Seared Tempeh & Lemon Caper Tahini Sauce

This past Monday I started a diet/cleanse regiment that allows me to eat one meal a day while basing the diet on meal replacement shakes & cleanse drinks.  Luckily for me, the shakes & cleanse don’t leave me hungry or without energy–in fact, I’ve been able to increase my swims from 1 mile with flippers to 1 mile without flippers (a huge energy shift)–and while I haven’t checked the scale today, I can definitely feel my body shedding some extra fat.  The fat-to-muscle transfer, of course, doesn’t show up on the scale, but my body feels tighter overall.  It’s not that I’m overweight–I’m definitely not–but I have an extra 8-10 pounds that I picked up over the holidays that just won’t seem to go away, no matter how much exercise I add on.  As much as I love going home and seeing my mother, I’m not sure it’s such a good thing for my waistline.

That said, the one meal a day that I do eat is extremely important to me. In case you hadn’t already guessed from the nature of the blog, I’m extraordinarily food-obsessed. And as I’ve learned over the past couple of days, my life revolves around cooking and eating. The act of chewing makes me happy. It seems sad, reading that last sentence, but it’s true. Without the ability to chew 2 out of 3 meals, I’m a little bit down these days. But it’s all going to be worth it, I keep telling myself–especially when I finish that darn triathlon.

In order to eat an almost carb-free, well-balanced, protein-packed, vegetable based dinner this week, I’ve turned to my least favorite, but now on good terms, soy product, tempeh. I’ve never understood tempeh, never understood how to get the bitterness out, how to make it shine the way the rest of you bloggers do. Some people seem gifted with the product, but I just feel dumb. That is until now.

After eating the most amazing tempeh benedict at Ipanema this past weekend, I knew I wanted to create something similar. Something similar, but something without the carbs and with more amazing vegetables. And right now, with my potato bin filled to to top with local sweet potatoes, I knew the tuber would play a major role. But the problem, of course, is that I don’t really know how to handle tempeh. But then this week Renee posted a recipe for marinated tempeh and, inspired, I decided to play around with the idea, see what I could cook up.

The finished plate is a bed of roasted sweet potato slices (slice the sweet potatoes into rounds, toss them in olive oil, salt, and pepper, and roast them for 45 minutes at 400 degrees F) topped with sauteed spinach and portobello mushrooms (with onions and garlic, in olive oil, salt, pepper, cumin, and aleppo pepper), a piece of marinated and seared tempeh, and drizzled with a super garlicky tahini sauce. Delicious? I think so. And is tempeh alright with me? For sure. Gluten-free too. How could you go wrong?

The marinade for the tempeh is salty and tangy and smoky, which is kind of like the tempeh at Ipanema, and, thankfully, all of the bitterness associated with improperly cooked tempeh is nonexistent. Searing it gave it a nice caramelized crunch, and by cutting the protein in half width-wise, the portions are perfectly sized for someone looking to have a balanced meal. As for the tahini sauce, the only reason I’m posting it is because it’s out of this world. I mean, most tahini sauces are pretty darn good, but this time I randomly decided to unceremoniously dump the remains of my jar of capers into the blender, and holy yum, you should try it out. The capers add the briny element I was looking for in the sauce, but also add a kick–a perfect punch in the mouth to complement the pungent garlic and smooth tahini. So yes, blogging world, in addition to giving you yet another butternut squash soup recipe, I’m also giving you yet another tahini sauce recipe. Some things recycle after you’ve been doing this for 3 years (yup, February marked 3 years, even though my archives don’t go that far back–long story).

So if nothing else, go make some tahini sauce. Or, at least, celebrate because tomorrow is Friday!

Seared Tempeh with Tahini Sauce

For the tempeh:
1 8 oz package tempeh
1/4 c Bragg’s Amino Acids
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp liquid smoke
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
pepper to taste

For the tahini sauce:
3 tbsp tahini
2 tbsp nutritional yeast
1 tbsp capers
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, minced

Cut the tempeh into thirds. Then cut each third in half to make six evenly sized pieces.

In a casserole or pie dish, combine the Bragg’s, red wine vinegar, garlic, and pepper.

