Tempeh and Eggplant Ragu with Quinoa

Recipe trying to imitate: Eggplant Ragu from Granville Cafe

Eggplant Ragu

Upon hearing a phrase “fermented soy beans,” we Japanese are probably the only people who would go “Mmmmm…. Now THAT sounds delicious” and even truely mean it.  But why not?  They have given us critical foundation for traditional Japanese flavors that we simply should not live without – Soy sauce is made of fermented soy beans, for instance, and so is miso.  And let’s not forget that dreaded but addictive natto.  Mmmmmm.

So as you can imagine, I think quite highly of fermented soy beans and believe anything that comes from them, even if it is originated outside of Japan like tempeh, cannot be not awesome.  But all these make it kind of ironic that my favorite tempeh recipe couldn’t be farther away from any Asian flavor. 

My dedicated vegan friend Jason told me about this dish served at Granville Cafe, a restaurant near my office, and I instantly became a fan, too.  I love that tempeh is carrying the dish here with its own taste and texture, not as ground meat “substitute” as it often is for many recipes, yet surprisingly well balanced with other decidedly Italian ingredients.

It took me a few tries to get it right, but I think this is pretty close.  Nutty, flavorful tempeh? Check.  Melt-in-your-mouth eggplant chunks?  Hell yes.  Tangy olives and capers as well as crunchy toasted pine nuts?  Done and DONE.  All in simple tomato sauce over the bowl of quinoa, and you got one seriously healthy, delicious meal. Enjoy, and YOU ARE WELCOME.

RECIPE (2 generous servings)

Ingredients:

I just realized the list is a bit long but all you do is bascially to put them in a pan in the order, sauté, and simmer.  Eggplant and tempeh need an extra step to prep that should not be skipped, however – When I make this on a weekday, I would come home from work, prep them first while being careful not to puncture the kitchen mat with my highheels, and go do other things such as change, drink wine, feed animals (I have lots so it takes time), and drink wine (Did I say that already?  Well do it again anyway) as I wait for eggplant, then start cooking.

  • 1 medium eggplant (2-3 Japanese eggplants)
  • 1 tablespoon and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided. Plus some to taste to prepare tempeh
  • 1/2 package tempeh (package size may vary depending on the brand – Check the label and use 2 serving portions)
  • 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1/2 14 oz. canned tomato (diced)
  • 1 tablespoon sun-dried tomato (I have used oil-packed ones or semi-dried ones, and both seem to work fine)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon pine nuts
  • 10 kalamata olives, cut in half
  • 1 tablespoon capers
  • 1-2 tablespoon parsley or herb of your choice (I used cilantro here)
  • Cooked quinoa

Method:

  1. Cut eggplant into 1/2-3/4 inch dice and put them in a bowl. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon salt and blend well to make sure they are evenly covered. Let it stand for 30 minutes.
  2. Cut tempeh into 1/2-3/4 inch dice. Boil them for 3 minutes, drain well and put them in a small bowl. Drizzle balsamic vinegar over them and sprinkle a pinch of salt to taste, while they are still hot.
  3. After 30 minutes, drain off liquid from eggplant, rinse well and squeeze gently to further drain moisture. Pat dry.
  4. Heat olive oil in a heavy, flat pan (sauce pan or braising pan would do) with a lid over medium heat. Add onion and saute until it is oftened about 4-5 minutes. Add garlic and once its flavor comes out, add tomato paste and cook for 1 minute.
  5. Add tomato, sun-dried tomato, tempeh, sugar and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt.  Cook a minute or so to blend well, then reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and simmer for 35 minutes.  Check and stir occasionally – Add water or wine that you are drinking if it is sticking to the pan.
  6. While ragu is cooking, toast pine nuts by sauteing on a heated dry pan until it is golden (when you start seeing them coloring, remove the pan from heat immediately so they don’t get burned).  If you are cooking quinoa, too, you should start during this time as well so it will be done by the time the dish is done.
  7. Stir in olive, caper and toasted pine nuts and simmer 5 more minutes, or until eggplants are soft.
  8. Remove from heat and stir in chopped herb.
  9. Serve it over a bed of cooked quinoa and garnish with extra herb, if you would like.
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