Last week was not great week- I was exhausted and felt like I was coming down with something all week. The weekend has not been better. But… once I saw the Chopped challenge for VeganMoFo, I knew I had to enter.
With all of the time that I spend at work, I have not been a creative cook at all, lately. I follow recipes, I make tried and true favorites, and I’ve been doing some canning/preserving, but nothing truly creative. That makes me sad.
On Saturdays, my second job happens to be right down the street from a pretty good Farmer’s Market, and I had some time to kill. I was able to pick up three of the four Chopped ingredients: Jalepeno, Prune Plums, and Radishes. I had some Teavana Chai blend at home, which happens to contain oolong. I’m trying to stay out of grocery stores and use what I have on hand for now, so I wanted to avoid buying anything else.
I saw patients for the rest of the day and didn’t have much time to think about what to do for the challenge, but on my drive home, ideas started running though my mind. By the time I went to bed, I knew I was making some kind of plum sauce and pickling radishes, and using tempeh.
Once every few months, I make tempeh from scratch and freeze it (freezing is the easiest way to get it to stop fermenting, so it works out any way). I pulled a couple of blocks out of the freezer before bed, and let the thoughts keep coming. I would not be so good at this if I were really on a television competition!
In the morning, I did a quick pickle of the radishes and some of the jalapeño. I used a hot vinegar solution so that I could melt the sugar I used; so this had to go in the fridge early enough so that it would be ready for dinner time.
Figuring out how to use the oolong was the biggest challenge, and I used it four ways. First, I roasted the remaining 1 1/2 jalapeños in the oven with a bit of the dry oolong tea, sort of akin to smoking them (I do have a stovetop smoker, but my burners were otherwise occupied with other projects). I used the brewed tea to thin out my butternut squash puree, as the liquid in the plum sauce, and to steam the tempeh and the radish tops.
Plums were easy: they are the major ingredient in the sauce, which also contains the roasted jalapeños.
As you’ve figured, the jalapeños went into the sauce and the pickle.
Finally, the radishes were the primary ingredient in the pickle, and the greens were used in the final dish as well.
Overall, this is a spicy dish, but it is tempered by the sweetness of the plums and squash. A tartness was added with a bit of rice wine vinegar in the plum sauce, as well as the white balsamic in the pickle. The pickle was not overly salty, and the tempeh brings an umami flavor to the plate. It’s a balanced plate. I feel good about this.
Basic steps to making this:
- Make the pickle.
- Make the plum sauce.
- Steam the squash and puree.
- Steam the tempeh, coat with sauce and bake.
- Steam the greens.
Gosh, that sounds easy, doesn’t it?
Radish and Jalapeño Pickle
- 8-10 French breakfast radishes, sliced thin
- 1/2 jalapeño, sliced thin
- 1/3 cup white balsamic vinegar
- 1/3 cup water
- 1 1/2 tbs vegan sugar
- 1 tsp Himalayan pink salt
- 1/2 tsp yellow mustard seeds
- a few twists from the black pepper mill
- Layer the jalapeño and radishes in a 1/2 pint jar.
- Combine the remaining ingredients in a small sauce pan over medium heat. Stir until the sugar and salt are dissolved.
- Pour the hot liquid into the jar, filling to the top and cover.
- Once the jar is cool enough to handle, put in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours.
Plum and Jalapeño Sauce with Oolong Tea
- 1 1/2 Jalapeños
- 1 tsp Chai Oolong blend
- 4 Italian Prune Plums
- 1 tsp grated fresh ginger
- 1 garlic clove, chopped
- 1/2 cup brewed Chai oolong blend
- 2 tbs vegan sugar
- 1 tsp rice wine vinegar
- 1 tbs tamari
- Preheat oven to 450F. Take two pieces of aluminum foil, about the same size. On one, place the tea in the middle. On the other, put the jalapeños. Fold up the jalapeños, and poke a few holes in the foil. Place it on top of the tea on the other one and fold it up into a neat package. Place it in the oven at 450F for about 45 minutes. You might want to do this a lot earlier than the rest of the sauce. Bonus: it will smell really nice if you’re woking in the kitchen preparing other things.
- Chop up the prunes and discard the pits. Add to a small sauce pan. Don’t peel!
- Remove the jalapeño from the foil. The tops will fall right off- discard as much of the seeds as you like, then add it to the plums.
- Add the ginger, garlic, tea, sugar, vinegar and tamari.
- Cook over medium high heat stirring frequently for about 10 minutes.
- Add the cooked mixture to a blender and blend until smooth. Add more tea if needed to thin.
Butternut Squash Purée with Chai Oolong
- 1 small butternut squash, peeled and cubed
- splash of tamari
- 2 tbs brewed Oolong Chai
- Add the squash to a steamer basket and sprinkle tamari on top. Steam for 10 minutes.
- Add the steamed squash to a high speed blender with the tea; blend until smooth.
Plum and Jalapeño Glazed Tempeh with Picked Radishes and Butternut Squash Purée
- 1 recipe Radish and Jalapeño Pickle
- 1 recipe Plum and Jalapeño Sauce with Oolong Tea
- 1 recipe Butternut Squash Puree with Chai Oolong
- 4 oz homemade tempeh
- 1 bunch radish greens
- Brewed Chai Oolong blend
- Preheat oven to 450F.
- Using a steamer basket in a pot of boiling water with 1/2 cup brewed Chai Oolong, steam the tempeh for about 5 minutes. Fresh tempeh is delicate and does not need to be steamed as long as the packaged variety.
- Remove tempeh from the steamer basket.
- Coat with the Plum Sauce and lay on foil lined baking sheet. Bake at 450F for 5-10 minutes, until the sauce is darkened in color.
- Meanwhile, steam the radish greens with the same tea/water as the tempeh.
- Add butternut puree to the serving plate.
- Place glazed tempeh on top.
- Top with greens and pickle.
Truth be told, this was a complicated dish, but it was fun. If you’re spending the day cooking other things, this really isn’t much of a bother, as none of the components take a long time to make. The only long part is giving the pickles enough time to cool and absorb flavor; you could shorten this by using a liquid sweetener instead of the granulated sugar and not heating the liquid, but the flavor will be different.
I really wish I had time to make something like this more often!