Jamaican Jerk Tempeh Wraps

I am blessed to have a life full of great friends, loving family, and good food, and this weekend was jam-packed with all of those things. But what I really want to focus on is the time I set aside to hang out with an old friend and sorority sister, Korri.

It’s funny how things change. How we met was certainly under different circumstances – and you might guess that the interests that drew us to the same sorority house were a little different than our current endeavors. Nowadays, Korri is the highly talented genius behind klc photography, and she happens to be a food-lovin’ vegetarian. I’m passionate about food too (just a little, don’t you think?) and endlessly trying to figure out my camera and take better pictures. So we made a little deal: I’d cook up a multi-course vegetarian lunch, and Korri would show me some tips and tricks on how to photograph it. This might be a little bit of a different project for Korri, since she is usually photographing people at their weddings and with their families (gorgeously, I must say – please go take a look!). But who could argue with good food, good photos, good friends, and babies (yep, they were present too!)? They all added up for a wonderful afternoon.

So, what did we eat and what did I learn? Some pretty cool stuff!

We started off with a spiced beet soup. I discovered that I can actually get some pretty cool shots utilizing the stainless steel grill covers and backsplash on my range.

I think a little work is needed to get my white balance corrected (I don’t know about you, but I am seeing more tomato soup than beet soup.) But all of a sudden I feel like I have a little secret weapon in my kitchen, something to give my photos a unique quality, and that feels pretty empowering.

It’s a bit embarrassing to admit, but I had no clue how to change the aperture on my camera. I know, I know. Why the heck invest in an expensive piece of equipment if you can’t even do that? I knew that in theory I should be able to change my “f-stop number” to manipulate the amount of light coming in and thus how much of the image is in focus, I just hadn’t put two and two together and realized the little dial to accomplish this. Thank goodness that’s figured out now! I think the recipe needs a little tweaking still, so you can expect to see this again in the near future. 

Lower f-stop, more light coming in, less objects in focus

Higher f-stop, less light coming in, more objects in focus

The next course involved something I had been dying to experiment with ever since I read about it a raw foods cookbook one day in the bookstore. I’m not a raw foodie, or a vegetarian, but the idea of crisp eggplant “bacon” got stuck in my head and wouldn’t budge. I didn’t go as far as buy a dehydrator to make it; instead I cooked it overnight in the “warm” setting on my oven. My version might not qualify as truly “raw” for those who follow that kind of diet (raw food must be “cooked” under a certain upper temperature limit) but it certainly worked. Thinly sliced eggplant marinated in a fiesta of soy sauce, honey, liquid smoke, and spices turned into crispy strips perfect for snack or crumbling into salads or pasta dishes. I tossed it with arugula and crumbled gorgonzola, piled it on top of grilled polenta wedges, and finished it with a poached egg. (Naturally.)

Dressed with a simple drizzle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar, this salad was hearty and delicious and the perfect combination of hot and cold. This shot was taken without any external lighting and I was surprised at what I was able to accomplish without any of my usual hoopla. Although I’d still like to practice a little more, I think there’s a strong possibility that I can get some good shots, in my kitchen at night, under regular lighting. I wish I had broken the yolk for some of these shots; as I find the whole unbroken egg a bit boring; lesson learned.

I also learned that it’s ok to eat off the floor. Well, not really. But that sometimes that’s the best way to achieve the coveted straight-down-from-the-top angle. I definitely want to experiment with this a bit more, maybe using some additional lighting (this was shot at a very high ISO setting, hence the lack of sharpness.)

And since I want to give you a full lesson on the eggplant “bacon” sometime in the future, that’s all I’m going to say about this for now ;)

Finally, for the third course, we broke out my “security blanket” – my Lowel Ego lighting system. I almost use these lamps (I have two, plus a tripod for one of them) since 99% of my photos take place long after sunset. Sometimes I use both, sometimes just one; I can’t seem to settle on the perfect configuration so I’m always trying something new. To get the shots of the Jamaican Jerk Tempeh Wraps with Broccoli-Raisin Slaw, we used just one of the lamps, and positioned it for a front-lighting effect. Because the Ego lights are on the cooler side, I think they actually do a decent job of imitating natural light.

