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Pan-Fried Tempeh Recipe

by Joan Saddler & Augustine Filomena, The Wholesome Kitchen

As I write this, the thermostat in our house reads 89 degrees. The ancient, narrow, urban Victorian we live in, stripped of all its charm and cross ventilation when converted to a two-family dwelling decades ago, is making my desire to cook disappear like an ice cube on our kitchen counter. It’s late Monday evening – too late to be cooking – but we haven’t eaten dinner yet and are starving and exhausted from a long day.

What is quick to cook, really tasty, and really good for you? Tempeh to the rescue! This recipe is really satisfying, ready in 20 minutes with little preparation, and needs very few ingredients. Tempeh is a fermented soybean cake – which may not sound very enticing to some folks – but many who are vegan (and many adventurous eaters who are not) have tasted tempeh and love it. Its history dates back thousands of years to Eastern Asia. You won’t believe the nutritional dossier on the package: one serving gives you 40% of your daily protein, 36% fiber, 15% iron, 10% potassium, 8% calcium. The “LightLife” brand, sold at Elm City Market, is my favorite. I recommend the Three Grain variety, but if you have gluten problems, choose the plain Soy. Both are made with organic cultured soybeans and whole grains, making complete protein. And while there is lots of debate these days about the health of soy foods, even those who are the harshest critics agree that tempeh, along with other FERMENTED organic soy foods, are the exception.

Pan-Fried Tempeh
(serves 2)

• One 8-oz package of LightLife Tempeh, cut into 8 equal slices (cut the cake horizontally)
• 1 cup water (divided in halves)
• 2 TBS extra virgin olive oil (divided)
• 1 large clove garlic, chopped
• 1-2 TBS shoyu soy sauce

Place 1/2 cup water and 1 TB soy sauce in a 10” skillet (stainless steel is good in summer). Add 1 TB oil and the chopped garlic. Turn heat to medium; when the water starts to steam, place the tempeh slices in the pan. When they start to sizzle, cover the pan and turn heat to low. Cook undisturbed for 10 minutes. Open lid, flip each tempeh slice over, add the other 1/2 cup water, additional 1 TB oil and more soy sauce if desired. Cover again and repeat the 10 minute cooking. It’s done!

Serve with a hefty helping of steamed greens, and you’ve got the ultimate quick, hot-weather meal. Remember: uncooked tempeh freezes well and defrosts quickly, so stock up! Throw un-opened packages in the freezer and always have some on hand.


Joan Saddler, along with her fiancé and business partner Augustine Filomena, are owners of The Wholesome Kitchen. What began as a successful last ditch effort to heal nagging health issues, Joan now has over 16 years of studying and cooking macrobiotic foods based on the teachings of Michio Kushi. Augustine has been eating and cooking macrobiotic since meeting Joan 9 years ago and attributes his weight loss, bicycling performance, and freedom from medication to this way of eating. Together they offer personal chef services and use hands-on cooking classes to teach individuals and small groups how to use whole, unrefined ingredients for optimal health. Visit The Wholesome Kitchen and The Wholesome Kitchen Blog for more information on what they offer and recipes.

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