Tempeh, Lettuce, and Tomato

I think what I love most about seasonal eating, is the memory, emotion, and connection it evokes.  Heirloom Tomato Basil Pizza will always remind me of our first summer in our house in Grand Rapids, where our friend Scott introduced me to heirloom tomatoes at the Farmer's Market.  He showed us how to make a simple pizza with heirloom tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, garlic, and basil.  We then proceeded to make that pizza every weekend for the rest of the summer.  Winter potato tacos will always take me back to our cozy apartment in Chicago, where we snuggled in with our pup while the gusty winds blew.  

And when I eat a BLT or a TLT for a late summer lunch, I think of my Grandpa Harvey.  I don't remember him eating much else besides beef roast and mashed potatoes, and BLT's from Russ'.  I doubt I could have won him over to this version (he wasn't the most adventurous eater), which uses tempeh instead of bacon, cashew mayo, dandelion greens, and heirloom tomatoes (I'm sure I could have sold him on the heirloom's). But giving comfort food a little make over is one of my favorite recipe developing challenges, and I darn near nailed this one! 

The key to a delicious TLT is the best, juiciest, heirloom tomato you can find, and simple, crusty, artisan bread. Both are easy to find this time of year at farmer's markets.  We used dandelion greens instead of lettuce, but any leafy green will do. 

Tempeh is a highly nutritious fermented (contains probiotics) food made from soybeans and rice. It originated in Indonesia several hundred years ago, and is still somewhat new for many people. 

Yes, it looks a little ugly - lumpy and brain-like - but it easily absorbs the flavor of the foods it is cooked with, making it adaptable to many dishes. Tempeh is loaded with protein, has an earthy, nutty taste and is dense and filling. It is also high in fiber, B vitamins, and amino acids. It is an excellent substitute for meat, but a real gem weather you are a meat eatin' gal/guy or not. 

In this recipe, we marinate the tempeh for a few minutes, then throw it in a pan over medium heat for 2 minutes. Then it's ready to go. Simple!


1 block - tempeh 

Tempeh Marinade

2 T. - maple syrup
1 T. - olive oil
1 t. - tamari
1/2 t. - paprika
1/2 t. cumin
dash - cayenne 

Cashew Mayo

1 c. - raw cashews
1/4 c. - water
1 T. - lime juice
1/2 t. - apple cider vinegar
1/2 t. - sea salt
pinch - cayenne (optional)  

2 large - heirloom tomatoes, sliced
2 c. - leafy greens of choice (romaine, mixed greens, chard, etc.)
8 slices - local artisan bread, toasted


  1. Slice tempeh into very thin strips.
  2. In a shallow dish, whisk together marinade. Soak tempeh strips in the marinade for 3-5 minutes. 
  3. While tempeh marinates, make the cashew mayo. Throw the ingredients into a food processor, and blend until smooth. 
  4. Heat a large skillet over medium/high heat. Place strips on the hot skillet, and pour a bit of the marinade on top.  Cook for 1 minute, then flip. Cook another minute, until both sides are crisp and brown. Transfer to a plate, season with sea salt and black pepper. 
  5. On toasted bread, spread a generous portion of cashew mayo, then layer on the tempeh, a generous amount of tomatoes, and greens. 

Have a delicious weekend!



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