Sometimes I suspect that pâté is the glue that binds my being together. Its savory richness is a recurring echo good naturedly chasing my thoughts. While I do not indulge nearly enough, every cell is dialed into that lingering flavor in deep recognition. From varieties with guttural stick-to-your-rib names like ‘Braunschweiger’ or ‘liverwurst’ to kingly ‘foie gras terrine’, these pastes of organ bits, trunks and ankles were no doubt the brainchild of one resourceful cook determined to coax strong flavored scraps into manageable palatable form. In the end a triumphant blend emerged; protein, wine, and herb lustily delivered upon a flavorful raft of fat. Some have pronounced the satiny spread a veritable mink blanket for the eternal soul and I without pause- agree.
Still there are foes to fat amongst us: breatharians, dieticians, and cardiologists to name a few. But they are not the only contrary ones. Surprising a turncoat on occasion I find myself- eschewing the cornichon and capers, mere accessories before hurtling past the baguette loaded with liver. It is my inner ascetic hard-at-work delivering a well crafted sermon, scornful of things opulent and earthly, which gets me waffling.
“And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” Matthew 19:24
As necessity is the mother of invention and pâté essential for happiness, I find myself in search of something that creates an umami rich blend with pleasing mouth feel that can be indiscriminately scooped and slathered onto crisp bread while boosting body and soul. In quick divinely inspired succession, “tofu…miso…tempeh” started a search that revealed, necessity struck the heart of former porcine loving vegans as well.
Tempeh is that thin rectangular block stacked patiently next to the tofu. One must be forewarned that the appearance is unusual and a touch off putting if caught unaware. The first time I bought it, the package hung in the back of the cold cut drawer for an uncomfortably long time, an irksome reminder of things-good-for-me-to-do. Rescued just before the expiration date I uncovered a mottled, ever so slightly moldy looking, shiny in some parts, beige-ish pressed form. This fermented Indonesian “meat” loaf is after all the result of partially cooked soybeans inoculated with Rhizopus oligosporus. It is a complete protein, full of fiber, B vitamins, and calcium- and hard to overlook. Unlike tofu its mild mannered cousin, tempeh is a more assertive form of soy announcing glutamate rich top notes as well as undertones of ‘shrooms and nuts. This heterogeneous toothsome textured mat lends itself well to being sliced, diced or grated while providing physically gratifying chew. Tempeh works hard to fill the gap that animal meat leaves behind.
While I look for ways to reduce, stretch, and recycle- an abstemious way of life will alas, never be mine. No doubt I will always eye the Saint-André and smack my lips at the thought of Lardo di Colonnata; but now at least I can finally say I am tempted and for the moment, tempered- by tempeh.
Tempeh Pâté: Adapted by The Vegan Chef, Beverly Lynn Bennett
8 oz. multigrain tempeh, crumbled
12 oz. crimini mushroom, chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 Tblsp. Olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped
3 Tblsp. Bragg Liquid Aminos
3 Tblsp. Red wine
1/8 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
Scoop of Mayonnaise, few blocks of silken tofu, and/or handful of finely chopped walnuts
Directions: Heat up a medium sized skillet to medium hot and add the oil. Sauté the onion, 2 cloves of garlic, and the mushrooms for several minutes to get a bit of color going. Add the crumbled tempeh and continue cooking and moving the mixture about for another 5 minutes. Add the rosemary, liquid aminos, red wine, and black pepper and lower the heat continuing to cook the crumbled bits. Allow the mixture to cool a few minutes before blitzing up in a food processor. I made mine in two stages allowing one half to be mashed up into a smoother paste, while leaving the other half slightly chunkier. Remove to a bowl and stir in the remaining minced garlic clove. Refrigerate for a few hours and taste. Without hesitation I felt that a good scoop of mayo was just the thing to get the right mouth feel, but that would un-veganize things. I think a reasonably good alternative would be to add a bit of silken tofu or chopped walnuts to the food processor while blitzing. This is an appealing pâté that can be easily adjusted to capture the right taste/texture. Who knew?