Maple-Soy Tempeh over Brown Rice with Sauteed Kale

My fridge is rocking a feng shui vibe this week.  Despite a quick trip to the store for staples since arriving home from a week-long vacation I’ve been relishing the joys of an empty refrigerator.  Accustomed to Tetris-style pondering every time I take something in or out of my fridge, it’s been glorious to have clean and mostly empty shelves staring back at me.  Glorious until I have to whip up a meal that is.

My empty fridge has forced my creativity.  This recipe for maple-soy marinated tempeh served over brown rice with sautéed lacinato kale is an example of that.  The tempeh has been in my fridge for a while  and survived the pre-vacation toss thanks to its long shelf-life.  Picked up on a whim at the supermarket, I hadn’t gotten around to using it  in a recipe, but in searching for protein sources for lunch it was the only one available.

Tempeh, for those who haven’t tried it, is pretty unique. It’s cooked soybeans fermented into a dense cake.  The cake is then sliced or crumbled and fried, grilled, baked, sautéed, or steamed depending on how you are using it in a recipe.  It has a distinct taste that is off-putting to some, although like tofu, it absorbs flavors well and embraces marinades.  It also comes in different types. For example, instead of tempeh made solely from soybeans, I used a three grain organic tempeh that contained soybeans, millet, brown rice, and barley.    Regardless of which “flavor” you choose, you can count on tempeh to be cholesterol free,  low in fat, and a great source of protein.  Looking to cook something healthy and filling?  Tempeh is your fermented product of choice.

Once I decided to cook the tempeh, it was merely a matter of deciding on a marinade.   I’m convinced condiments procreate in my fridge based upon the sheer number that fill my shelves and I immediately gravitated towards the maple syrup and soy sauce which were in ample abundance.  One of my favorite flavor combinations (check out my recipe for maple soy salmon), I just needed a little garlic to make a bold, sweet, and salty marinade.

The tempeh marinated while I steamed the brown rice and sautéed sliced Lacinato kale in olive oil.   Right before the rice was ready, I heated a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat and glazed the bottom of the pan with just a bit of olive oil.   I seared the marinated tempeh for less than a minute on each side and combined everything in a bowl to make a clean and healthy lunch.  I drizzled a little leftover marinade over everything, but a dash of Sriracha in combination or alone would add a nice spicy kick.

Note:  The 8-ounce package of tempeh I purchased listed a serving as 2 (4-ounce) servings of 240 calories each.   I ate about half a serving with 3/4 cup cooked brown rice and a heaping spoonful of sautéed kale and was full.  However the  fact that tempeh is low in calories means no one is going to criticize if you indulge.

Maple-Soy Tempeh over Brown Rice with Sautéed Kale – Printer Friendly Recipe
Serves 4 for lunch

Any green can be substituted for the Lacinato kale below, but I think that the Lacinato kale and tempeh make a brilliant combination.  Both the kale and tempeh have a slightly bitter aftertaste which I find is muted somewhat when paired together

For the rice:
1 cup long grain brown rice
2 ¼ cups water
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sesame oil

For the tempeh:
8 ounces three grain tempeh (or your personal favorite), cut into ¼-inch thick slices
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 garlic cloves, minced
Olive oil

For the kale:
1 bunch (about 9 ounces) Lacinato kale, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Combine the brown rice, water, salt, and sesame oil in a medium saucepan.  Bring to a boil then stir before covering the saucepan with a tight-fitting lid and reducing the heat to medium-low.  Cook the rice for 45 minutes or until tender.  Let the rice sit, covered, for 5 minutes before serving.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, maple syrup, and minced garlic.  Lay the sliced tempeh on a plate and drizzle the marinade over it.   Turn over the tempeh slices if necessary to thoroughly coat each slice with the marinade.  Marinate for 30 minutes.

While the tempeh marinates, heat a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat.  Add about a tablespoon of olive oil to the skillet and then toss in the sliced kale.  Cook, stirring often, for about 3 to 5 minutes or until it just begins to wilt.  Season to taste with salt and pepper and set aside.

Wipe out the skillet with a paper towel.  Heat over medium-high heat until hot and then add just enough olive oil to glaze the bottom of the skillet.  Remove the tempeh slices from the marinade and pat them dry with a paper towel (otherwise they’ll splatter when added to the oil).  Add the tempeh to the hot pan making sure they don’t overlap each other.  Cook on each side until golden brown (about 1 minute).  Remove from the skillet and set aside.

Note: If your skillet is large enough, you’ll be able to cook all the tempeh in one batch.  If smaller, you may have to cook the slices in two batches.  If this is the case, I recommend carefully wiping out the skillet with a paper towel between each batch.  Minced garlic will inevitably end up in the oil as you sear the tempeh and when cooked too long it burns and becomes bitter.  Wiping out the skillet between batches prevents the second batch from having an off-taste.

To serve, place a spoonful of the cooked brown rice in a bowl with the sautéed kale.  Top with a couple of tempeh slices.  If desired, drizzle with any remaining marinade and give it a squirt of Sriracha hot sauce.  Enjoy.


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