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Friday, June 14, 2013

Farewell Tacos!

Because saying good-bye should be tasty.

My roomie is leaving tomorrow on an epic journey.  She'll be spending 7 weeks in a slum in Egypt, doing some kind of volunteer social work, mentoring children.  I know she's going to enjoy the experience and she'll be brilliant over there, but man, I'm gonna miss that kid.

So, to give her a proper send-off, I decided to make what I assumed would be her last, truly delicious home-cooked meal.  In an earlier post, I promised to make something with tempeh.  So, here it is.  You're welcome.

A little about tempeh: Tempeh is a fermented soybean cake.  Sounds delicious, huh?  I actually prefer it over tofu.  It is denser than tofu and has a better mouth feel (translation: it's not squishy and weird).  It's also sturdier, so you can grill with it, pan fry it, or bake it.  Tempeh naturally has a kind of nutty flavor to it, but it's a little dry if you don't marinate it before cooking.  So, that being said, this is one of those pesky "plan-ahead" meals.  But really, let's get serious.  I could have soaked the tempeh overnight, but as it turns out, 20 minutes was plenty.

The tempeh mixed with the pecans gave a "meaty" component to the tacos.  The veggies were hot and spicy, whereas the avocado-ranch was cool and refreshing.  All in all, I'm super proud of this one.  And the roomie approved, which makes it an automatic success.  :)

Tempeh and Pecan Tacos with Avocado Ranch
1 cup vegetable broth
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp liquid smoke
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
8 oz tempeh
1 cup chopped pecans
1/2 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium sweet onion,cut into slices
1 large red bell pepper, cut into slices
8 oz baby bella mushrooms, sliced
1/4 tsp chipotle chile powder
1 large ripe avocado
1/2 cup non-dairy ranch dressing
8 corn shells

Marinade:  In a medium sized mixing bowl, combine broth, garlic, crushed red pepper, cumin, liquid smoke, soy sauce, and balsamic vinegar, and whisk to mix well.  Cut up the tempeh into about 1/2 inch thick slices and place in a shallow dish, preferably not overlapping.  Pour the marinade over the tempeh and let sit for 20.

Veggies:  In a large saute pan, heat olive oil and onions over medium heat for about 4 minutes.  Add peppers and stir, heating for another 2 minutes.  Toss in the mushrooms and stir to combine.  Add the chile powder and stir to mix well.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  REduce heat to medium and cook for 5-6 minutes, until veggies are soft but not overdone.

Taco "meat":  Remove the tempeh from the marinade, but reserve the liquid.  We'll be using that in a sec.
To chop the tempeh, the easiest method would be to pulse it a few times in a food processor.  The trick is, you want smallish pieces similar to ground beef, but not blended so much that it gets pureed.
Combine the chopped tempeh and pecans in a medium sized sauce pan and heat over medium heat.  Start stirring in the leftover marinade, 1-2 tablespoons at a time.  Cook for about 10 minutes, continually adding the marinade until it's gone and the tempeh mixture is cooked through.

Avocado-ranch:  If your avocado is really ripe, you should be able to mash it with a fork until all large lumps are gone.  However, mine was not quite ripe, so I had to run it through the food processor.  Anyhow, however you do it, mix the mashed avocado with the ranch, and stir to combine.

Putting it all together:  Top your shell with the tempeh mix, some veggies, and a dollop of avo-ranch.  Serves 4 (2 tacos per person.  I love math!).

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