I took another class at NGI this past weekend. I’ve been enjoying all the other ones I’ve taken so far: Southeast Asian Vegan Banquet, the Seitan Workshop, Healthy Japanese Cooking, Tempeh Temptations, and even the Chinatown Tour. It seemed like time to take one again!
Added bonus to this class- it was taught by Chef Elliott Prag, who happens to be the man behind the Tweets and Facebook Page for NGI. I always appreciate associating an internet presence with a real live person.
This class was An In-Depth Herb and Spice Workshop. This was by far the most ambitious menu of any of the classes that I’ve taken!
Middle Eastern Arugula Salad with Lemon-Mint Dressing and Sumac
Italian Romaine Salad with Balsamic-Vanilla Dressing
French Spinach Salad with Tarragon-Mustard Vinaigrette
Homemade Flatbread with Middle Eastern Za’atar • Indian Cilantro-Coconut Chutney • Italian Pistachio-Mint Pesto
Eastern European White Bean and Root Vegetable Stew with Dill and Caraway
Indian Red Lentil Dhal with Curry Leaves, Cardamom, Coriander, Cumin & Lime
Japanese Azuki Bean-Squash Stew with Ginger, Soy Sauce and Rice Vinegar
Pan-Seared Tempeh in Thai Basil-Cilantro-Chile Paste Marinade
Seared Tempeh in Cajun Blackening Spice
Seared Tempeh in Cumin-Chipotle Marinade
Thai Black Forbidden Rice with Coconut Milk, Ginger, and Garlic
Long-Grain Spanish Style Brown Rice with Garlic, Paprika, Saffron and Lemon
Persian Style Short-Grain Brown Rice with Parsley, Mint, Almonds and Golden Raisins
Poached Pears with Lemon-Ginger • Chinese Five-Spice • Vanilla-Nutmeg Reduction Sauces
Cinnamon • Coconut-Cardamom • Basil Ice Creams
Is that menu not insane?
After a brief lecture on the history of herbs and spices (and the difference between), we got a chance to check out all of the herbs and spices we would be working with (and a couple extra).
Show and smell time! See the three cinnamon sticks? The canela, or Mexican cinnamon, tastes like a cinnamon candy- think Red Hots or Dentine, only without the sugar.
We were then broken up into a few groups to start tackling the recipes. Although this was a longer class than the other ones I’ve been to (and much more of the prep work was done by the assistants), there was a lot of work to be done. You did see that menu, right?
We started out making ice cream- my group had the Coconut-Cardamom, and got those right in the ice cream makers. Next, on to salads and spreads (dips?).
French Spinach Salad with Tarragon-Mustard Vinaigrette. This one had potatoes and mushrooms. Don’t tell- I ate some of the mushrooms. I didn’t even die! You know how much I don’t like them, right?
We took a break to eat the salads along with these! My group made the pesto on the right.
Clockwise from top: Homemade Flatbread with Italian Pistachio-Mint Pesto • Middle Eastern Za’atar • Indian Cilantro-Coconut Chutney.
After our break, it was back to work for the rest of the meal!
Next up: stews, tempeh, and rice.
Front and center is the Thai Black Forbidden Rice with Coconut Milk, Ginger, and Garlic my group made. Also pictured: Japanese Azuki Bean-Squash Stew with Ginger, Soy Sauce and Rice Vinegar (back left); Long-Grain Spanish Style Brown Rice with Saffron and Lemon; and Persian Style Short-Grain Brown Rice with Parsley, Mint, Almonds and Golden Raisins.
Three kinds of tempeh: Seared Tempeh in Thai Basil-Cilantro-Chile Paste Marinade; Cajun Blackening Spice; Cumin-Chipotle Marinade.
A better view of two stews! Eastern European White Bean and Root Vegetable Stew with Dill and Caraway & Indian Red Lentil Dhal with Curry Leaves, Cardamom, Coriander, Cumin & Lime, as well as some Persian Style Short-Grain Brown Rice with Parsley, Mint, Almonds and Golden Raisins (loved!).
Next up: pears and their spicy reduction sauces! Mmm, fruit with fruity, spicy syrup…
And finally, the aforementioned ice creams:
This was some fancy cooking!
So what did I learn in today’s class?
- Multiple types of cinnamon! I think I had vaguely heard of this before, but it’s striking to really see the difference.
- Generally, dried herbs and spices at the beginning of cooking, fresh herbs at the end.
- No comparison between toasting a whole spice and then grinding it yourself, versus pre-ground spices. Try it in your kitchen some time.
- Coconut milk makes for a better vegan ice cream than almond milk. I had an almond milk ice cream fail at home (well, not so much fail as come out really icy)- I’m glad to know it’s not just me!
- I love tempeh. I knew this, but now I have new ways to prepare it!
- The difference between a spice and an herb. I sort of knew already, but herbs are the leafy things, and spices are the seeds/buds/dried berries/barks, etc. And now you know!
Although it looks like it would be impossible to get through, it’s not at all. It was a fun, easy-going class. I would definitely take one like this again!