Back when we lived in Baltimore, our favorite bar was Club Charles (affectionately known as Club Chuck), the world’s best dive bar, frequented by John Waters and quintessentially Baltimore. When the owner of Club Chuck bought the building next to Club Chuck and turned it into a vegan-friendly restaurant called the Zodiac, I was deliriously happy. The Zodiac used to have really cheap, really good food, including a tempeh reuben that I loved. Then a new chef came in and suddenly the reuben was gone from the menu, never to return, and the prices about doubled on everything else. We still go to the Zodiac when we need something late at night and are planning to hit the Chuck anyway, but I usually grumble about missing the good old cheap tempeh reuben days.
Fortunately I then discovered the vegan reubens at Liquid Earth, a cute little juice bar and restaurant in Fells Point. I generally scarf down two entire reubens whenever I’m in the city. I think the reuben on the menu is not vegan, but you can ask for a vegan version. I’ve heard the Liquid Earth vegan reuben even made an appearance on Homicide once, but I never saw the show. The Liquid Earth vegan reuben, although absolutely delicious, is not a tempeh reuben. When I haven’t been to Baltimore in a while and am in need of a reuben, however, I make tempeh reubens at home.
I should confess I’ve never actually eaten a “real” reuben, so I can’t compare the taste. But I don’t know what’s not to love about rye bread, sauerkraut, and tempeh. And today when I was wondering how to showcase my first successful batch of homemade tempeh, either Mark or my visiting best friend, Fortinbras, suggested reubens. Because they are yummy!
First, make the Thousand Island Dressing, because it needs time to chill.
Thousand Island Dressing
1/4 cup ketchup
1/4 cup Vegenaise
2 Tbsp minced shallot or onion
1 Tbsp sweet relish
juice of 1/4 lemon
1/8 tsp dry mustard
1/8 tsp Indian black salt (optional) – I added this because Thousand Island Dressing traditionally contains hard boiled eggs
Mix all of the ingredients together and refrigerate for at least half an hour.
For two sandwiches,
4 slices rye bread
1/2 package tempeh, sliced in half
1 cup sauerkraut
1/4 cup Thousand Island dressing
2 slices vegan cheese – honestly, the “cheese” is the least interesting part to me and if you can’t find a good brand, you might as well just omit it
By the way, do YOUR cats love to eat plastic? Mine do and it drives me crazy!
If your tempeh is uncooked, steam it for 20 minutes. I do this in a wok:
After steaming the tempeh, heat a skillet or cast iron frying pan up, add a little bit of oil, then fry the tempeh on both sides until slightly brown and crispy:
While the tempeh is frying, set up your sandwiches. Swipe one side of each piece of bread with the dressing, then top one slice with the sliced “cheese” if using and the other with some sauerkraut:
The tempeh will look something like this when ready:
Place on one of the bread slices …
… then grill. I used my George Foreman, but you can also grill them in a pan or under the broiler.
They’re ready when they are golden brown on both sides:
Serve with a pickle on the side and enjoy:
In other news, Fortinbras won Tigger a Scooby Doo doll at the fair last night because he loves Tigger.
That’s as much of that story as you’re getting, I’m afraid. I can tell you, however, that Joan Jett does not give a damn about her bad reputation.