Tempeh in Mole Negro

Mole is one of my favorite foods. The flavor is completely unlike any other, and I love the variations on it. Mole poblano is probably my favorite – years ago, I had a coworker from Oaxaca who regularly brought me homemade mole poblano tamales. Heaven.

Larry doesn’t love mole, but that didn’t stop me from making this simplified version of black mole. I made it using tempeh only, although it can be made with chicken, or even both, to accommodate a variety of food preferences. It’s part of why I love this cookbook so much.

The mole itself isnt complicated, especially for a mole, which tends to have a mile-long list of ingredients. I skipped the blender part of the recipe and just used an immersion blender.

We loved this with avocados. I made tortillas – using lard, ironically. Shortening-based tortillas would make this a great vegan dish. I like to make a little burrito of the tempeh in mole with avocado.

Tempeh in Mole Negro
Source: The Flexitarian Table, Peter Berley

For the mole
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 large dried ancho chilies
3 cups hot water
1/2 cup finely diced onion
1/4 cup unsalted dry-roasted peanuts
1/4 cup blanched whole almonds
1/4 cup raisins
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 chipotle chilies in adobo sauce, seeded
Sea salt or kosher salt
1 ounce bittersweet chocolate, broken into pieces or coarsely chopped
1 cinnamon stick

For the tempeh
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 8-ounce packages tempeh, cut into 1-inch squares
1 cup water
1/2 teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt

Pepare the mole
In a medium skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the ancho chilies and fry, turning with tongs, until they blister (take care not to burn them). Transfer to a plate to cool. Set the skillet of oil aside.

When the ancho chilies are cool enough to handle, break them open and discard the seeds. Place the chilies in a bowl and cover with the water. Let soak until soft, 15 to 20 minutes. Drain, reserving the liquid.

Return the skillet to medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until softened, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the peanuts, almonds, raisins, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, and cumin seeds and stir and toast until the nuts and seeds are fragrant and the raisins are puffed, 8 to 10 minutes.

Using a rubber spatula, scrape the contents of the pan into a blender (set the skillet aside). Add the chipotle chilies and 1 teaspoon salt, then add the softened ancho chilies and 1 cup of the reserved liquid. Puree, gradually adding the remaining liquid, until the mixture is smooth.

Pour the puree back into the skillet and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Add the chocolate and stir until melted. Add the cinnamon stick, reduce the heat to low, and simmer gently until the mole thickens, about 20 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat and discard the cinnamon stick. Season the mole with additional salt to taste, and set aside.

Prepare the tempeh
In another heavy 10-inch skillet or 3-quart casserole, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the tempeh and cook, turning frequently, until lightly browned all over, about 10 minutes. Add the water and salt to the pan and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce the heat and simmer for 8 minutes.

Drain the tempeh and return it to the pan. Pour in the mole and bring to a simmer. Simmer, covered, for 20 minutes.

Serve the mole garnished with chopped cilantro and/or scallions, with the lime wedges alongside.

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