During the last few months, I have cooked with more than two hundred kinds of soyfoods – grilling, stir-frying, simmering, and evaluating every conceivable kind of soy product beyond the usual tofu.
The results? I’ve found five kinds of soyfoods (including members of the new “second generation” of soy) that every health-conscious home cook should know about. In the process, I’ve also arrived at some extraordinary recipes for using these foods in surprising ways. Why soy? For one thing, soybeans offer the highest-quality protein of any plant food, containing all eight essential amino acids. And a host of phytochemicals – biologically active found only in plants – some of which are found just in soybeans, appear to be potent cancer inhibitors, particularly genistein.
Soyfoods appear to offer women Important protection against breast cancer, thanks to their abundance of phytoestrogens like isoflavones, including genistein. In addition, soyfoods have been shown to reduce serum choLesterol, provide protection against cancer, and help in reducing the risk of several chronic illnesses, including diabetes, osteoporosis, high blood pressure, and kidney disease. To get these benefits, most experts recommend eating a minimum of about 25 grams of soy protein a day – that’s the equivalent of one seemingly decadent chocolate pot de creme, a refreshing strawberry smoothie made with soymilk, plus a Thai tofu salad made with a new flavored kind of tofu.
Soy, the Next Generation
Some of my soy favorites are part of what’s called the second generation of soyfoods, such as textured vegetable protein and soy burgers. Other second generation soyfoods include tofu frozen desserts, the multitude of soycheeses, and all the meatlike products. While first generation foods – like tofu, miso, soymilk, and tempeh – are processed, making them is simple enough for it to continue to be done by hand or in cottage industries, both in Asia and in Asian-American communities.
The newer, high-tech soyfoods are excellent for people who want to include soy in their diet but dislike the taste and texture of traditional Asian soyfoods. Manufacturing the protein concentrates and soy isolates, however, can require intense processing. For example, to make the soy isolates, soybeans are defatted, then ground into flour or rolled into flakes. Next, these products undergo a series of processes that remove carbohydrates and sugars. They may also be extruded under heat and high pressure. Most companies producing soy proteins use hexane, a petroleum derivative to extract the oil from soybeans, while others use more natural processes. The final products contain 70 to 90 percent soy protein. The most refined of these soy proteins, soy isolate, emerges as a white, almost tasteless powder with a host of properties amenable to food manufacturing.
While people committed to a holistic diet of organic foods may prefer to eat the more traditional soyfoods, the second generation products still retain substances with potent health benefits. Concentrated soy protein contains them in even higher amounts than less processed soyfoods. And for many people, the convenience factor is high enough to help incorporate them into their daily diet. Of course, some high-tech soyfoods have clever names and mediocre flavor, but plenty of them are outstanding. Here is my rundown of personal favorites.
Made from cooked, ground beans and water, soymilk can be used for everything from pouring on cereal to cooking as well as drinking straight. Soymilk has saved the lives of innumerable infants allergic to cow’s milk. Soy dairy products are a boon to anyone who is lactose-intolerant. They are also cholesterol free. While these products are not necessarily lower in fat than their nonvegan counterparts, manufacturers are now making reduced-fat and fat-free soy dairy items too. Also, fortification with calcium and vitamins now gives soymilk more of the benefits of animal dairy products.
Non-Asian soymilks usually contain flavoring vanilla, chocolate, or carob) and some natural sweetener, like barley malt, to accommodate American tastes. They also may contain oil and a thickening agent such as carrageenan or Job’s tears (a kind the liquid a feel like cow’s milk in the mouth. Soymilk varies greatly in texture and flavor as well as fat content, so taste to see what you like best.
COOKING TIPS: What works best in cooking may be different from what you enjoy on cereal. For instance, full-fat soymilk performs best in cooking, while lower-fat products are better poured over granola. Also, be aware that the beige color of soymilk can darken with heat, giving a muddy appearance to some soups, sauces, or puddings. To counter this characteristic, use soymilk in dessert recipes calling for chocolate, cinnamon, peanut butter, or pumpkin. With savory dishes, such as soups with colorful vegetables like carrots, spinach, roasted red peppers, and broccoli, choose a less sweet soymilk.
