Eat More Veggies!
Here’s a new way of cooking vegetables that I think you’ll love. Macrobiotic nishime style vegetables are slowly steamed until the cooking liquid has evaporated, leaving the vegetables sweet, flavorful, and creamy–but not overcooked or mushy. Here, we take it up a notch by adding some crispy pan-fried tempeh. In Japan, this dish is often served at New Year’s or to people healing from an illness.
The Art of Nishime-Style Cooking
There is an art to making this dish– you must use the minimum amount of water so that you don’t lose nutrients or flavor into the steaming liquid. When you slow cook the vegetables, it gives time for juices to come out of the vegetables and help steam them, and prevents burning the bottom of the pot. Ideally, you’ll steam the vegetables just long enough that no liquid remains.
This can be achieved by following these steps: 1) choose a pot with a heavy bottom and lid that is the right size to fill with vegetables about 3/4 of the way to the top, 2) cut veggies into medium to large sized pieces, 3) place a few squares of kombu on the bottom of the pot and put enough water just to cover the bottom of the pot, 4) add veggies and tempeh (if using) and sprinkle with a pinch of sea salt, 5) turn heat to medium low for a few minutes, then turn to medium hight and bring to a boil, covered, until you see steam coming out the sides of the pot, 6) do not lift the lid when you see the steam, simply turn the burner down as low as it will go, and let steam for about 20 minutes before checking for doneness, 7) sprinkle with shoyu or tamari and give a quick shake, 8) let sit about 5 minutes before serving.
What Kind of Tempeh Should I Use?
I like using Flying Tempeh Bros. tempeh available at Wheatsville Coop in their freezer section. Make sure you get an organic variety. Sometimes you can find tempeh made out of chickpeas or other beans (instead of soybeans). Those can be interesting to try and have a different flavor and texture.
Pre-cook Tempeh Before Steaming with Vegetables
Tempeh should be a nice golden brown on at least 2 sides before seasoning with shoyu or tamari.
Other Specialty Ingredients – Lotus Root and Kombu
Dried lotus root is a specialty ingredient in this recipe. You can substitute another vegetable such as green cabbage, Brussels sprouts, or parsnip, sweet potato, but lotus root has a delicious and unique flavor (almost like a very flavorful, less starchy potato) that you’ll want to try sometime. In Austin, you can buy this at Central Market. For an extra special touch, try pan frying the lotus root (after it has rehydrated) before putting into the pot with the other vegetables.
Another specialty ingredient used in this recipe is kombu sea vegetable. It adds flavor and minerals to the vegetables and also helps prevent the vegetables from sticking to the pot. You can find Atlantic varieties of kombu such as the Ironbound Island or Maine Coast Sea Vegetables brands.Print
- 8 ounces tempeh, cubed
- 2 teaspoon untoasted sesame oil or extra-virgin olive oil
- shoyu or tamari, to taste
- 2 small squares kombu
- 1 cup kabocha, butternut, or delicata squash, cut into 1-inch chunks
- 1 cup carrots, cut into 1/2-inch chunks or roll cut
- 1 cup yellow or red onion, large dice
- 1 cup daikon, cut into 1/2-inch rounds
- 1/2 cup dried lotus root slices, rehydrated (optional)
- spring or filtered water
- Heat cast iron skillet over medium heat and add oil. Pan fry tempeh for about 3 minutes on each side. Remove to a plate and sprinkle generously with shoyu or tamari. Set aside.
- Place kombu in bottom of heavy pot with lid (such as a Le Creuset round oven) and cover the bottom with about 1/4-inch water. Layer vegetables on top of kombu and sprinkle evenly with a few pinches sea salt. Add pan-fried tempeh.
- Cover pot and place on medium heat until it comes to a boil and a good steam is generated (you will see the steam coming out of the sides of the pot). Do not open lid at this point.
- Lower the flame and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes or until vegetables become soft. Check for doneness by piercing a carrot or daikon chunk with a fork to see if it is tender.
- Season lightly with shoyu or tamari, turn off flame, and cover for a few minutes (or simmer for a few more minutes if needed).
- Toss pot gently with the lid on (do not stir) to distribute juices and serve.
Try using other vegetables such as Brussels sprouts (trim and cut in half), sweet potato (peel and cut into large cubes), parsnips (peel and slice into 1/2-inch rounds), and green cabbage (cut into cubes).