Tempeh Temptations at NGI

The class I took this past Saturday at NGI was “Tempeh Temptations.” If you look over at my tags, you’ll see that I do use tempeh a fair amount of the time, but I use it in basically the same ways all the time. I like the ways that I’ve been making it, but I also wanted to broaden my horizons.

Is that dish not pretty?

The fact that we would learn to make tempeh from scratch absolutely sold me! I had seen a great video on making tempeh before, but you definitely get much more out of a live presentation than a video.

This class was taught by cookbook author Myra Kornfield, who also taught the first class I took at NGI. I must say, she makes the prettiest dishes I’ve ever seen, hands down.

In both of the classes I’ve taken with her, there have been three things that you learn that are worth the price of admission (the same in both classes, but I needed repeating on two of them).

  1. Slicing a bell pepper.
  2. Chopping ginger.
  3. Cutting citrus really fancy.

You’ll have to take a class to learn how to do them, but they are definitely neat tricks. This time there was also a helpful pointer on slicing onions for different purposes, too. 🙂

If you’ve been reading the last few days, you know that I have a nasty cold- and it started on Saturday. I think I may have looked a little needier than usual because of this (and I also messed up a couple of really simple things- not disastrously, but my head was not in the game). Anyway, I say this because I learned another really good resource in this class: the Chef’s Training Program (CTP) students.

They CTP students are always there, running around getting you everything you need and cleaning up after you. In past classes, I haven’t interacted with any of them very much, beyond asking (politely) for things that I need- and now I realize that this was a mistake. There’s nearly as many CTP students as there are public class students (maybe the numbers are the same; I’ve never actually counted), and they can give you some individual attention where the instructor isn’t able, just due to the size of the class. So here’s some props for the CTP students!

Disclaimer: I actually thought I was just having allergies when I got up on Saturday, not that I was sick with a viral illness. I’m pretty good with the hygiene, but I sincerely hope that I didn’t spread my germs to anyone else in the class!

But of course, you came here because you wanted to see the food, right?

Tofu is made by making the soybeans into soy milk first, then curdling it and pressing the curds together. Since you don’t get most of the bean in the end product it is not a whole food- though it is tasty, and has other health benefits.

Tempeh is awesome, because unlike tofu (which I also love), tempeh is a whole food. It’s also a fermented food, which has its own benefits. You can buy tempeh in most any grocery store (cheapest at Trader Joe’s- $1.69 for an 8oz package), but it is definitely a different experience to eat homemade.

There are two important things that you’ll need to make your own tempeh, besides the soybeans.

  1. A starter.
  2. A way to keep the fermenting tempeh at 85F-90F.

Two good sources for buying a tempeh starter can be found here and here. Coincidently, at both you can also buy a tofu coagulant, so if that’s on your list of things to try, you might as well get both. 🙂

People have some pretty innovative ways of incubating tempeh. But it is fairly forgiving, as long as you don’t let it get too hot, and it will eventually start making its own heat and let you off the hook.

One last note before I move onto the food: there really is something to steaming the tempeh first. Packaged or frozen tempeh needs moisture and fat. It’s not because I’m picky that I don’t like tempeh straight out of the package- it’s a real thing. 🙂

Here’s the menu for the class:

Tempeh Mushroom Burritos with Black Bean-Avocado Topping
Golden Curried Tempeh with Coconut Milk and Mango
Chile-Orange Baked Tempeh
Indonesian-Style Fried Tempeh with Sweet and Sour Glaze, served with Jasmine Rice and Snow Peas
Homemade Tempeh Reubens with Caramelized Onions

Tempeh Reuben with Caramelized Onions. One of the fanciest sandwiches I’ve ever had!

Golden Curried Tempeh with Coconut Milk and Mango (left) Chile-Orange Baked Tempeh (right)

Tempeh Mushroom Burritos with Black Bean-Avocado Topping. I liked this, and I hate mushrooms!

Indonesian-Style Fried Tempeh with Sweet and Sour Glaze, served with Jasmine Rice and Snow Peas. This one was made with the homemade tempeh!

And can you believe it?

4 Days to Vida Vegan Con!

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