Unfortunately, acid curdles soymilk. Even the acid in coffee sometimes breaks it into tiny bits, as can citrus juices and vinegars. In citrus-flavored salad dressings, sticking with pureed silken tofu avoids this. For lightening and flavoring coffee, I like Original Edensoy.
HOW TO BUY: When shopping, you will not see the word “soymilk” on packages. According to U.S. Department of Agriculture Standards of Identity, only products from dairy animals can be called milk. So look for items marked “soy beverage.”
Until recently, most soymilk in non-Asian markets was sold in aseptic, shelf-stable boxes of one liter (33.5 in smaller lunch-box-sized boxes. In this packaging, soymilk is good for a year before opening. Now you can also get fresh, refrigerated soymilk nearly everywhere. Called Silk, this new White Wave product, is fresh soymilk that keeps well and tastes milder than other fresh soymilks. h is particularly nice on cereal.
Soy dairy products are as perishable as those made with animal’s milk. Look at the expiration date on the package and treat these foods with the same care as conventional dairy products. (This includes refrigerating aseptically packaged soymilk once opened.
Tempeh is a staple in Indonesia, where this protein-rich, fermented food originated. It ranges in taste from mild and beany to decidedly mushroomy, yeasty, or even positively cheesy in flavor and aroma. Some people find tempeh the most meatlike of the traditional soyfoods because of its texture and flavor.
To make tempeh, soybeans are cooked, split, and sometimes blended with cooked rice or grains, including millet, quinoa, or barley, giving it a mild quality. (Plain soy tempeh, on the other hand, has a pronounced flavor with a faintly bitter aftertaste.) Some tempeh is flavored with sesame seeds, sea vegetables, or dehydrated vegetables.
The soy mixture is inoculated with Rhizopus oligosporus bacteria, then spread on trays in a one-inch-thick layer or else sealed in plastic bags sized to hold a finished cake of tempeh, and left to ferment for about twenty-four hours. During this time, mycelium, a velvety, grayish white matrix of fine white threads, binds the tempeh into supple yet firm slabs. finally, the tempeh is blanched or frozen to stop any more fermentation. It is then sold, or marinated in order to make tempeh burgers and other soy products.
During fermentation, enzymes transform some of the nutrients in the soy, making their protein more available. Both cooking and the fermentation process greatly reduce the oligosaccharides, natural sugars in the soybeans: For many people, these are the culprits that cause flatulence. As a result, people who have problems with soymilk or products containing TVP (textured vegetable protein) may be able to tolerate tempeh.
COOKING TIPS: Tempeh is best steamed or fried before it is added to a dish. Steaming makes it taste milder and gives it a softer texture. Frying, or just browning the tempeh in a pan sprayed with nonstick cooking spray, adds appealing color and crispness that remain even if the tempeh is added to a stew or soup. Tempeh also marinates beautifully.
HOW TO BUY: Tempeh is sold in the refrigerator case at natural foods stores. Buy tempeh that feels firm and is nicely veined with white mycelium. Black patches do not indicate spoilage: Counter to everything you know about food, this dark mold simply indicates that good bacteria are still active.
Just trim that part away and cook the tempeh (spoiled tempeh feels slimy or smells of ammonia).
- Fresh Green Soybeans
The Japanese and Chinese have long enjoyed delicately flavored fresh soybeans, called edamame in Japan or Sweet Beans, a recent U.S. trademark for these immature lima-like beans. Dried black soybeans, another variety used in Japan, are also increasingly available in this country. They have a sweet taste, rather like fresh green soybeans.
COOKING TIPS: My own first fresh soybean encounter was with edamame, enjoyed by the Japanese along with a cold beer as a snack. They boil the beans, snug in their pods, in heavily salted water, then pop the bright green beans from the pod right into the mouth. The Chinese use young, shelled soybeans in stir-fry dishes. Green Soybeans with Pickled Cabbage and Ginger on page 140 is a good example. After a thorough soaking, black soybeans cook in about an hour, Compared to black turtle beans, black soybeans are nutritionally richer and do not give off a blackened liquid, a distinct advantage in salads and casseroles.
