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.

Chickpeas – A great snack

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Oven roasted chickpeas.

Whether oven roasted or fried, chickpeas make a great snack and either method of making them is simple. Each method has its pluses and minuses. The oven roasting method uses less oil if that is a concern. Fried chickpeas tend to stay crispier while the oven roasted can become soft in the center after they have cooled. I provide both methods below. I would suggest trying them both to see which you prefer.

I also suggest playing around with the seasoning. Chickpeas take on seasoning well. I list a smoky, slightly spicy seasoning mix, but you can use most any. My daughter suggests cinnamon and sugar for a sweeter treat.

Here is what I did:

Oven Roasted Chickpeas

Ingredients

2 15.5 ounce cans chickpeas
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 Teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 Teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 Teaspoon Hungarian paprika
1/2 Teaspoon cumin
1/2 Teaspoon fine sea salt

Directions

Heat the oven to 450°F. and place an oven rack in the middle of the oven.

Drain and rinse the chickpeas thoroughly under running water.  Open the cans of chickpeas and pour the chickpeas into a strainer in the sink. Rinse thoroughly under running water.

Dry the chickpeas with a clean dishtowel or paper towels. They should look matte and feel dry to the touch. I like to let them air dry for 20 to 30 minutes if I have time. You can remove any chickpea skins that come off while drying, but otherwise don’t worry about them.

Toss the chickpeas with olive oil making sure they are evenly coated and spread the chickpeas out in an even layer on a baking sheet.

Roast the chickpeas in the oven for 20 to 30 minutes, shaking the pan every 10 minutes so they brown more evenly. Don’t be surprised to see a few chickpeas pop. The chickpeas are done when golden and slightly darkened.

Place the chickpeas in a serving bowl and sprinkle the spices over the chickpeas. Stir to coat evenly. Serve immediately.

Fried Chickpeas

Ingredients

2 15.5 ounce cans chickpeas
Vegetable oil
1 Teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 Teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 Teaspoon Hungarian paprika
1/2 Teaspoon cumin
1/2 Teaspoon fine sea salt

Directions

Drain and rinse the chickpeas thoroughly under running water.  Open the cans of chickpeas and pour the chickpeas into a strainer in the sink. Rinse thoroughly under running water.

Dry the chickpeas with a clean dishtowel or paper towels. They should look matte and feel dry to the touch. I like to let them air dry for 20 to 30 minutes if I have time. You can remove any chickpea skins that come off while drying, but otherwise don’t worry about them.

Pour enough vegetable oil into a 12″ sauté pan to cover the bottom and heat over medium-high heat. It is best to fry the chickpeas in two batches. Carefully add half the chickpeas to the skillet and fry them until golden brown, about 5 to 10 minutes. Remove the chickpeas with a slotted spoon and place them on paper towels to drain briefly. Add additional oil if needed and fry the other half of the chickpeas.

Place all the chickpeas in a serving bowl and sprinkle the spices over the chickpeas. Stir to coat evenly. Serve immediately.

Beet and Black Bean Burgers

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Beet and black bean burger topped with a raw goat milk cheddar cheese.

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Beet and black bean burger dressed with sprouts.

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Beet and black bean burgers prior to being cooked.

I have been called a “weekday vegetarian” and I don’t mind. Too often, as soon as one says they are vegetarian, we become tense and feel we need to defend our decision. We feel personally attacked. Meat eaters are accused of doing wrong and vegetarians are labeled self-righteous. In my opinion, choosing to eat or not eat meat should not be an all or nothing decision.

I’m not sure if I truly am a weekend vegetarian; I really like meat. I do know that my meat consumption has decreased considerably over the last several years and not because I consciously set out to do so with the idea that I was going to make a difference in the world. The difference I did make was more personal. My creativity in the kitchen has exploded as I discover more ways to prepare a wider variety of foods. My nutritional knowledge has improved. My health has improved and yes, I am making better decisions at the meat counter. Since I buy less meat, I can buy better meat and again, a wider variety.

We could discuss this further, but let’s move to this tasty recipe. Roasted beets and black beans combine to make a filling burger with a great smokey taste and a satisfying texture.

