Like many others, turning to a vegetarian diet for me meant, among other things, looking to take advantage of the apparent protein benefits of soy in products like tofu to replace proteins from meat consumption and provide a handy substitute for meats in familiar recipes. Fortunately it wasn't long before I learned that the benefits of soy have been greatly exaggerated by soy marketers looking to reap windfalls from a very cheap crop. Soybeans are in fact probably the most indigestible of all legumes, which means their proteins are not easily accessible without long and thorough natural fermentation — a process that is completely ignored in most modern soy production methods. The very high content of enzyme inhibitors and phytic acids in soybeans actually block the absorption of essential minerals and cause potential intestinal problems — most soy products, including tofu and bean curds, are made with a process called precipitation instead of fermentation. This process removes only some of the inhibitors and hardly any of the phytates, and denatures the proteins that are supposed to be of benefit in the first place. Moreover, even when fermentation is applied, modern hygienic standards actually inhibit the growth of beneficial cultures that would otherwise remove those enzyme inhibitors and phytates.
As a rule, then, processed soy products should be avoided for the most part to prevent even more demands on the body to acquire proteins and minerals. The exception to the rule is in just a few products, like miso, tamari sauce and tempeh that are made through the process of fermentation — and even then only when produced by reputable companies that don't use fast or cheap end-arounds to expedite the process. Tempeh, for example, is a very malleable food of which I like to take advantage from time to time not only for its protein but for its ease of use and versatility. A traditional Indonesian food made by fermenting partially cooked soybeans with a Rhizopus fungal culture that binds the beans into firm, chewy cakes, it has a nice nutty flavor on its own, but also absorbs and adapts to almost any flavors you would like to add to it. But please make sure to find tempeh that's been properly fermented with the necessary fungal culture — as always, I can recommend to my Ontario readers at least the tempeh products from the Noble Bean.
I like to make these extraordinarily easy and tasty tempeh patties for a simple and filling breakfast with scrambled eggs and toast — almost like I might use breakfast sausages if I weren't a vegetarian. But they can also be used as burgers for summer picnics and barbecues, and can be prepared ahead of time and frozen by separating each shaped and uncooked patty with wax paper and storing in a freezer bag.
|Tempeh-Miso Breakfast Patties|
|Recipe by Lisa Turner|
Published on January 18, 2008
Easy, nourishing and delicious vegetarian breakfast "sausage" patties made with tempeh and miso