Tempeh has been catching my eye and palette on a bunch of blogs lately, for it’s versatility and high nutritional content as a meat alternative.  I had never eaten tempeh before, never mind cooked with it, so that fact that I threw a package in my grocery cart and decided to make it for company might sound like risky business to some. But I hardly ever shy away from a cooking challenge and don’t worry about something turning out so badly that I wouldn’t be able to fix it. Not that this needed any fixing. This recipe was such a hit that it’s the only one from this post I’m actually ready to share with you. If you’re new to vegetarian cooking, I would actually suggest starting with tempeh rather than tofu. While tofu might seem a little more mainstream and readily accessible, I actually think it’s trickier to cook well. Tempeh is harder to screw up – there is no liquid to drain and it’s already fully cooked. Simply give it a flavorful marinade, then briefly pan-sear or grill to crisp it up a bit. The flavors in this Jamaican jerk marinade came out wonderfully in the finished tempeh, the spices noticeable and distinct alongside the sweet and tangy broccoli-raisin slaw. I like food with a lot of texture, so I really liked the chewy, coarse bite of the tempeh too.

Again, I was playing with my f-stop numbers, so you might notice that this shot has a bit more of the background sandwiches in focus than the first shot at the beginning of this post.

But before I share the recipe, I want to give a HUGE thanks to Korri for driving all the way out to my house (there’s a common misconception among Bostonians that Worcester might as well be “western Mass”, but that debate would require a whole separate post.) It was much fun to catch up, eat good food, and learn some new tricks which definitely boost my confidence in my photos and give me a lot to play around with. And of course, I have to thank Korri for letting us meet and play with her gorgeous baby boy, Teddy. If you still haven’t gone to check out her site, go, NOW! I can honestly say that the unique quality of her photos – vintage, artistic, simply stunning – makes me wish I had an occasion to photograph. So if you are in the Boston area and have an event you’d like documented – engagement, wedding, baby-on-the-way, family fun day, party, whatever – please consider letting Korri come and capture that for you. And give the rest of us more great photos to look at.

Jamaican Jerk Tempeh Wraps with Broccoli-Raisin Slaw
Adapted from fresh365 and Florida Coastal Cooking
Printable Recipe
Serves 4

Jerk Marinade:
1/2 cup fresh squeezed orange juice (from 2 oranges)
zest from one orange
1/2 cup cider vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons reduced sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon agave syrup or honey
1 tablespoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
3 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
3 large garlic cloves, minced
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
4 scallions, chopped

Slaw:
3 cups broccoli slaw mix
1/2 of a red pepper, sliced thinly
2 large scallions, sliced thinly (light green and white parts)
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1/4 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
2-3 tablespoons Jerk marinade
splash of cider vinegar

8 oz tempeh*, cut in thin strips
4 wraps of your choice (we used Joseph’s Low Carb Lavash)

Combine all of the marinade ingredients in a blender and process until smooth. Transfer to a bowl or baking dish and add the tempeh strips. Let marinate for at least 20-30 minutes, or longer.

To prepare the slaw, combine the broccoli slaw mix, red pepper, scallions, cilantro and raisins in a bowl. Remove a few tablespoons of the jerk marinade and whisk together with the yogurt and cider vinegar, to taste. Toss with the vegetable mixture and set aside.

Heat a large skillet coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat. Drain the tempeh from the marinade and add to the skillet. Cook for 2-3 minutes per side, until browned.

To assemble the wraps, place 1/4 of the slaw mixture and cooked tempeh strips in the center of each wrap. Roll up, slice in half, and enjoy.

*Tempeh can be found in the refrigerated area of the produce section in your grocery store, along with the tofu, “fake meat” products, wanton wrappers, etc. I used Light Life Organic Three Grain Tempeh.

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33 Responses to “Jamaican Jerk Tempeh Wraps”

  1. 1

    Glutenfreegidget — February 21, 2011 @ 11:48 am Reply

    YUM! I want to try this with chicken!

  2. 2

    Branny — February 21, 2011 @ 12:21 pm Reply

    Thanks for sharing your tips. And the recipe looks great.

