Convert favorite chicken recipes to ones based on tempeh. Like chicken, tempeh is a protein-rich food with substantial texture that takes on flavors well. Unlike chicken, tempeh is a plant food with lots of fiber (chicken has none), and with no animal hormones nor cholesterol. This basic recipe with variations will get you started. And you can enjoy the pesto recipes that follow as either an under sauce or a topping for the braised tempeh.

Makes 2 to 3 servings
2 teaspoons olive oil
8-ounce package tempeh, cut in 1/2-inch slices
1/3 to 1/2 cup water (more with Lightlife tempeh which is larger in size)
2 teaspoons natural soy sauce or tamari/wheat-free soy sauce (I prefer Nama Shoyu brand)

1. Heat oil in a pan that will accommodate tempeh slices. Add tempeh and cover to brown, about 5 minutes. Turn tempeh.
2. Mix remaining ingredients and pour over tempeh, being aware that liquid may spatter. Quickly set cover in place to cook tempeh until liquid is absorbed, about 10 minutes.

Lemon-Rosemary Tempeh: Add 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 1 clove pressed garlic, ½ teaspoon minced fresh rosemary and some freshly ground pepper with liquid ingredients.
Tempeh Italiano: Add olives, capers, garlic and fresh basil or Italian seasonings.
Tex-Mex Tempeh: Substitute orange juice for water and add 2 tablespoons lime juice, cilantro, garlic, chili powder and salsa.

For 3 servings, per serving:
Calories: 173 Protein: 12gm Saturated Fat: 0.85gm Fiber: 6gm Carbohydrates: 18 gm Fat: 6 gm Cholesterol: 0 Sodium: 169mg
Calories from Protein: 27% Calories from Fats: 31% Calories from Carbohydrates: 42 %
Note: Tempeh naturally contains 20% calories from fat. To keep meals including a braised tempeh dish under 20% fat calories, serve with a fat-free whole grain or vegetable dish, or dessert. With just 1 teaspoon oil, fat calories are 25%. With 1 tablespoon oil, fat content is 36%. With 2 tablespoons oil (the amount called for in many recipes), 47% calories come from fat.

Basil-Mint Pesto
Makes ¾ to 1 cup
Pesto makes a great undersauce for braised tempeh. Color, flavor and consistency are maintained with refrigeration for a couple of days. A smaller volume is difficult to blend in a food processor.

Two 2-ounce bunches basil, 3 cups leaves only, gently packed
A 2-ounce bunch mint, 3 cups leaves only, gently packed
2 large cloves garlic
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon soy sauce or tamari
1/4 teaspoon unrefined sea salt
1 teaspoon olive oil (optional)
1 tablespoon water (optional)

Process all ingredients except water until fine. If needed, add water gradually to texture desired. To serve, spread 2 tablespoons coulis on each plate and lay tempeh on top. Garnish with a sprig of basil or mint.

Nettle-Basil Pesto
Makes ¾+ cups
You may see mineral-rich nettles sold at farmer’ markets, but most often you’ll pick them yourself, or with friends. Harvesting wild stinging nettles takes finesse to avoid getting stung by the leaves. What works is wearing garden gloves and cutting off the top two layers of leaves and stems with scissors, and then dropping them into a bag. The sting factor is neutralized by submerging the leaves in boiling water for 5 minutes. Empty the bag into the pot so as to further avoid touching the leaves. It’s worth the effort when you taste this wonderful green pesto on top of white bean soups (you can stir it in for great taste) or warm polenta. Or serve as an under sauce with braised tempeh. Or mix with hot pasta by thinning pest with a little of the hot pasta broth. Pesto keeps its bright color for a couple of days in the refrigerator.

3 ounces wild nettles, half a produce bag
2 ounces basil leaves
2 large cloves garlic
2 tablespoons pine nuts or walnuts, lightly toasted at 300°
1 to 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil; to taste, start with less
1 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon unrefined sea salt

1. Bring a pot containing 2 inches of water to boil.
2. Transfer bag of wild nettles to water and press down with a utensil to make sure all leaves are submerged. When boiling resumes, time for 5 minutes.
3. Drain and press nettles against bottom and sides of strainer to delete excess water. Makes about 3/4 cup.

Variations: Since “pesto” means “paste,” you can make it with any greens. Omit basil or substitute cilantro or dill.