Jackfruit “Pulled Pork”

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As many of you know, my daughter Elizabeth is a vegetarian which has allowed me to expand my cooking horizons. She and her boyfriend visited this weekend, and I smoked a couple racks of ribs for him to enjoy. He loves ribs. As usual, I did not want my daughter to feel left out so I made a vegan “pulled pork” using jackfruit.

Jackfruit has been widely cultivated in India and South Asia for centuries but is relatively unknown in the United States. That, however, is changing as people here in the United States are beginning to eat less meat. When allowed to ripen, jackfruit has a very sweet taste and aroma likened to a taste combination of  pineapples, mangos, and bananas. Young, or unripened jackfruit, is firmer and more fibrous. It is often used in curries in India.

For this recipe, look for canned, young jackfruit packed in water or brine. Do not use jackfruit that is canned in syrup. It will be far too sweet and very mushy. It can easily be found in Asian markets or other stores that carry a larger selection of Asian foods.

Here is what I did:

Jackfruit “Pulled Pork”

Ingredients

2 20 oz Cans of Jackfruit in brine or water (not syrup)
1 Medium onion, chopped
3 Cloves of garlic, minced
1 3/4 Cups vegetable stock
2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 Teaspoon Worcestershire sauce, vegan if you desire
1 Teaspoon liquid smoke
2 Tablespoons molasses
1 Teaspoon dried or fresh thyme
1/2 Teaspoon chili powder
1/2 Teaspoon ground dry mustard
Fresh ground pepper to taste
1/2 Cup of your favorite BBQ sauce, divided

Directions

Preheat oven to 400° F.

Drain and rinse jackfruit. Cut larger pieces into smaller pieces keeping the triangular shape. This lends to a stringy pork-like look later.

Sauté the jackfruit, onion, and garlic in a large skillet until just beginning to brown, about 10 minutes. Then add the vegetable stock, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, liquid smoke, molasses, thyme, chili powder, mustard, and pepper. Stir well so all ingredients are combined, then cover. Simmer on low stirring every 15 minutes. After about 45 to 60 minutes, remove lid and cook down any remaining liquid.

Use a potato masher to lightly mash the jackfruit once the broth has all cooked down. The jackfruit will easily shred and take on the appearance of shredded pork. You will want to leave some larger pieces and not a mush.

Spread shredded jackfruit onto a lightly greased, rimmed baking sheet. Place in 400°F oven for about 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, stir in 1/4 cup BBQ sauce and place back in oven for 10 more minutes or until it is very browned and caramelized. Remove from the oven and place in serving bowl. Stir in remaining 1/4 cup BBQ sauce. Serve on buns with additional BBQ sauce if desired. It may also be topped with a creamy coleslaw.

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Heirloom Tomato Frittata

 

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Tomatoes are coming on strong now and can be found everywhere at farmers’ markets and roadside stands. We are eating them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Recently, I made this fantastic, flavorful frittata for lunch, but it would do well for any meal.

A frittata is quick and easy to make when you don’t have a lot of time or if you have several people to serve a quick, satisfying breakfast or brunch. The Italian word frittata comes from the Italian verb friggere – to fry, suggests the simplicity of this great dish. A frittata is somewhat like an omelet, however unlike the French omelet, the frittata requires no flipping or folding.

Heirloom Tomato Frittata

Ingredients

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
8 Large eggs
3 Tablespoons finely grated Parmesan
2 Cloves garlic, minced
2 Teaspoons fresh thyme leaves (more for garnish)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 Pounds ripe heirloom tomatoes, cored, cut crosswise into 1/4′ slices

Directions

Preheat oven to 350° F.

Grease 12-inch cast-iron skillet with unsalted butter making sure to grease up the sides. Heat skillet over medium-high heat. Lightly beat eggs in a medium mixing bowl. Stir in cheese, garlic, and thyme. Season with salt and pepper. When butter is melted, pour egg mixture into pan and cook until eggs begin to turn golden brown around the edges. Arrange tomato slices on top of egg mixture. Allow some slices to sink if they want to.

