Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Taste o’ the Bay.

Major win for Isa’s Vegan Brunch, my new favorite cookbook: Chesapeake Tempeh Cakes. I tried for a more subtle lead-in, but I just can’t do it. Subtlety be damned: They are so spastically good that you must make them right now. Or as soon as you can get your hands on some tempeh and Old Bay.

While Old Bay is not called for in the recipe, trust me, you should add it. For those of you not living in the strangely-shaped state of Maryland, bear with me. Old Bay would be our state spice, if such a delicious honor existed. It’s made here and always has been. Long associated with seafood—it is the only acceptable way to season blue crabs here, just for context—it is a magical blend of seasonings that join forces to kick the ass of whatever food it’s sprinkled on.

In some highly-guarded combination, it contains celery salt, mustard, red pepper, black pepper, bay leaves, cloves, allspice, ginger, mace, cardamom, cinnamon, and paprika. Basically, it’s like your spice rack got into a fight and Old Bay happened. Red loves it on popcorn, FYI. Many people add it liberally to Bloody Marys. It’s spicy and salty and savory and whatever other s adjective (aside from sweet) you can come up with. And it is a must for any recipe that claims the title “Chesapeake.” (Isa can be forgiven for the omission, since she is from Brooklyn.)

So. The Chesapeake Cakes. I followed the recipe, but added a few shakes of Old Bay to the tempeh as it steamed. Then I added a few (dozen) more shakes when I mashed it with the other ingredients and formed it into cakes. Take it from this Baltimore girl, you can’t have too much Old Bay. The cakes held together nicely, fried up quickly, and had he not known what I was making, Red totally would have believed they were crab cakes. I can’t describe it. If you’ve had crab cakes, perhaps these are similar, if a little less fishy. I dialed down the spiciness of the remoulade, but it was still plenty hot and I was more than happy to eat the cakes plain.

Conclusion: Make these now. Or come visit and I will show you how Baltimore gets it done.


  1. Oh, those sound delightful. You've gone and made me hungry. I would like to come try these sometime!

    p.s. have i mentioned how yummy the tofu scramble was?

  2. We can schedule Brunch 2.0! I'm glad you liked the scramble. Scrambles are so easy, too!

  3. looks SO good!!! What exactly is Tempeh?

  4. at our grocery store, there is actually a giant old bay display in the seafood section that you have to go through to get to the bread.( and we live in georgia!) i would have never thought to pick it up...it just shouts seafood to me. but thanks for the tip - I can't wait to try these your way.

  5. Lib: Tempeh is made by fermenting different grains, then forming that mess into cakes. Usually it's soybeans. You can have soy tempeh, rice tempeh, flax tempeh, or our fave, multi-grain tempeh. It is mo-fugly stuff, and doesn't taste like much (it can taste kind of weird and bitter), so you simmer it with tasty spices and soy sauce and broth or whatever before you cook it.

    Bad Vegan: Thanks for stopping by! Your cookies look awesome :) I'm glad you can experience Old Bay deliciousness in GA!

  6. I completely agree with you about the Old Bay seasoning -- it's essential! You don't have to go out and buy it, either; it's really easy to make from scratch.