In-Depth Herb and Spice Workshop at Natural Gourmet Institute

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!

Not one, but three salads!

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?).

My group made this one: Middle Eastern Arugula Salad with Lemon-Mint Dressing and Sumac.

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?

Italian Romaine Salad with Balsamic-Vanilla Dressing. I loved this one!

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.

Indian Red Lentil Dhal with Curry Leaves, Cardamom, Coriander, Cumin & Lime. My group made this.

Another one in which I had a hand in making: Tempeh with Cumin-Chipotle Marinade.

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…

Poached Pears with Lemon-Ginger • Chinese Five-Spice • Vanilla-Nutmeg Reduction Sauces

And finally, the aforementioned ice creams:

Cinnamon • Coconut-Cardamom • Basil 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!

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One Response to In-Depth Herb and Spice Workshop at Natural Gourmet Institute

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