Transfer skillet to oven and bake frittata until eggs are just set in the center, 8–10 minutes. If desired, turn on broiler for a 3 to 4 minutes to give the top a deeper brown. When eggs are set and frittata is browned to your preferred doneness, loosen frittata from pan and slide onto a warm platter. Garnish with a sprig or two of thyme or with additional fresh thyme leaves, slice, and serve warm or at room temperature.

Savory Spinach Pie

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A slice of spinach pie

My favorite farmers’ market in the Cedar Rapids area, the Hiawatha Farmers’ Market, opened this past weekend and I stopped by to say hello to some of my friends.

This market is my favorite because it opens the earliest in the year and is the last to close in the area. It is also just the right size. It isn’t filled with the craziness of the Downtown Farmers’ Market which is more a place to be seen and not a farmers’ market. I build relations with the growers at Hiawatha which is what a market should be.

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Spinach pie cooling after coming out of the oven.

This visit to the year’s first market was simply to reacquaint myself with the vendors. I didn’t buy anything this visit as the offerings were mostly bedding plants. Some of the vendors have large green houses and so they were able to offer some items like lettuces and other greens as well as hot house tomatoes.

One green I am really looking forward to is fresh spinach and that got me thinking; I’m hungry for spinach pie.

Not finding any spinach at the market and a few days latter when this craving became an obsession, I did the next best thing. I went to the organic section of my grocery and bought a couple pounds of spinach. Craving satisfied.

Here is what I did:

Savory Spinach Pie

Ingredients

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium yellow onions, finely chopped
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 pounds fresh spinach, larger stems removed, washed and thoroughly dried (See note)
8 ounces Gruyère cheese, grated
3 large eggs (one egg is used for an egg wash)
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
Pie crust for double crust pie

Directions

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Add the olive oil to a large skillet and sauté the onion and garlic over medium-high heat until the onion is translucent and beginning to soften. Season with salt and pepper. Add about 1/4 of the spinach, or whatever will fit in your skillet, and sauté until it cooks down. Repeat this until all the spinach is wilted. Continue cooking until most of the liquid is cooked out, about 10 to 12 minutes. Place spinach in a sieve and press the spinach to remove as much of the remaining liquid as possible. Set aside.

Whisk the cream, 2 eggs, and nutmeg together in a suitable bowl and set aside.

Fit the bottom crust in a 10″ pie pan. Layer half the spinach mixture in the bottom crust and then layer half the grated cheese. Repeat layers. Pour cream and egg mixture over spinach and cheese. Fit top crust over the pie and crimp the edges together. Beat remaining egg in a suitable bowl and brush over top crust with a pastry brush. Slit the top crust with a sharp knife to create steam vents.

Bake in 375F oven for 45 to 50 minutes and crust is golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool at least 30 minutes.

Note: You may substitute 2 10 ounce packages of frozen spinach for fresh. If you choose to do this, thaw and squeeze out as much liquid as possible. After you have sautéed the onion and garlic, add this to the skillet to warm though and incorporate the onion and garlic.

Shiitake and Leek Stuffed Seitan Roast

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Cook happy and cook with love. I think that about sums it up.

I have been telling people for years that I do not travel on Thanksgiving. If you want to see me, you must come to my house and I will gladly cook for you. Over the years I have had as few as three and as many as twenty at my table. This year, I cooked for eight. I made the traditional turkey dinner but I also did things a bit differently.

My daughter Elizabeth and son Greg were among my guests which made me very happy. They have adopted a vegetarian diet and I wanted to honor that choice. Whether it is intentional or not, too many people make people with dietary restrictions or choices feel unwelcome and put out when it comes to including them in family celebrations. I wanted all my guests to know that they are welcome and so began my quest.

Making most of the traditional dishes vegetarian was the easy part. In fact it was mostly substituting vegetable broth for chicken or turkey broth. I also made a very tasty mushroom gravy to serve along side the traditional turkey gravy.

