 44-year-old food writer lives in Seattle now and has just released "The Meat Lover's Meatless Cookbook: Vegetarian Recipes Carnivores Will Devour" (Da Capo Press/Lifelong Books). It was inspired in part by the Meatless Monday campaign to reduce the nation's intake of red meat.
O'Donnel shared this recipe in a cooking session last week, hours before she taught a class at the CulinAerie cooking school at Thomas Circle. Tempeh is basically fermented soybean cake, high in protein and low in carbohydrates and sodium. She began cooking with the meat substitute about a decade ago, and now it's a favorite of hers.
"It has a toothy quality. Its texture is the key," she says. But even she soft-pedaled its appearance the first time she made it for her 65-year-old steak-loving mom, whom she lovingly calls "Ms. London Broil."
"Now she's cooking from the book once a week," O'Donnel says.
Some people say it tastes like mushrooms, but the touring author disagrees: "If you can get beyond its immediate appearance, you'll find it's a flavor chameleon." She'll use it as croutons for a crisp romaine salad with cucumber and tomato or as a main component in a Thai red curry. Here, she marinates it in a soy sauce mixture (30 minutes by the book, but 15 works to keep the prep on the short side) and pan-fries it to a salty chewiness.
The tempeh stars in this combo of sandwich classics -- the hoagie and the muffuletta -- close to her heart. Its onion-olive salad, provolone cheese and garlic-rubbed hoagie-roll interior make it a substantial weeknight meal. O'Donnel suggests serving it with baked kale chips -- also a recipe from the book -- or in a green salad with seasonal fruit such as pears.
Tempeh is available in the refrigerated case in health food stores and some organic markets. It can be frozen for months or refrigerated for up to 1 week.