HOW TO BUY: Until recently, the fresh green soybeans were sold only in Asian ethnic markets. But starting in September, the frozen food section in about 30 percent of American supermarkets will offer Birds Eye Baby Broccoli Blend, a mix of Sweet Beans and former President Bush’s least favorite vegetable.
- Soy Meats
Textured soy or vegetable protein, despite its downscale, budget-food image and reputation for being brown, boring, and bland, is a surprisingly handy meat substitute. Sold in most natural foods stores, mainly in bulk, it is used in an astounding number of both vegetarian and nonvegetarian processed foods. It works best in moist dishes such as casseroles, sloppy joes, and chili. Accepting it for the processed food it is, I sometimes like the nutritional and textural boost quality TVP adds to a grain stew, chili, or soup. It’s good for stuffing vegetables or for lightening the texture of rice and bean dishes. I also make a great fricassee with chunk TVP, white wine, and vegetables.
Or if you’re in the process of giving up meat and want something familiar to take its place, consider meatless burgers. Many of these contain some form of soy and can mimic the texture of meat – the fibrous, chewy texture of a hamburger or the nubby, greasy feel of chopped beef – remarkably well.
COOKING TIPS: General I do not soak small-sized pieces of TVP before adding them to dishes like chili or lasagne; this helps them pick up more flavors and prevents sogginess. All meatless burgers are precooked so you can simply heat and eat them. Grilling is a plus, whether you do it outdoors or in the kitchen using a ridged chst-iron pan or other arrangement.
HOW TO BUY: With dozens of meatless burgers on the market, how do you find the winners? Meatless burgers divide into four groups, with some crossovers. Bear in mind that while cholesterol is not a problem, fat can be. In addition, many veggie burgers contain cheese, so vegans should check labels carefully.
Tofu burgers are made from mashed tofu and vegetables. Sunflower or other seeds appear in some. Many brands are fried and greasy. Most gain around 50 percent of their calories from fat.
Meatlike burgers are usually a combination of processed ingredients, including soy protein derivatives and wheat
Their fat content ranges from 30 percent of calories to none. The best burgers in this group imitate the chewy texture and color of fast-food beef burgers to an uncanny degree.
Tempeh burgers duplicate meat burgers in shape only. They usually taste good because of a well-flavored marinade, though they can be crumbly in texture. Calories from fat run at about 25 percent.
Veggie burgers are usually based on rice and grains, plus mushrooms for flavor. Some also contain soy. Calories from fat average 30 percent or less for most brands.
- Newfangled Tofu
Maybe you think all tofu is white and mushy textured. Just try flavored tofus that have been smoked, marinated, and/or baked. These products come in an array of flavors from lemon to barbecue. They all have a firm, meatlike texture, and they are never bland or boring-cross my heart!
COOKING TIPS: Dice up some of this well-flavored tofu and use it in salads and stir-fries just as you would regular tofu.
HOW TO BUY: Buy this newfangled tofu in health foods stores and even in some supermarkets.
THAI SALAD WITH STORY TOFU.
Most of the smoked and baked tofus on the market are good in this main course salad which is perfect for lunch or a light dinner. By itself the dressing will taste intense. Do worry; tossed with the salad, it is perfect. is important to serve this salad as soon as is dressed. The salt in the dressing wilts the greens quickly.
- 4 cups romaine lettuce, torn into bite-sized pieces
- 8 ounces savory, baked, or smoked tofu, cut into 1-by-1/2-inch pieces (about 1 1/2 cups)
- 6 small radishes, sliced thin (about 2/3 CUP)
- 2 medium Kirby cucumbers, seeded and cut into 1-by-1/2-inch strips about 2/3 cup)
- 1/2 large red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and cut into 1-by-1/2-inch strips
- 1/3 cup thinly sliced red onion
- 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, cut into 1/4-inch-made strips
- 1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped coarse
- 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, chopped coarse
- 2 tablespoons natural soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon white rice vinegar
- Juice of 1/2 lime
- 1 1/2 teaspoons granulated cane juice
- 1 serrano chile, seeded and chopped fine
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- 1/2 teaspoon roasted sesame oil
- Toss lettuce, tofu, radishes, cucumbers, pepper, onion, basil, cilantro, and mint together in large salad bowl.