  3. 3

    Dawn Hutchins — February 22, 2011 @ 3:10 pm Reply

    What an amazing post Cara! I had tweeted to my fellow foodies wondering if anyone wanted to do a behind the scenes food photography post and this is exactly what I was thinking. I have been wondering about the straight down shots and never thought of putting it on the floor. I have only one Lowel but I am looking for a second because my shots are all at night as well. I hate to admit I don't know how to use the white balance on my camera either and am trying to get one of my family members to give me a lesson as a birthday or Christmas gift. These photos all came out amazing and I was happy to see the tempeh wrap recipe!

  4. 4

    Cara — February 22, 2011 @ 5:08 pm Reply

    Thanks Dawn! Wouldn't it be fun if a bunch of us could get together with our cameras and a few great recipes? I bet each of us has taught ourselves different tips and tricks, and if we could just put it all together we could get some fabulous photos. I feel like I have some great tools to work with, just need to keep practicing and playing around. And we loved the tempeh- definitely have to do more of that!

  5. 5

    Cara — February 22, 2011 @ 5:10 pm Reply

    Thanks Jen! Wish you could have been there too. I bet between the two of us we know a decent amount, and if we put it together we could really help our pics… when we get together sometime!

  6. 6

    Rachael ProVeggie — February 24, 2011 @ 5:13 pm Reply

    Hey Cara!I noticed someone commented about going to UMass… I graduated from there too! Thanks again for writing such a great post about using Lightlife tempeh. I'd agree with you about trying tempeh over tofu for first timers…it is definitely hard to mess up. :)I'd love to talk with you further.. give me a shout at Rachael@Lightlife.com if you have the chance!-RachaelLightlife Team Member

  7. 7

    Rachael ProVeggie — March 27, 2011 @ 3:07 am Reply

    Hey Cara!I noticed someone commented about going to UMass… I graduated from there too! Thanks again for writing such a great post about using Lightlife tempeh. I'd agree with you about trying tempeh over tofu for first timers…it is definitely hard to mess up. :)I'd love to talk with you further.. give me a shout at Rachael@Lightlife.com if you have the chance!-RachaelLightlife Team Member

  8. 8

    cate — March 28, 2011 @ 8:40 pm Reply

    I LOVE that recipe from fresh365! It's one of my absolute favorite ways to eat tempeh!Your photos are looking great :)

  9. 9

    Glutenfreegidget — March 28, 2011 @ 8:40 pm Reply

    YUM! I want to try this with chicken!

  10. 10

    Branny — March 28, 2011 @ 8:40 pm Reply

    Thanks for sharing your tips. And the recipe looks great.

  11. 11

    Shannon — March 28, 2011 @ 8:40 pm Reply

    great tips, and love that slaw! i'm not a huge fan of tempeh, but i agree it can be easier to cook than tofu. bet i'd like this wrap :)

  12. 12

    Jenn — March 28, 2011 @ 8:40 pm Reply

    Looks like a great way to spend an afternoon! :)

  13. 13

    Cara — March 28, 2011 @ 8:40 pm Reply

    Thanks Jen! Wish you could have been there too. I bet between the two of us we know a decent amount, and if we put it together we could really help our pics… when we get together sometime!

  14. 14

    Funandfearlessinbeantown — March 28, 2011 @ 8:40 pm Reply

    I'm so glad we have a common bond in UMASS, Greek life and our adoration of Korri! Great tips!

  15. 15

    janet — March 28, 2011 @ 8:40 pm Reply

    That sounds like a wonderful trade – learning about your camera for some delicious food. I know the tempeh wraps are golden (already made them myself) but I am itching to see the other recipes when you are ready to post them. :)

  16. 16

    Melody Fury ♥ Food! — March 28, 2011 @ 8:40 pm Reply

    I absolutely adore tempeh! Lovely photos and post! Thank you for sharing your recipe.

  17. 17

    Joanne — March 28, 2011 @ 8:50 pm Reply

    First of all, sounds like some fantastical weekend! Your photos are GORGEOUS. I'm swooning. I mean, I was always swooning. But now I'm swooning SQUARED.I love the sound of this wrap. I always mean to cook with tempeh more and it just never happens…now I have one seriously good reason!

  18. 18

    beantownbaker — March 28, 2011 @ 8:50 pm Reply

    So bummed I couldn't make it on Saturday. It looks like you definitely learned a lot from Korri. The pictures and the food both look great!