Roasted beets and goat cheese are often paired together because the tanginess of the goat cheese balances the sweetness of the beets. So when I first thought of making these burgers I knew I wanted to top them with a goat cheese. A soft goat cheese I felt would be too difficult on a veggie burger; which is already much softer than a regular burger. I didn’t think it would hold up well. I found a sharp cheddar cheese made with raw goat’s milk that provided the tanginess I wanted yet did not compound the veggie burger’s softer texture.

The ingredients I have listed make for a vegetarian veggie burger. They can easily be made vegan simply by eliminating the egg and omitting the cheese.

I also topped this burger with some tender bitter greens and alfalfa sprouts.

I’m not going to lie. This recipe takes quite a bit of time to come together, and I find it best to do it over two days, but they are so worth it. The great thing about these burgers is that they freeze very well. You can easily double this recipe and freeze the extra burgers for another meal. If you do choose to freeze them, I suggest first placing them on a flat cooking sheet in the freezer for a few hours before packaging them with foil or waxed paper separating the individual patties. It will make taking out one or two at a time much easier when you need them.

Here is what I did:

Beet and black bean burgers

Ingredients

2 medium red beets (about ½ pound)
1/3 cup brown rice (uncooked)
2 (15.5-ounce) cans black beans
3 tablespoons dried minced onion
1 teaspoon dried minced garlic
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
2 teaspoons course ground brown mustard
1 teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon dried thyme
1 large egg (leave out for vegan burgers)
¾ cup old-fashioned rolled oats
Kosher Salt
Fresh ground pepper

To serve:
Thin slices of goat milk sharp cheddar cheese (or other tangy cheese)
Hamburger buns

Directions

Roast the Beets:
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Trim tops and root tips from the beets. Fit a cooling rack inside a baking sheet and place beets on rack. Roast until easily pierced with a fork, about 50 to 60 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Parboil Rice:
Meanwhile, bring about 1 ½ quarts of generously salted water to a rolling boil. Add the rice, stir, cover, and return the rice to a boil over medium high heat. Continue to cook the rice about 20 to 25 more minutes until the rice is tender yet still firm. Remove from heat and drain the excess water. Then run the coldest water you can get from the tap over the rice. This will help stop the cooking process and also cool the rice. Allow the rice to completely drain so it does not absorb any additional water. Set aside and allow rice to completely cool. (This may be done the day before and refrigerated.)

Grate the Roasted Beets: Use the edge of a spoon or a paper towel to scrape the skins off the cooled roasted beets; the skins should slip off easily. Grate the peeled beets on the largest holes of a box grater. Transfer the beet gratings to a strainer set over the sink. Press and squeeze the beet gratings to remove as much liquid as possible from the beets. Allow beets to drip freely until adding them to the mixture and to further reduce water content.

The Veggie Burger Mix:
Drain and rinse both cans of beans. Transfer the beans to a food processor and pulse in 1-second bursts just until the beans are roughly chopped — you do not want the beans to become mush — 8 to 10 pulses. Transfer beans to a large mixing bowl. Add the shredded beets, cooked rice, dried onions and garlic, smoked paprika, mustard, cumin, coriander, and thyme to the bowl with the beans. Mix all the ingredients until combined. Taste the mixture and add salt and pepper to taste. Add egg and mix well. Finally, add oats and mix until you no longer see any dry oatmeal.

Loosely cover the bowl with wax paper or foil and refrigerate over night. The mix can also be kept refrigerated for up to three days before cooking.

Making the Burgers:
Scoop up about a scant cup of the burger mixture and shape it between your palms into a thick patty the size of your hamburger buns. You should end up with 6 large patties approximately 6 ounces each.

Heat a large cast iron skillet over high heat. Add a few tablespoons of vegetable oil to completely coat the bottom of the pan. Cook the patties for 3 to 4 minutes, then flip them. There should be a good crust formed on the cooked side. Cook for another 3 to 4 minutes, then cover the pan and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook for 4 more minutes until the patties are warmed through. Place a slice of cheese over the burgers in the last minute or two of cooking if you’re adding it.

Serve the veggie burgers on a firm, lightly toasted burger buns with some fresh greens. Sprouts are also very tasty topping these burgers.

Recipe Notes:
Because of the tendency for veggie burger to sometimes fall apart, you will probably be more successful cooking these indoors in a cast iron skillet. However, I have been successful cooking these on an outdoor grill by simply using a flat cast iron griddle on my gas grill. A large cast iron skillet would also work on a grill.