- Place ingredients for dressing in blender or food processor. Process until smooth. @le over salad and toss. Serve immediately.
GARLIC TEMPEH CROUTONS
Makes 1 cup, 2 to 4 servings
Garlic lovers will wax ecstatic over these crunchy little cubes. A quarter cup may seem modest for topping a green salad or sprinkling on a bowl of pea soup, but they pack quite a punch. They also provide a nice protein boost to a spinach salad. Don’t bother steaming the tempeh; it cooks as you saute the croutons. The extra, unused oil must be refrigerated. Use it on pasta, steamed vegetables, and to deter vampires.
- 1/2 cup peanut oil
- 1/4 cup thickly sliced fresh garlic (about 6 large cloves)
- 4 ounces three-grain or other mild-flavored tempeh (1/2 package)
- Place oil and garlic in small, heavy saucepan set over low heat. Cook uncovered 15 minutes; the oil should barely bubble and the garlic should color just a little, if at all. Remove pan from heat and set aside to cool 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, preheat oven to 450 degrees. Lay two appear to layers of paper towels on wire baking rack.
- Trim rounded edges from tempeh, making it into a neat, flat-sided rectangle. Cut tempeh in half horizontally, then, leaving two slabs stacked, cut it crosswise, making 3/8-inch-wide strips. Leaving these strips cut them crosswise, making 3/8-inch cubes. (The tempeh crisps better if you keep the cubes small)
- Puree cooled oil and garlic in food processor. The garlic will still be pulpy bits. Pour half this garlic oil, about 1/4 cup, onto 10-by-15-inch jelly roll pan lined with foil. (Reserve remaining oil for another purpose.) Add cubed tempeh and toss to coat with oil.
- Bake tempeh, turning it once or twice so it colors evenly, until golden, 12 to 15 minutes. Do not let tempeh get too brown or garlic will turn acrid. Using slotted spatula, transfer croutons to prepared rack. Pat croutons with towels to remove any excess oil. Use while warm. (Leftover croutons can be frozen, then recrisped in a warm oven.) Note: Unless you love garlic fanatically, discard the dark brown chunks of garlic that form during roasting.
GREEN SOYBEANS WITH PICKLED CABBAGE AND GINGER
1 first ate this dish at Soo Chow, a restaurant in New York’s Chinatown. When I encountered another version of this dish at Buddha Green, a stylish vegan restaurant also in New York, I promptly asked the creator, Colette Rossant, for the recipe. Green soybeans, also called Sweet Beans, are sold at Asian food stores, fresh or frozen, shelled or in their pods. Steaming retains their delicate flavor better than boiling. If you have time, replace the sauerkraut with more authentic, homemade pickled cabbage, Chinese-style. Simply cut fresh mustard greens into fine ribbons, salt them generously, and press them under weights for twenty-four hours. Rinse them well, squeeze out all the excess liquid, chop them finely, and toss them with the beans. serve this dish with rice.
- 1 pound fresh or frozen shelled green soybeans (2 pounds if purchased unshelled)
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch or arrowroot powder
- 1/4 cup vegetable broth
- 2 tablespoons peanut oil
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh gingerroot
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 1 mild green Asian chile, sliced, thin crosswise
- 1/2 cup flowering chives, cut into 3/4-inch lengths and including the flowering tips, or 3 scallions, green parts only, sliced thin
- 2/3 cup sauerkraut highly pressed to remove excess liquid to make 1/2 cup
- Salt and ground black pepper
- Steam soybeans 3 minutes. Plunge into bowl of cold water to stop cooking. Drain well and set aside. Combine cornstarch and broth in small bowl and set aside.
- Heat oil in wok. Add ginger, garlic, and chile and stir-fry until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add chives or scallions and sauerkraut and stir-fry 1 minute. Add soybeans and toss to blend.
