Friday, February 1, 2008

In the Kitchen: Tempeh Reuben from Vegan With a Vengeance

I've owned the cookbook "Vegan with a Vengeance" for awhile, and I don't know how I didn't get around to trying this recipe until now. Maybe it was because of the number of ingredients, or the fact that many of them are sort of "specialty" items that you can't really substitute with whatever you have at home. More likely it just never occurred to me I should use a recipe for a sandwich. I own many vegan cookbooks, and I love to "try out" new recipes, but I'm horrible in that I rarely actually follow the recipe to the letter. Even if I use all the ingredients called for, I often don't measure appropriately (unless baking), especially for something like a marinade, which this recipe requires. However, I decided that this blog would be a good excuse to end my silly ways---Because how can you really test a recipe if you don't even follow it appropriately?

Well, I can say I'm a convert, both to following recipes as written, and to the VWAV Tempeh Reuben.

I don't want to post the recipe online, at least not just yet, because I feel guilty posting recipes that have only yet been published in books. But I can tell you that the recipe calls for marinating tempeh and then cooking it on a grill pan (We had to use a skillet, lacking a grill pan. I imagine it might work well on a Foreman grill, if you have one). There's no cheese analog, but there is avocado, which seemed unusual to me, but who doesn't like avocado? There's also a vegan dressing that involves vegan mayo, ketchup, lemon juice, capers and other good stuff. Above is a picture of everything that was used in this recipe. That's white wine, balsamic vinegar and soy sauce (though the recipe called for Bragg's or tamari) in the back. We used New Seasons Caraway Rye, because I got it at a steal, I normally prefer something darker, and Isa suggests pumpernickel. The Turtle Island tempeh was also on sale at New Seasons, and was just the right amount for two people, though I should have sliced it into thinner slabs. As you can see, it made quite a tall sandwich, and it probably would have marinated better in smaller pieces.

So how was it? I have to say I was impressed. Especially with the underwhelming Vita Cafe reuben as a basis for comparison. The list of ingredients for the sandwich topping and dressing seems like overkill at first (Capers? Dill pickles? Avocado, and sauerkraut?) but the flavors and textures combine wonderfully. "Mouth-feel," along with the use of "plate" as a verb, is something you will never see on this food blog, but I will say that the dill pickle slices gave the sandwich a nice crunch, a good contrast to the tempeh and creamy dressing. The fact that you grill the bread in a skillet before constructing the sandwich doesn't hurt the texture, either.

Over all, I found nothing to dislike about this sandwich, aside from the fact it was a little messy to eat. But that was probably mostly my fault. Our dressing turned out a little watery because my jar of Veganaise was almost exhausted and so what was in the jar was a bit runny, and slicing the tempeh thinner would have resulted in a more effective and flavorful marinating as well as a easier sandwich to hold. But the bottom line is, this sandwich is full of delicious fats and variety of salty garnishes -- and what else do you need in a reuben?

B. and I both give it 4 out of 5.

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