For me, the challenge was going to be making something in place of turkey for my vegetarian guests. I wanted something filling and satisfying. I didn’t want to simply buy something and throw it in the oven without much thought and tofurkey, or anything made with tofu, was out of the question. It seems like a cop out to me. So my research began which led me to seitan.

Seitan is a meat substitute made from wheat protein. It has a very remarkable meat like texture and is very popular in many cultures that forgo the eating of meat. It is remarkably versatile and extremely tasty.

Ultimately, I came upon this recipe courtesy of Isa Chandra Moskowitz on her Post Punk Kitchen web site. This roast is fantastic and doesn’t need to be reserved for a holiday, but it sure makes a great centerpiece dish for a celebration.

Here is what I did:

For the filling:
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 oz shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced (remove rough ends)
2 leeks, white and light green parts only, cut into thin half moons
½ teaspoon salt
Fresh black pepper
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons fresh chopped thyme
¼ cup breadcrumbs
¼ cup vegetable broth
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

For the roast
3 cloves garlic
¾ cup cooked pinto beans, rinsed and drained (fresh or canned)
1 ½ cups vegetable broth
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups vital wheat gluten
1/3 cup nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed or finely chopped
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed between your fingers
1 teaspoon dried sage, crushed between your fingers
Several dashes fresh black pepper

First prepare the filling:
Preheat a large cast iron skillet over medium heat. Saute the mushrooms and leeks in oil about ten minutes or until soft. Add salt, pepper, garlic and thyme and cook for about two minutes more while constantly stirring often.

Add the breadcrumbs and cook the mixture tossing and stirring until the breadcrumbs are toasty and the mixture is relatively dry. After about five minutes the breadcrumbs should turn a few shades darker.

Drizzle in the broth and lemon juice and stir until moist. Additional olive oil may be needed if it still seems dry. Remove from heat and set aside.

Prepare the roast:

Preheat oven to 350 F. In a food processor, pulse the garlic until well chopped. Add the beans, broth, olive oil and soy sauce and puree until mostly smooth and no bean piece is bigger in size than a pea.

In a large mixing bowl, mix together the wheat gluten, nutritional yeast, herbs and spices. Make a well in the center and add the bean mixture. Stir with a wooden spoon until the mixture starts coming together to form a ball of dough. Continue kneading with the spoon until everything is well incorporated.

Now roll out the seitan and form the roast by placing two pieces of tin foil (about 18 inches long) horizontally in front of you. Overlap the sheet further from you about six inches over the sheet closer to you. This will ensure you have enough foil to wrap around the whole roast.

Next, place a piece of wax paper on a separate surface and use your hands or a rolling pin to flatten the seitan into a roughly 12 x 10 rectangle. If the seitan tears, just pinch the dough back together. If the tear is large you can use dough from the ends to repair the holes.

Now place the filling in length-wise in the lower 1/3 of the seitan rectangle from end to end leaving about one inch at both ends. Compact the filling as tightly as you can.

It is now time to form the roast. Roll the bottom part of the seitan up and over the filling. The wax paper will help keep the seitan from tearing while you roll. Roll until it is in a log shape. Pinch together the seam if needed and then pinch together the sides to seal.

Lastly, place the roll in the center of the tinfoil and roll up like a tootsie roll. Make sure the ends are tightly wrapped and transfer to a baking sheet. Bake for an hour and a half. The roast should feel very firm. If it does not, cook a little longer until it does. Rotate the roll every 15 minutes for even cooking.

Remove from oven and let cool about five or ten minutes. Unwrap, slice and serve with a mushroom gravy.

Mushroom and Rice Stuffed Acorn Squash

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Here is a delicious way to prepare acorn squash. Another name for acorn squash is Des Moines squash. Maybe I should call them by that name since I live in Iowa. These savory squash make a great meatless meal or consider adding them to your Thanksgiving feast.

Note: This recipe calls for cremini mushrooms. Cremini mushrooms are usually marketed as Baby Bella mushrooms. White button mushrooms, cremini (Baby Bella) and portabella mushrooms are all the same mushroom. Age is the only thing that differentiates them. White button mushrooms are the youngest and portabella are the oldest. Cremini fall in between the two.