- Reblend cornstarch and broth mixture. Add to wok and cook, stirring constantly, until sauce thickens, about 1 minute. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve immediately or at room temperature.
BARBECUED BEANS AND TEMPEH BACON OR TOFU FRANKS
Lima beans make this dish lighter than traditional baked bean recipes. Vegan hot dogs or soy bacon are equally good in this dish. The tempeh bacon is a less processed food, but kids of all ages love franks.
- 2 cups dried baby lima beans, picked over and rinsed
- 1 small onion, peeled
- 1/3 cup tomato paste
- 1/3 cup ketchup
- 3 tablespoons maple syrup
- 2 tablespoons blackstrap molasses
- 1 medium garlic dove, minced
- 1 1/2 teaspoons dry mustard
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/8 teaspoon ground doves
- 1 large sweet onion, such as Vidalia, chopped
- 1 bay leaf
- Salt and ground black pepper
- 6 slices tempeh bacon or 3 vegan franks
- Place beans in small ovenproof Dutch oven. Add 6 cups cold water. Cover and bring t boil. Remove from heat and let beans soak, covered, 1 hour. Drain and return beans to pot. Cut small onion vertically in quarters almost down to bottom, but leave onion still intact. Add to pot. Add just enough water to cover beans, about 4 cups. Cover pot and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer gent until beans are al dente, about 45 minutes.
- While beans are simmering, preheat oven to 275 degrees. Combine the tomato paste, ketchup, maple syrup, molasses, garlic, mustard, ginger, cayenne, and cloves in medium-sized bowl.
- Stir 1/2 cup liquid from pot with cooked beans into tomato mixture. Stir thinned sauce back into pot with beans. Stir in sweet onion and bay leaf. Cover pot and bring to boil.
- Set covered pot in oven and bake until beans are tender, about 30 minutes. Mix in salt and pepper to me.
- Slice bacon crosswise into 1-inch strips or cut franks into 1/2-inch slices. Arrange bacon strips or franks over beans and stir just so they are mixed into top of beans and coated with sauce.
- Bake, uncovered, until bacon or franks are heated through, about 20 minutes. Remove and discard bay leaf and serve immediately
CHILI WITH BLACKSOYBEANS
Black soybeans have a mildly sweet, beany taste and firm texture that work nicely in salads, casseroles, and chili. Somewhat intense used alone, they are delightful when combined with other beans. Black soybeans cook in about an hour if you first soak them in a cool place for twenty-four hours. Combine the cooked black soybeans with cooked or canned garbanzos and kidney beans, and this chili will be ready in an hour, from start to finish. (If you can’t get the soybeans at the natural foods store, black turtle beans also work in this recipe.
- 2 dried chipotle chiles
- 2 tablespoons corn or peanut oil
- 1 large onion, chopped, plus additional for garnish, if desired
- 1 small green bell pepper, cored, seeded, and chopped
- 2 medium garlic doves, minced
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon ancho or New Mexico chile powder
- 1 tablespoon sweet or hot paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves, plus additional for garnish, if desired
- 2 cups cooked black soybeans
- 1 1/2 cups cooked red kidney beans, or one 15-ounce can, rinsed and drained
- 1 1/2 cups cooked garbanzo beans, or one 15-ounce can, rinsed and drained
- 2 tablespoons brown rice miso
- Place chiles in small cup. Add 1/2 cup warm water and soak until soft, about 30 minutes.
- Heat oil in medium Dutch oven or heavy, enameled pot. Add onion, green pepper, and garlic and saute until soft, about 5 minutes.
- Add cumin, oregano, and cinnamon and stir-cook until vegetables are coated and spices smell toasty, about 30 seconds. Stir in chile powder, paprika, and cayenne. Immediately add tomatoes and 1 cup water, plus soaking liquid from chipotle chiles.
- Seed drained chiles. Tear each into three or four pieces and add to pot, along with bay leaf and cilantro. Mix in all three types of beans. Simmer chili, stirring occasionally, until flavors are blended, about 30 minutes.
- Blend miso with 2 tablespoons water in small bowl. Remove chili from heat and stir in miso. Serve chili over cooked brown rice or rolled in warm tortillas. Garnish mith minced cilantro and/or chopped onion, if desired (Can be refrigerated several days.)
