Tempeh, Potato and Smoked Mozzarella Napoleons with Agri-Dolce Tomato Sauce

Serves four.  Ric-ter Scale *1

This dish is cool. There are lots of flavors and textures to work through as you enjoy tempeh in a unique way. Tempeh is a fermented soybean cake, bound by rice. There are variations that use barley, wild rice or even millet as a binder, but brown rice and soybeans constitute the standard-issue tempeh rectangle. Tempeh is a near perfect way to eat soybeans. The beans have been fermented first, which makes them easy to digest. Caramelizing the outside of the tempeh accentuates its nuttiness - I'm sure it would do the same to you, too.

Since the tempeh, potatoes and smoked Mozzarella are all richly flavored and richly textured, I have added two bright components to contrast from that depth of flavor. The layering of cilantro sprigs between the layers really adds some green and earthy notes and the agri-dolce or sweet-and-sour tomato sauce, makes you salivate and cleanses your palate.

Try to make all the slices of similar circumference. You will be stacking them up like cold cuts. You can cook any tempeh and potato scraps in a wok.


  • twelve 1/4-inch-thick slices tempeh
  • 12 thin slices of potato
  • 12 slices smoked Mozzarella
  • 1 bunch of cilantro
  • a 50/50 combination of safflower and extra virgin olive oil


Cut the tempeh in half, sideways, like cake layers. Cut in half from above making rectangles in the 2"x3" range. Slice the potato into slices the long way so they are in the same size range as the tofu. The potatoes should be about 1/16-inch thick, or at least double the size of a potato chip. If the potatoes are too thin you miss the texture, but if they are to thick, they won't cook through.

Use a nonstick skillet. Saute the tempeh in the oil blend on each side until golden. Reserve. Now saute the potato slices until browned around the edges. Make the sauce, then assemble the towers.

For the Sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 cup minced shallot
  • 3 ounces aged balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon molasses
  • 1 cup Thai basil, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fresh black pepper
  • 16 ounces organic tomatoes with juice


Use a deep skillet. Slowly cook the onions in the oil until they are a deep amber color, but not black. Add the balsamic vinegar and the molasses and reduce until it is sticky and caramel-like. Add the tomatoes and basil and increase the heat to high. Cook vigorously for five minutes. Remove from the heat and let cook down a bit. Puree in a blender.


Preheat oven to 400F. Use a nice casserole dish or sizzle platter. Use a paper towel to smear a thin layer of olive oil on the bottom of the casserole pan. Assemble your napoleons: place a piece of tempeh down first. Add a small smear of sauce. Now layer a potato slice. Pinch off a small sprig of cilantro and layer it on the potato. Add another smear of sauce and a slice of Mozzarella. Repeat. Put a piece of tempeh on top to finish. Use the palm of your hand to gently press it together. Make the other three towers the same way. Ladle some sauce over each stack and bake for 10 minutes or until the cheese is melted. Serve hot, with the remaining sauce on the side.