Spicy and Smokey BBQ Pulled “Pork” Jackfruit

Spicy and Smokey Pulled “Pork” Jackfruit, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow

For many transitioning to plant-based, vegan or vegetarian diets giving up meat could be very difficult, especially during the summer months of outdoor grilling and the good ol’ BBQ. So, it’s no wonder that many recipe developers have been interested in capturing some of the BBQ flavors and channeling them into plant-based dishes.

Few weeks ago I reviewed one of the newest cookbooks dedicated entirely to vegan grilling, and I am currently going over the vegan butcher’s cookbook. Almost every one of these cookbooks as well as many vegan blogs and recipe aggregators include at least one vegan pulled “pork” recipe that uses green young jackfruit to recreate the look and feel of pulled pork. Jackfruit BBQ pulled pork recipe was even featured on TODAY.com as one of the biggest food trends of 2017!

I’ve been using jackfruit for over a year now, and have tried couple of different pulled pork recipes. They left me a bit underwhelmed, and I put the idea of BBQ pulled jackfruit on a side burner. And that’s where it stayed until very recently when I decided that it’s time to tackle this challenge again.

The recipe I came up with is slow cooker based and it takes about six hours to make. First, I combined lots of finely chopped onions and finely grated carrots to give the BBQ lots of natural sweetness. To help the aromas develop, I mixed the onions and carrots with oil and tomato paste and cooked them in the microwave oven for six minutes or so, until almost fully softened and slightly caramelized.

Next, I pulled the drained and rinsed jackfruit before cooking. I discarded all the very tough bits and pulled the rest apart with my fingers.

For smokiness and flavor, I added molasses, mesquite powder, and some sauce from chipotle peppers in adobo sauce. This sauce is super spicy so go easy with it, or replace it with some smoked paprika, or liquid smoke. I like a bit of a kick so this sauce (in moderation) works for me. The mesquite powder is something that you may need to order online (I got this brand from Amazon), but it is worth having on hand. It’s a powder that adds nice nutty and subtly smokey flavor to baked goods, desserts, and now “pulled” pork.

The slow cooker did all the work once I mixed everything together. The main pro tip when using a slow cooker (crock pot) is to use a liner to help with clean up. Other than that – you mix all the ingredients, put the lid on, turn on high for several hours, and you are done!

The pulled jackfruit really delivered! The sweetness and the heat from the adobo sauce combined to give this all sort of happy balance. Jackfruit turned out soft and very much like pulled pork in texture, while onions and carrots have almost melted into the final sauce, which is exactly what I wanted.

Spicy and Smokey BBQ Pulled “Pork” Jackfruit

What you’ll need:

1-2 yellow onions, finely diced

3 large carrots, finely grated

3 tablespoons tomato paste

2 tablespoons canola (or other neutral taste) oil

3 10 oz (280 g) cans green, young jackfruit in brine (drained, rinsed and pulled apart)

1/4 cup dark molasses

1 tablespoon adobo sauce

2 tablespoons mesquite powder

 

What you’ll do:

  1. Mix diced onion, finely grated carrots, oil and tomato paste in a microwave safe bowl. Put in the microwave for 6-8 minutes until onions start to caramelize.
  2. While the onion and carrot mix is caramelizing and softening, drain and rinse the jackfruit then use your fingers to pull apart all the soft bits while discarding the tough pieces of core.
  3. Line the slow cooker with a liner, add the pulled jackfruit, onion and carrot mix, and the rest of the ingredients. Please note that adobo sauce from a can of chipotle chilis in adobo sauce is very smokey and very spicy, so you may want to dial down or dial up (if you are really adventures!) according to taste. If you rather not have the heat, you could use some smoked paprika and/or a teaspoon of liquid smoke.
  4. Cover the slow cooker, and turn it on to high heat for 5-6 hours.
  5. Serve the BBQ pulled “pork” in a hamburger bun, with some mashed potatoes, coleslaw, grilled corn, or any of other of your favorite sides. The BBQ pulled “pork” would also go really well with some freshly made cornbread, and you can always pour on some of your favorite BBQ sauce for that “finger lickin’ good” feel!

Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2018

Vegan Onion and “Bacon” Tart

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Vegan Onion and “Bacon” Tart, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow

Savory tarts are a great source of comfort during long, and cold, winter months, so fall seems like a perfect time to stock pile great savory tart recipes. One of the favorite topping combinations for this type of tart is onions and bacon. There can be little mystery about why this is so. Caramelized onions are sweet and juicy, and browned bacon is crispy and salty. Putting those two together makes for a sweet, salty, juicy yet crispy topping. Add to that a thin tart crust – and you get the picture!

In this recipe I wanted to recreate a bit of that onion-bacon dichotomy, by combining thinly sliced onions caramelized to perfection with marinated, thinly sliced, tempeh that has been browned until crispy on the outside. The trick with onions is to slice them into thin strips and then let them caramelize for a long time over medium heat. If you are counting calories and trying to stay as oil-free as possible, you can use just a bit of cooking spray to get your onions going – I did it, and it works just fine! But if you regularly use oil, starting with a tablespoon of olive oil will work well here. I recommend using a well-seasoned cast iron skillet here – not only will it help caramelize the onions and brown the tempeh bacon, it will also go straight from the cooktop to the oven, making this a one pot dish.

To prep the tempeh, first boil it for couple of minutes, pat dry it, cut into thin strips, and let it marinate for couple of hours. I used the same basic marinade that The Buddhist Chef used for his Tofu Bacon. It’s made of oil, maple syrup (I did skip maple syrup in this case since caramelized onions are plenty sweet), soy sauce,  liquid smoke, and nutritional yeast. I prepped the tempeh ahead of the onions, so when the onions were done I could remove them from the skillet and cook the “bacon” immediately afterwards.

My version of the tart is crustless, so there is no fancy pastry making required. What holds the tart together is the mix of almond milk and corn starch that comes in last, as the veggies are finishing cooking. And speaking of veggies, one other ingredient here is jackfruit. I use canned jackfruit and for this tart you will want to rinse it out well, drain it, then shred with your fingers, and remove any tough core bits. I can’t comment on using raw jackfruit since I’ve never done it, but I am guessing that it would be better since canned food does come with a bit of that canned taste/flavor.

The tart will spend some time in the oven, and to finish it off I recommend turning on the broiler at the end for five minutes or so to crisp up and brown the top. Let the tart cool for about ten to fifteen minutes before serving, and enjoy as is, or with some yogurt – I used a drizzle of cashew yogurt and a sprinkle of thyme. The tart is rich, fragrant and fantastic!

Vegan Onion and “Bacon” Tart

What you’ll need:

2 large onions

8 oz (225 g) tempeh

2 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons oil

1 tablespoon nutritional yeast

1 teaspoon liquid smoke (or more, depending on your taste)

2 20 oz (570 g) can young green jackfruit in brine

3/4 cup almond milk (plain, unsweetened)

2 tablespoons corn starch

1 teaspoon dry thyme

Cooking spray


What you’ll do:

  1. Bring 2 cups of water to gentle boil in a pan that’s large enough to hold the entire piece of tempeh flat without cutting. Lower the tempeh into the boiling water and let it boil for couple of minutes.
  2. While the tempeh is boiling mix together the marinade by combining oil, soy sauce, liquid smoke, and nutritional yeast.
  3. Take the tempeh out and pat dry. Let it cool for a moment, until it feels ok to handle. My heat tolerance is pretty high so I usually wait only a few minutes, but depending on your comfort zone when it comes to handling hot things you may want to wait longer before slicing the tempeh into relatively thin slices. Lower the slices down into the marinade and let it stand for an hour or two.
  4. While tempeh is marinating, prepare the jackfruit. Rinse the canned jackfruit well and let the excess water drain. Using a fork or fingers, pull the jackfruit into shreds. Discard the hard core, if present. Set aside.
  5. Slice the onions thinly into fine strips.
  6. Turn the oven to 400 F (200 C).
  7. Heat a heavy skillet, like a cast iron skillet, over medium high heat. Spray with cooking spray (or add a tablespoon of olive oil if using), and add the onions. After about 5 minutes at medium high heat, reduce the heat to medium to medium low and cook for another 10 minutes, until onions are soft and golden brown. Transfer the onions into a separate dish.
  8. Increase the heat to high and add tempeh “bacon” strips. Let the side brown then turn over and brown on the other side.
  9. Add back the onions, and jackfruit, mix the “bacon”, onions and jackfruit well, and continue to brown.
  10. In a small mixing bowl combine almond milk and corn starch. Whisk them together so that there are no clumps. Pour over the rest of the ingredients and let it start to bubble.
  11. Sprinkle the thyme and nutmeg, mix again and place the skillet into the oven for 20 minutes.
  12. To brown the top, turn the broiler on and broil for 5 minutes, until the top is browned and crispy.
  13. Take the tart out of the oven and let it rest for 10 to 15 minutes. Serve with a side of salad, or drizzle some yogurt over the top for a delicious meal.

Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2018

Jackfruit Barbacoa 

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Jackfruit Barbacoa Tacos with Queso Fresco, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow

One of the most amazing discoveries I made when I transitioned into plant-based, vegan, eating and cooking was the jackfruit. I had never heard of jackfruit before but once I read, and then made few recipes I was completely sold on it! The jackfruit recipes I made so far varied from very simple, like tacos, to a couple that replaced seafood and shellfish with jackfruit, like the New England Clam-free “Clam” Chowder and Crab-less “Crab” Cakes, to some that take a bit of time to come together, like the Jackfruit Tikka Masala.

If you are not familiar with jackfruit, it is a beast of a fruit. It is actually the largest fruit produced by a tree, since one jackfruit can weigh as much as 80 pounds (35 kg). Not to worry, most home cooks will not have to carve this beast themselves, because the jackfruit comes chopped up in a can. I recently saw a real fresh jackfruit and was tempted to buy it, but it is just too expensive plus I am not even sure I would be able to handle all the prep work. When it comes to jackfruit in a can, for savory dishes you need to pick young, green jackfruit in water or brine. I drain and rinse the jackfruit well to remove excess salt, and use my fingers to pull it apart and remove any seeds that may be in there and the bits of the hard core. At the end of all that I have a pile of jackfruit shreds that are ready to go.

For this barbacoa I start with a pile of onions and grated carrots to give the dish a lot of sweetness, and by caramelizing the onions and carrots I add smoked flavors as well. There are no tricks here, other than taking it slowly and adding layers off flavor one by one. I start by letting the onions caramelize over the medium heat. Then I add carrots and let them cook through, before adding garlic and a nice mix of spices (dried oregano, cumin, allspice, and paprika) leading the way.

My secret ingredient for this barbacoa is roasted red pepper purée, which is super simple to make. All you need is couple of roasted red peppers, homemade or store bought, a can of fire roasted green chili peppers, and a food processor or a blender. You need to give your peppers a buzz for ten to fifteen seconds, and they will be ready to pour over the barbacoa. Finally, I add the shredded jackfruit and let everything simmer for a while, with couple of additions of water to deglaze the bottom of the pan and get all those flavorful brown bits incorporated into the barbacoa.


You can serve this barbacoa any way you like, but it works really well in tacos. If you are into making your tacos exciting, you can try pairing the jackfruit barbacoa with Macademia Nut Queso Fresco and some fresh cilantro. Yummy!

 

Jackfruit Barbacoa

What you’ll need:

3 large white onions

6 large carrots

3 20 oz. (570 g) cans of young (green) jackfruit in brine

4 cloves garlic

1 7 oz (200 g) can fire roasted green chili peppers

3 roasted red peppers

2 teaspoons dried oregano

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon paprika

1 teaspoon allspice

1/4 (or as needed) cup water

Cooking spray

Corn tortillas, fresh squeezed lime juice, fresh cilantro, sour cream, queso fresco, avocado, …

What you’ll do:

  1. Peel and slice the onions lengthwise into thin strips.
  2. Spray the bottom of a large Dutch oven with cooking spray and place over the medium to medium high heat. Add the onions and let them caramelize for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Peel and grate the carrots using a grater or a food processor. You want the carrots to be about the same width as the onions. Add them to the caramelized onions and continue to cook for another 10 minutes.
  4. Peel the garlic and mince by hand or use a garlic press. Make a bit of room in your Dutch oven by pushing the onion and carrot mix to one side. Add the garlic and let it brown for a minute or two.
  5. Push the garlic to the side and add the rest of the spices. Let the spices brown for a minute, until the aromas start to develop. Mix everything together and simmer for couple of minutes.
  6. Put roasted green chili peppers and roasted red peppers in a blender or a food processor. Blend until a smooth purée forms.
  7. Add to the rest of your barbacoa and mix together. Let simmer for couple of minutes.
  8. Add jackfruit to the post, mix everything together and increase the heat to medium high to high. Stir occasionally, but do let your bottom brown a bit before stirring. This will help your jackfruit and the rest of your barbacoa get browned, and look almost as if they came from a grill or a roasting pan. You are going for a bit of burned ends look and feel here, but keep an eye on things and from time to time add a bit of water to deglazed the bottom. This step takes about 15 minutes.
  9. Lower the heat to medium low, put the lid on and let barbacoa cook for another 15 to 20 minutes. Serve hot in a taco, burrito, with rice or beans. Top with sour cream or queso fresco.