Here’s what I did:

Ingredients

2 Acorn (Des Moines) squash
Kosher salt
Fresh ground pepper
3 tablespoons walnut or olive oil, divided
½ pound cremini mushrooms
1 medium yellow onion, diced small
¾ teaspoon dried thyme
1 cup long-grain white rice
2 cups vegetable or chicken broth
½ cup grated Parmesan

Directions

Preheat oven to 450° F. Cut squash in half lengthwise and scoop out seeds. Drizzle oil on each cut side of squash and season with salt and pepper. Place squash with cut side down in baking dish. Cover dish tightly with aluminum foil and roast until tender; 35 to 40 minutes.

While squash is roasting, heat remaining two tablespoons of oil over medium-high large, deep skillet. Add mushrooms, onion, and thyme and season with salt and pepper. Sauté until mushrooms begin to brown; about 5 to 7 minutes. Then add rice and broth and bring to a boil. When broth begins to boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer until liquid is absorbed; about 20 minutes.

Remove squash from oven, remove foil, turn squash cut side up and allow to cool slightly. After removing squash from oven, turn oven up to broil. Scoop out about two tablespoons of flesh from each squash half and stir into rice. Divide rice mixture among squash halves and sprinkle with Parmesan. Broil until melted cheese is melted and begins to brown.

Portabella Burgers with Roasted Red Pepper, Avocado and Chèvre

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If you are trying to cut back on the amount of red meat you eat but still crave a burger, here is a great alternative. Not only does this “burger” taste fantastic, it is also very filling. Here’s what I did:

Ingredients

1 large red bell pepper
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup Balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 cloves finely minced garlic
Kosher salt
Fresh ground pepper
4 Portabella mushroom caps (approximately 3 – 4 inches in diameter)
1 avocado sliced
4 ounces fresh goat cheese (allow to come to room temperature)
4 firm hamburger buns

Directions

Slice red pepper in half and remove seeds. While gas grill is heating, place red pepper on grill over direct heat to roast. After pepper has become blistered and charred in spots, remove pepper from grill and place in plastic zip lock style baggie. Allow to cool. When pepper has cooled enough to handle, remove skin, quarter, and set aside.

While peppers are cooling and grill is coming to temperature, whisk together olive oil, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, salt and pepper in a non-reactive bowl. Wash and destem mushrooms. Add mushrooms to bowl and completely cover with mixture. Remove and allow to rest a few minutes to absorb seasoning.

Grill mushrooms over medium high heat with gills facing up for about 4 to 5 minutes, flip and grill an additional 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from grill and place on bun so underside of mushroom is facing up. Top with red pepper, avocado slices, and goat cheese. Serve immediately.

Portabello, Broccoli, and Red-Pepper Melts

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Susan and I like to have at least one day a week when we do not eat meat so I am always trying new ideas and recipes in that regard. Tonight’s meatless meal was very delicious and extremely satisfying. Here’s what I did:

Ingredients

1 head broccoli florets (about 2 cups)
2 tablespoon olive oil
Kosher salt and ground pepper
4 portabello mushrooms sliced about ½ inch thick (stems removed)
2 red bell peppers seeds removed and sliced into strips
¼ cup mayonnaise
2 cloves garlic crushed and then minced
4 thick slices sourdough bread sliced about 1″ thick
4 ounces Gouda cheese, shredded

Directions

Spread broccoli out on 9 x 17 jelly roll baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Broil, tossing occasionally, until broccoli begins to char, about 6 minutes.

 

 

Add mushrooms and bell peppers to sheet, and toss again to mix vegetables. Return to broiler and broil, once again tossing occasionally, until vegetables are tender; about 10 minutes more. Remove from broiler and set aside.

 

 

While vegetables are broiling, combine mayonnaise and garlic in a glass bowl. You may want to season with salt and pepper. Place bread on another baking sheet and divide mayonnaise garlic spread between the bread slices and spread evenly. Top with vegetables, then cheese. Broil until cheese is melted and lightly browned, about 5 minutes.