  19. 19

    grace — March 28, 2011 @ 8:50 pm Reply

    the term 'jerk' always conjures up a negative attitude for me, and that's a shame since i love a marinade like that! talk about unfortunately-named. :)

  20. 20

    Dawn Hutchins — March 28, 2011 @ 8:50 pm Reply

    What an amazing post Cara! I had tweeted to my fellow foodies wondering if anyone wanted to do a behind the scenes food photography post and this is exactly what I was thinking. I have been wondering about the straight down shots and never thought of putting it on the floor. I have only one Lowel but I am looking for a second because my shots are all at night as well. I hate to admit I don't know how to use the white balance on my camera either and am trying to get one of my family members to give me a lesson as a birthday or Christmas gift. These photos all came out amazing and I was happy to see the tempeh wrap recipe!

  21. 21

    Cara — March 28, 2011 @ 8:50 pm Reply

    Thanks Dawn! Wouldn't it be fun if a bunch of us could get together with our cameras and a few great recipes? I bet each of us has taught ourselves different tips and tricks, and if we could just put it all together we could get some fabulous photos. I feel like I have some great tools to work with, just need to keep practicing and playing around. And we loved the tempeh- definitely have to do more of that!

  22. 22

    Korri Leigh Crowley — March 28, 2011 @ 8:50 pm Reply

    Michelle! You're great.

  23. 23

    Elina (Healthy and Sane) — March 28, 2011 @ 8:52 pm Reply

    LOVE this post! So many fun tips and the pictures all look gorgeous!PS – Worcester might as well be western Mass. Sorry. ;)

  24. 24

    Cara — March 29, 2011 @ 2:06 am Reply

    Thanks Jen! Wish you could have been there too. I bet between the two of us we know a decent amount, and if we put it together we could really help our pics… when we get together sometime!

  25. 25

    Cara — March 29, 2011 @ 2:06 am Reply

    Thanks Dawn! Wouldn't it be fun if a bunch of us could get together with our cameras and a few great recipes? I bet each of us has taught ourselves different tips and tricks, and if we could just put it all together we could get some fabulous photos. I feel like I have some great tools to work with, just need to keep practicing and playing around. And we loved the tempeh- definitely have to do more of that!

  26. 26

    Glutenfreegidget — March 29, 2011 @ 2:06 am Reply

    YUM! I want to try this with chicken!

  27. 27

    Cara — April 5, 2011 @ 1:21 am Reply

    Thanks Dawn! Wouldn't it be fun if a bunch of us could get together with our cameras and a few great recipes? I bet each of us has taught ourselves different tips and tricks, and if we could just put it all together we could get some fabulous photos. I feel like I have some great tools to work with, just need to keep practicing and playing around. And we loved the tempeh- definitely have to do more of that!

  28. 28

    Korri Leigh Crowley — April 5, 2011 @ 1:21 am Reply

    Michelle! You're great.

  29. 29

    Glutenfreegidget — April 5, 2011 @ 1:21 am Reply

    YUM! I want to try this with chicken!

  30. 30

    Rachael ProVeggie — April 5, 2011 @ 1:21 am Reply

    Hey Cara!I noticed someone commented about going to UMass… I graduated from there too! Thanks again for writing such a great post about using Lightlife tempeh. I'd agree with you about trying tempeh over tofu for first timers…it is definitely hard to mess up. :)I'd love to talk with you further.. give me a shout at Rachael@Lightlife.com if you have the chance!-RachaelLightlife Team Member

  31. 31

    Cara — April 5, 2011 @ 1:21 am Reply

    Thanks Dawn! Wouldn't it be fun if a bunch of us could get together with our cameras and a few great recipes? I bet each of us has taught ourselves different tips and tricks, and if we could just put it all together we could get some fabulous photos. I feel like I have some great tools to work with, just need to keep practicing and playing around. And we loved the tempeh- definitely have to do more of that!

  32. 32

    Branny — April 5, 2011 @ 1:21 am Reply

    Thanks for sharing your tips. And the recipe looks great.

  33. 33

    Glutenfreegidget — April 5, 2011 @ 1:21 am Reply

    YUM! I want to try this with chicken!

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