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Mar. 15 2010 - 1:47 am | 800 views | 1 recommendation | 5 comments

Are You a Tempeh or Tofu Virgin?

As many of you already may know, I host a weekly chat at Culinate, and once a month the focus is on meatless cooking, eating and shopping.  In last week’s chat, I asked if anyone cooks with tofu and/or tempeh and if not, who’s afraid to tip toe in that direction.

For the uninitiated or for those who need a refresher, both tempeh and tofu are both made from soybeans.  To make tempeh, whole soybeans are cultured with a mold (think cheese making) which binds the beans into a solid “cake.” The resulting texture: toothy and chewy, can be cut with knife and fork. The flavor:  Mushroom-y.  Tofu is soy milk that has been coagulated into curds. The resulting texture: Out of the package, squishy and soft like  scrambled eggs or soft cheese.  When drained, marinated and cooked, tofu “dries” and hardens, developing a crust that mimics fish or chicken.

The response was interesting, altho perhaps not surprising:  By and large, the meat-eating folk are interested and curious for both health & environmental reasons, but downright flummoxed by how to cook either or both, and as a result, avoid it at all costs.

It got me thinking about my own adjustment to and adoption of T&T, which was slow, rocky and uncommitted, until I got a handle on how to turn tempeh and tofu into savory morsels.  It took many years of kitchen failures until I understood just how versatile and delicious T&T can be.

To that end, I’ve cooked up The Tempeh & Tofu Challenge, a week-long experiment in this space, where home cooks embark on their maiden T&T kitchen voyages.  Readers are invited to sign up for the “T&T Honor Roll,” and from that list, I’ll select five reader-bloggers to share their ups/downs &  first-hand reports on their “first time.”

In addition, T&T veteran experts will be on hand, dishing up kitchen wisdom all week long. You’ll learn from the likes of vegan cookbook authors Bryant Terry (Vegan Soul Kitchen), Isa Chandra Moskowitz (Veganomicon) and Fran Costigan (More Great Good Dairy-Free Desserts). You’ll get inspired by Miami Herald and Huffington Post veg columnist Ellen Kanner and NoCal cooking teacher Jill Nussinow (aka The Veggie Queen).  And you’ll get tricks of the trade from vegetarian cookbook trailblazers Mollie Katzen (Moosewood Cookbook and most recently, “Get Cooking”) and Crescent Dragonwagon (The Passionate Vegetarian).

If ever there was an opportunity to get schooled in T&T, the week of April 5 is it!

Who’s in?

Send me an e-mail to sign up for the T&T Honor Roll; in the body of your note, please include your name, city, state (or country, if outside the US). If you’d like to be considered as a reader-blogger, include a few lines about what you’d like to learn from the T&T Challenge.  The Honor Roll will be updated daily until Friday, April 2.


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  1. collapse expand

    I am so glad you are doing this – I have cooked occasionally with tofu and tempeh, but only got more serious about it this year – and cookbooks by Bryant Terry and Isa Chandra Moskowitz have been super helpful in making both delicious!

  2. collapse expand

    Thanks, Valerie. It’s promising to be a very exciting week. I’m hoping it will inspire the T&T-squeamish to give it a try, with some of the veggie greats leading the path!

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    About Me

    You might know me from The Washington Post, where for a dozen years I dished up cooking content, both as Web chat hostess ("What's Cooking") and daily blog minx ("A Mighty Appetite").

    To the table, I offer a stew of journalism (total = 16 years) and cooking smarts (a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education), served with a side of life-long curiosity.

    Home is Seattle for now, but until last year was parked on the east coast, born and raised outside of Philadelphia, where H20 is pronounced "wooder."

    In addition to the Post, I have written for Real Simple, Smithsonian.com and Culinate, where I host "Table Talk," a weekly chat every Thursday (1 pm ET/ 10a PT).

    Send story ideas, questions and crumbs to: writingfoodATgmail.com

    You can follow me on twitter, too: twitter.com/kimodonnel

    See my profile »
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    Contributor Since: April 2009
    Location:Seattle

    What I'm Up To

    About “Licking Your Chops”

    Coming in September: The Meat Lover’s Meatless Cookbook (Da Capo Press). Now available for pre-order on Amazon, BN.com, Indie Bound and Powell’s.

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    T&T Honor Roll: Hats off to Those Who Took the Tempeh & Tofu Challenge.