Vegan lemongrass tempeh banh mi

Vegan lemongrass tempeh banh mi // Dinners for Winners

Lately I’ve been wanting to change everything.

This summer I stopped eating meat and I stopped having a drink every night of the week and I stopped wearing makeup every day and I tried to never skimp on time with friends. I want to be in the moment! I want to work hard in my new team at the office, to get better at swimming laps, and even though I increased my squats 100 pounds in a month with my new trainer (that’s way more of a brag on him than on myself), I want to keep pushing. I’m sore all the time and I’m alive, y’all. Time is a commodity and I seem to have given up making salad dressing completely and started dousing my daily greens in sriracha, which I’m not convinced was my smartest-ever decision. The vegetarianism is non-negotiable, the makeup still happens a lot. But in my own time; what do I want to have to show for my free time? Free time is precious — so rare, isn’t it, as we get older?

Vegan lemongrass tempeh banh mi // Dinners for Winners

When I was young, I spent hours and hours in my room playing my guitar, standing up close against the closet door so that I could hear my voice back better. Music brought all my feelings to the front of my head and the top of my heart. Reading did, too. Writing, I’m terrible at it, but it helps figure feelings out. There was time for these things. I want to join a band again, that takes time. I want to learn more every day, really listen, and learn. I hate small talk about the weather, I want to know what people eat and what makes them feel feelings.

Challenges are necessary, I want to grow, and feel.

I want everything to change.

Vegan lemongrass tempeh banh mi // Dinners for Winners

I turned 30.

I look 22.

I don’t dress my age, I haven’t stopped wearing Converse since I was in third grade — and speaking of that, the boy I crushed on from fourth grade through eighth grade (and never knew I existed) totally spoke with me the other day. I met his wife and I thought about that crush. He mentioned how I was the only girl who arrived at the baby shower on a motorcycle that weekend, and I thought about how much I wanted him to notice me when I was 11, and how weird and relieving it is that paths almost never take us where we might have hoped so hard to end up.

This summer has begun to refresh my feeling of feelings, especially smack in between our sixth wedding anniversary and my birthday, you know: the week Ryan Adams put out his new record. Ryan’s songs have always intensified the stuff on my mind. He gets me. God bless him, he and I have the same hair again right now! Just like when I was 16 and he was 26. And he is getting things figured out and I’m so glad he is happy.

I’m happy, too.

Even when I still ate meat and had no idea that would ever change, tempeh was a thing I really liked eating. It has a toasty flavor, and texturally can be dictated, depending on how it’s prepared. Banh mi remains one of my top FAVorite sandwiches of all time, and this meatless version is everything about it  — shattery-light crust, chiles tasting of green and plenty of creamy mayo. But the tempeh holds its own here, sauced in a deep-orange lemongrass/sriracha marinade with plenty of umami-rich Maggi seasoning. It’s intense and it’s awesome and who even misses the pork.

I’m not discontent, but I’m pushing. I’m marathoning at everything. My feet hurt and I don’t think I know how to stop. I get worn out and then I had this thing on Instagram where I was like “aw, I wish I had time to make jam!” and everyone was like “you totally do!” but I totally don’t, and it’s because I’m working on my deadlifts or re-potting herbs or experimenting with banh mi, or my mom stopped by unexpectedly to bring me tomatoes and conversation which means I lost the light and never photographed that blog post and I so did not care, or I’m at Salad Night/Girl Talk at my bff’s every Wednesday and trying not to fall asleep until I’m all the way home.

I’m alive.

Vegan lemongrass tempeh banh mi // Dinners for Winners

Vegan lemongrass tempeh banh mi

Makes 3 sandwiches, with extra lemongrass “barbecue” sauce
Adapted from Andrea Nguyen’s fabulous Banh Mi Handbook: Recipes for Crazy-Delicious Vietnamese Sandwiches

For lemongrass tempeh:

  • an 8-oz package tempeh
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • thumb-sized piece of ginger, peeled
  • 4 green onions
  • 1 medium stalk lemongrass, tough outer leaves removed
  • juice of 2 limes
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1/4 cup sriracha
  • 1/4 cup Maggi seasoning (which is vegan, but can substitute soy sauce/tamari/aminos)
  • 1 1/2 cups water

For sandwiches:

  • 3 thin-crusted bread rolls (the rolls I get at a Vietnamese market do not list any dairy or eggs in the ingredients)
  • pickled carrots and daikon
  • mayo or vegan mayo
  • cilantro leaves
  • serrano chile, thinly sliced (I find serranos to be more predictable than jalapenos, which sometimes are SO HOT I can’t feel my face, and other times, so not)

Slice tempeh crosswise, about 1/4-inch thick. Roughly chop garlic, ginger, lemongrass and green onions before whirling in a food processor. After they’ve formed a rough mince, add remaining ingredients and pulse to blend. Pour over tempeh slices in a large shallow dish and let marinate for 30 minutes, or place in the fridge overnight (bring to room temp before cooking if doing the latter).