Place the tempeh into the dish and let marinate on each side for at least 2 hours. I did 3 hours on each side and the marinade was completely soaked up, minus the garlic, when I cooked it.

Meanwhile, blend all of the tahini sauce ingredients in a food processor or blender. Add water until the desired consistency is reached.

When you’re ready to cook the tempeh, warm 1-2 tbsp of vegetable oil (or peanut or coconut) in a saute pan over medium heat. Sear the tempeh for 2-3 minutes on each side until golden brown.

Remove from heat and serve with roasted sweet potatoes and sauted spinach and mushrooms. Drizzle the tahini sauce on top of all components.

Serves 4.

16 Responses to “Seared Tempeh & Lemon Caper Tahini Sauce”
  1. jessy says:

    capers make me so happyfaced, and adding them to tahini is a match made in tasty, tasty heaven. i am always up for another tahini recipe! i’m glad you and tempeh are on good terms now, Jes. it took me a while to enjoy it, too. the bitterness and texture always got me, but marinating is the key, indeed. your marinade is something we’ve gotta try – i love the addition of the vinegar and liquid smoke, and i love how you served it with some deeelicous veg. mushrooms, spinach, and sweet potatoes = yum! i might try this with kale, too. i gained a good 10 pounds over the holidays. it’s funny, because it’s all stress eating for me during that time. i freak out with all my (very much loved) family and i eat like crazy to stuff my anxiety waaaaay down. it’s not very healthy, but it helps me through all the craziness. ah ha ha! i just need to learn to not freak out about things, but it’s all gooood. i’m glad you’re not hungry on your cleanse. when i did the crazy sexy life ACT Cleanse i wasn’t hungry either – it was so nice, and i was way nicer as i turn into one helluva crabby patty when my stomach’s growling. rock on with the swimming – you’re kicking ass!

  2. Brittany says:

    oh my, this looks stunning

  3. mihl says:

    That looks amazingly simple and so good! I need to grab a packet of tempeh soon!

  4. BitterSweet says:

    Yum! This dish looks both easy and very impressive, two qualities that are hard to get together. Always happy to have a new method for preparing tempeh, too!

  5. a-k says:

    Yum! That sounds a little bit like my dream dinner…and beautifully plated as well. I think I know what I’m gonna do with that tempeh I’ve got in the fridge :)

  6. eileen says:

    oh man, I haven’t had tempeh in weeks, but this just made my mouth start watering! especially with the sweet potato and tahini..I may have to stop by the store later!

  7. Renae says:

    That looks completely amazing (if I ignore the mushrooms :)), and I’m with you on capers making everything even better so I’m definitely trying the tahini sauce.

  8. Virginie P. says:

    I recently made a sauce using capers and tahini too, and I found the combination very good. Interesting the way you process the tempeh. Usually, I love tempeh so much that I just fry it and don’t take the time to really cook it. Have to think double time next time.

  9. shellyfish says:

    beautiful! Lovely plating job, and the combination of flavours & textures – dynamite. Sounds like you’re making some great decisons & taking care of yourself – right on!

  10. That looks AMAZING! I think I might have to make a whole gallon of that tahini sauce and pour it on everything. Yum!

  11. t says:

    Wow, that looks so gourmet and delicious! Liquid smoke is always a good addition.

  12. Wow. The tempeh looks freaking fantastic! What a delicious sounding recipe and BEAUTIFUL photo! Sounds like an amazing meal, making up for the two liquid ones. Best of luck with the cleanse.

  13. Mary says:

    I made this tonight–what a beautiful colorful dish and the textures of the tempeh, sweet potatoes, mushrooms and spinach complimented each other so well. My husband and I loved it.

  14. veganf says:

    OMGahhhh, that looks soooo good. I love me some tempeh, and w/capers? Nom nom nom.

  15. Elizabeth Semple says:

    Hi Jes! Found your blog by searching “tahini caper sauce.” Thank you for what promises to be a yummy recipe!

    Meanwhile, do you care to share the actual names of the meal replacement shakes & cleanse drinks you are use?

    Thank you so much,
    Elizabeth in Asheville

    • Jes says:

      Hi Elizabeth! The shakes & I was taking were the Isagenix system– I think you can find them on Amazon now or through their website. Cheers!

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