Smoky Tempeh Apple Bites
Looking for all the fabulous flavors of fall in an appetizer? Look no further... I've gotchya covered! Smoky squares of tempeh, baked apples, and grilled onions all stacked into one incredible bite. Let's get this party started!
I love Macintosh apples. Our tree is loaded with them. They don't usually fully ripen until closer to the end of September. These were already collecting on the ground, so I swooped 'em up.
Macintosh apples are both sweet and slightly tart, crunchy, and juicy. They're delicious eaten raw, simmered into apple sauce or combined
with Granny Smith apples and baked into a pie. By the way, you get more intense apple flavor if you combine two or more varieties when making a pie. Do ensure at least one variety will maintain firmness after baking.
I like using Macintosh apples to make these skewers because they bake quickly, will hold their shape if not overbaked, and melt in your mouth as soon as they hit your tongue. You can use a firmer apple if you prefer.
I set out to create all the intense fragrances and flavors I associate with fall without using bacon or pork sausage or other added fats. Rubbed sage, fennel seeds and black peppercorns came to mind.
I keep whole spices on hand whenever possible because they retain flavorful essential oils much longer than ground spices. A dedicated coffee grinder, as well as this mortar and pestle crush and grind spices. The mortar and pestle is great for smaller jobs like this one... plus, it's great kitchen therapy - get all that aggression out! Added bonus, your kitchen will smell fabulous before you even turn on the oven.
There are a few things you can use to re-create an acceptable plant-based version of bacon. The two I'm most familiar with is eggplant "bacon" - no eggplant available this week - and unsweetened large-flake coconut. The coconut works well as a garnish to be sprinkled, not skewered. So I'm turning to organic smoky tempeh strips. Alternatively, plain tempeh can be used and cold-smoked with whatever wood chips you like.
Not familiar with tempeh? Originating in Indonesia, tempeh is made by naturally fermenting soybeans in a controlled process. It has a slightly chewy texture. Natural smoky flavors are added to this variety to closely approximate bacon.
Each package contains about 9 strips which will easily make around 40 appetizers.
Here's how I made them.
Total Time: ~50-60 minutes Prep Time: ~25 minutes, including assembly Grill time: 10-12 minutes Bake Time: 15-18 minutes
For 40 pieces you'll need: PRINT HERE
1 pkg organic smoky tempeh strips
6-8 Macintosh apples, depending on size
1 med/lg yellow or red onion
1 Tbsp rubbed sage
1 tsp fennel seeds
3/4 tsp black peppercorns or 1/2 tsp crack black pepper
1/2 tsp smoked salt
1. Peel the apples and cut into ~ 1/2" cubes. The easiest way to do this is to slice around the core using a grid. Here's a wikiHow link to see how it's done. You will need 40 cubes of roughly the same size. Save the apple scraps to toss in your oatmeal or smoothie in the morning.
2. Cut the lemon in half and squeeze the juice over the apples. Remove any seeds and toss to evenly coat.
3. Add the peppercorns and whole fennel seeds to the mortar and crush them to a course powder with the pestle. Alternatively, use a coffee grinder to coarsely grind the spices.
4. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. Heat a cast iron grill pan on the stove or light your BBQ grill. For just one onion, I prefer to use my grill pan. However, if you're prepping a bunch of vegetables for the week you may prefer to use your outdoor grill.
5. Line two cookie sheets or jelly roll pans with parchment paper. In the first, spread the strips of smoky tempeh, taking care not to tear or break them. If this happens, don't worry. They'll still work. It's just easier to get even cubes if they don't break). Put them in the bottom rack of the oven. Bake 15-20 minutes, flipping them over halfway through. They should be slightly brown and darker around the edges and ends.
6. Drain any excess lemon juice from the apples. Add the spices to the apples, tossing gently to evenly coat.
7. Spread the apples onto the second lined cookie sheet in a single layer. Bake on the middle rack for 15-20 minutes, being careful not to overbake. Overbaking will result in blowouts or apples too soft to hold their shape.
8. Peel the onion and slice into 1/4" slabs. Don't separate the rings. Once the grill is hot, carefully add the onions. Grill on each side until nicely charred, ~ 3-4 minutes per side.
9. To assemble, cut the smoky tempeh strips into 1/2" squares. Set two pieces on top of each other at an angle (see photo below).
10. Place a cube of apple on top of the tempeh and secure by poking a toothpick straight into the center. Don't allow the toothpick to go in farther than the tempeh or they won't sit securely on a serving tray.
11. Cut the grilled onions into 3/4" pieces. You will likely have some extras. Use them in another dish. Wrap a piece of onion around the toothpick. They should be moist and slightly sticky and will stay in place (see first photo at the top). The very center of the onion can be placed directly over the toothpick to sit on top of the apple (see photo below).
These are delicious warm or at room temperature. They make the perfect autumn or Thanksgiving appetizer. Enjoy!
NOTE: This brand of smoked tempeh uses soy sauce that contains wheat. If you would like to make a gluten-free version, use plain tempeh and marinade for 30-60 minutes in your favorite marinade, or try this one:
Unwrap one package of plain tempeh, carefully separate the strips and place in a container or ziplock bag, single layer as much as possible. In a small bowl, combine 1 Tbsp low-sodium gluten-free tamari or soy sauce, 1 Tbsp water, 1 tsp pure maple syrup, 1/2 tsp smoked paprika, 1/4 tsp cracked black pepper, 1/4 tsp granulated garlic. Mix well, adjust seasoning to your taste and pour over tempeh strips.
Likewise, look for a brand of smoked tempeh that does not contain gluten (most likely found in the soy sauce used to season). I haven't found one near me yet.
When you make this, let me know how it turned out. Be sure to take a photo and tag me #chefcatherinebrown. I love seeing what you make!
Nutrition information is for one skewer.
DISCLOSURES: None. This post was not created in affiliation with any product or brand. The opinions expressed are my own. I will only write about products I trust and use.
NOTE: All photos and content are copyright protected. Please do not use my photos without prior written permission. If you wish to republish this recipe, please rewrite the recipe in your own unique words and link back to the source recipe here on A Seat at My Table so credit is given where credit is due. Thank you!
Below is another version I made using baked butternut squash cubes in addition to the apple cubes, and grilled red onions instead of yellow. Both versions are perfectly delicious!