Note. The flavors in this dish blend and mellow as it sits, so if you can, make the chili a day before serving
CHOCOLATE POTS DE CRAME
This dessert is too luxuriously rich to be called pudding I prefer Edensoy Refular for making this recipe. If possible, prepare this dessert a day ahead so that the complex flavors in the chocolate can settle down and meld fully.
- 2 tablespoons arrowroot powder
- 2 cups plain or vanilla soymilk
- 3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped coarse
- 1/2 cup granulated cane juice
- Pinch salt
- 1 teaspoon vandia extract
- Combine arrowroot powder and 1/4 cup soymilk in small bowl. Set mixture aside. Set out four small custard cups or decorative dessert bowls.
- Combine chocolate, cane juice, salt, and/2 cup soymilk in medium saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring frequently with wooden spoon, until chocolate melts and sweetener dissolves. The mixture will have tiny flecks of chocolate in it.
- Stir in remaining 1 1/4 cups soymilk. Restir arrowroot mixture and add it to saucepan. Cook, stirring constantly until mixture starts to thicken, about 7 minutes. As the chocolate mixture thickens, it will gradually look satiny and even-colored. Keep stirring until spoon makes a visible line through the chocolate mixture.
- Stir in vanilla. Cook about 30 seconds longer, then quickly pour pudding into custard cups. If you do not want a skin to form, cover each portion with a square of plastic wrap, making sure it covers surface completely. Chill thoroughly. If you are not serving the pots de crame as soon as they are chilled, keep them covered in plastic wrap. (Pots de crame can be refrigerated for 2 days.)
STRAWBERRY SUNRISE SMOOTHIE
This quick shake is great with breakfast or as a pick-me-up later in the day.
- 1 medium banana, peeled and cut into several pieces
- 1 cup sliced strawberries, either fresh or thawed frozen
- 1 cup plain soymilk
- 1 tablespoon thawed orange juice concentrate
- 4 ice cubes
Place banana, strawberries, soymilk, juice concentrate, ice cubes, and 1/4 cup cold water in blender. Process until smooth. Divide evenly between two tall glasses and serve.
CREAMY KASHA PORRIDGE
Make this rich breakfast on a lazy Sunday when you have time to. enjoy it, perhaps accompanied by a bowl of freshly picked strawberries. Using whole greats is essential. Toast the almond slices in a dry cast-iron skillet, stirring often, while the kasha cooks.
- 1 cup plain or vanilla soymilk
- 1/4 cup maple syrup
- 3/4 cup whole kasha (toasted buckwheat groats)
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Pinch salt
- 2 tablespoons sliced almonds, toasted
- Combine soymilk and 1 cup water in medium saucepan. Bring mixture to boil and add syrup and kasha. Stir in cinnamon and salt.
- When liquid in pan returns to boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer until kasha is soft, about 15 minutes. Divide porridge among individual bowls. Garnish with almonds and serve immediately.
Powdered soymilk is made from finely ground soybean flour, not milk extracted from the bean. It lasts a long time on the shelf, usually looks whiter than the liquid beverages, and can taste fairly good. Read labels carefully: Some dried soymilks contain hydrogenated oil and corn syrup.
Soychesses are made from soymilk or tofu, are lactose-free, and contain no cholesterol. Many contain oil. Unfortunately, only those made with casein, a cow’s milk derivative, melt nicely. When using soycheese, expect differences in texture as well as flavor compared to those made from animal milk.
Some soy-based dairy products do not work well in cooking. Soy sour cream, great in dips and in soups, does not work in baking or sauce making; the gums that hold it together do not withstand that kind of cooking. Soy yogurt, also bound with natural gums, is not suited to heating. But soy-based cream cheese can make stunning cheesecakes.
Miss butter? look for Spectrum Spread. This margarine substitute has a dairy-fresh, sweet cream flavor but is completely vegan. Made from canola oil and soy isolate, it is wonderful when mashed into potatoes and even makes an easy, flaky pie crust.