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.