Preheat oven to 375. Remove tempeh slices from marinade and bake in a single layer on a parchment-lined sheet for 20 – 30 minutes, until crisped and browned. (This can be done ahead, chilled, and reheated in an oven or skillet later.) During baking time, slice the rolls (its ok to cut all the way through) and pop them in the oven for 5 or so minutes until the outsides get crisp. I like to remove a little of the bread inside each roll TO MAKE ROOM for fillings.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, let that marinade cook up and thicken, reducing by half at least if you’ve the patience. I added 1/4 cup sugar to this step because I thought it would be nice. It was.

Layer sandwiches with plenty of mayo, tempeh slices, cilantro, chiles, carrots/daikons, and extra dashes of sriracha or Maggi/tamari if desired. I had time to let the marinade reduce quite a bit, and I thought adding some of it to the sandwich itself was really wonderfully flavorful and great. I felt like my tempeh barbecued for me. How awesome is that!

Three-ingredient potato galette

Three-ingredient potato galette // Dinners for Winners

Our dog has been eating our food!

So not cool.

He is not allowed to have human food, he gets to eat dog food. No scraps from the table, period. I mean, if I drop a piece of something I’m chopping onto the kitchen floor, he is QUICK, and that’s fair game, I get it. But recently while I was out having coffee with my sister, he climbed his little self up onto the kitchen counter and took some nibbles from the Irish soda bread I’d made that morning. I could tell immediately because the loaf was scooted well off the cutting board.

A week or so later, I returned home from the gym to see he had gotten into a dish of mini Herseys (THAT COULD HAVE KILLED YOU, WALLACE!). Thankfully, he seemed to enjoy shredding the wrappers more than eating the candy. There were five or six scattered across the counter, a few on the couch, and several near his favorite sunny spot on the floor, shredded foil everywhere.

The worst of all was Sunday afternoon, after my long swim. I was SO HUNGRY and my blood sugar felt way too low to take time to cook anything. With an upscale local grocery on my way home from the gym, I decided it would be the perfect time to finally try their salad bar that tempts me every time I see it. I’ve never eaten a kale salad that I didn’t make myself so I was very interested in theirs. I got home and I set the clamshell container on the coffee table and went to fill a glass with water. I turned around and WALLACE HAD HIS FACE IN MY SALAD. I was furious! I smacked his butt and yelled quite a bit. Some profanities, I confess. Our neighbors probably thought the worst of me right about then.

I was so angry and so hungry. That little turd!

Three-ingredient potato galette // Dinners for Winners

It seems ridiculous that this keeps happening, but I am unused to him being so brazen…. which I think is keeping me from taking proper preventative measures. He has never really been one to be aggressive about stealing food and I didn’t think he would change now at six years old. You know?

Last night I was getting out of the shower, and our stinky dog met me at the bathroom door happily licking his chops. “What did you do, Wallace!” I cried and ran downstairs. Yep: potato galette took a hit.

Good thing I’d already shot photos.

Three-ingredient potato galette // Dinners for Winners

I know turning on the oven doesn’t seem very summery, but this is such a wonderful cookout or picnic side dish, I just had to share. Potatoes have always been at home alongside summer dishes, from smoked sausages to grilled chicken or hot dogs. Why does it have to be chips from a bag? A wedge of stacked, delicately sliced potatoes is a tasty grown-up variation. And if you’re picnicking or attending a potluck, a dish equally delicious served at room temperature, chilled or hot from the oven is always great to have in the arsenal. (And I think little slices wrapped in parchment and string would be welcome in anyone’s lunch bag at work.)

Three-ingredient potato galette // Dinners for Winners

This freeform galette takes about 10 minutes to assemble, especially if you have a mandoline to make quick work of the slicing. Slice, layer and bake. The onions positively melt into the layers of paper-thin potatoes, which become velvety and flavorful, greater than the sum of their parts. I love the crisp edges and top of this galette, deep-brown and crunchy. In cooler months, I enjoy spicing up this dish with dried rosemary, some fennel seeds or smokey paprika. Shredded cheeses such as Gruyere or Parmesan are wonderful additions, too. But salt and pepper are all it needs to be something special.

Just don’t let our dog near it!

Three-ingredient potato galette // Dinners for Winners

Three-ingredient potato galette

serves 10 as a side
Note: the potatoes will weep liquid when sliced, but let it be; once I tried to be smart and patted everything dry before baking, which yielded a tough, chewy galette that no one dug. The moisture is totally necessary.
  • 8 waxy potatoes such as Yukon Gold (about 2 pounds)
  • 1 medium yellow onion, halved lengthwise
  • 5 tablespoons butter or olive oil

Pre-heat oven to 425F and line a baking sheet with parchment.

Melt the butter in a large mixing bowl, or place the olive oil. Slice the potatoes into rounds and the onion into half-moons, very thinly, and toss with butter or oil in the bowl. Layer potatoes in concentric circles on parchment-lined baking sheet, letting onions mingle throughout. The galette should be roughly 10 – 11 inches in diameter. Every two layers of potatoes/onion, season generously with salt and pepper, including lastly on top. Use a little more salt than you think you might need; the potatoes need it.

Alternatively, arrange this in a cast-iron skillet — a layer of parchment helps it come out easily, but that’s up to you.

Bake for about 50 minutes or until tender throughout. Ten minutes before it’s done, take the galette out and brush or spray the top with butter or oil to finish baking. If top is browning too quickly, cover with foil.

Slice into wedges and serve hot, at room temperature or chilled.

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