 

Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2017

Sunday Slow Cooker Jackfruit Stew

Jackfruit is the “It” ingredient of the plant-based and vegan cooking world. When I started blogging about my plant-based cooking exploration and experimentation, jackfruit was one of those exotic ingredients that I could only get in a local Asian grocery store.

My first jackfruit recipe were the tacos, which still make a frequent appearance at the dinner table because they take no time to make and are really, really good. But what I discovered soon after is that jackfruit is a lovely and realistic stand in for seafood, and you can make a fabulous crab-free crab cakes and clam-free New England clam chowder. I’ve also used jackfruit to make a very rich chickenless tikka masala – yummy!

So in order to feed this new hunger for jackfruit I would go to the Asian grocery store and buy a pile of canned green jackfruit in brine. But, two weeks ago I found out that Trader Joe’s now carries jackfruit suggesting that this amazing plant has gone mainstream.  I still bought more than I need just in case and immediately jumped on testing it out.

What I did with two cans of young (green) jackfruit in brine this time around is transform it into a mellow slow cooker (crockpot) stew infused with onions, garlic, Indian bay leaf, dry basil and ground cumin, as well as spiced up with a bit of red and green chili pepper. In case you are wondering about the Indian bay leaf, the tree it comes from belongs to the same family as the cinnamon tree so the flavor is a bit of a mix between bay leaf and cinnamon. So, if you don’t have Indian bay leaf on hand, you can simply use some regular bay leaf and a dash of cinnamon.

What I like to do when using canned vegetables is to dump the contents of the can out into a strainer and rinse well with lots of water. Then I let access water drain out for few minutes before using. In the case of jackfruit I also prefer to pull the bits of fruit apart, so what I end up with is a pile of pulled jackfruit ready to be flavored in any way I like.

My favorite slow cooker trick that I mentioned before, but is definitely worth repeating, is to combine the aromatics (onion, garlic, chili peppers, and spices), add some oil or cooking spray, and soften in the microwave for three to five minutes.  This helps them develop some caramelization and flavors that slow cooker is not able to achieve. Finally, these days I don’t use the slow cooker unless lined up with crockpot liners that make the cleanup an absolute breeze.

One last note: don’t worry if you don’t have a slow cooker. You can try making this stew on a stovetop in a Dutch oven type of pot or any other. If this is what you are doing remember to brown your aromatics in a bit of oil first then add the jackfruit, and lastly diced tomatoes. The benefit of using a slow cooker is that you set it and forget it, which frees you up to spend your Sunday doing whatever…

Slow Cooker Jackfruit Stew

What you’ll need:

2 cans (10 oz, 280 g) young jackfruit in brine

1 can (28 oz, 800 g) petit diced tomatoes

1 yellow onion, diced

2 tablespoons garlic, crushed

1 red chili pepper, seeds and veins removed

1 green chili pepper, seeds and veins removed

1 tablespoon basil, dried

1 teaspoon ground cumin

2-3 Indian bay leaves

1 teaspoon vegetable oil

What you’ll do:

  1. Rinse and drain the jackfruit to clean out access brine. Pull the jackfruit pieces apart, removing any hard bits of core and seeds that may have been present (I leave softer bits of core and seeds in).
  2. Place the jackfruit in the crockpot that’s been lined with a liner.
  3. Remove the seeds and the veins from the chili peppers and diced them finely. Dice the onions and crush the garlic.
  4. Mix chili peppers, onion, garlic, dry basil, and ground cumin in a microwave safe bowl with the vegetable oil until everything is well coated. Microwave for 3-5 minutes.
  5. Add the aromatics to the crockpot as well as petit diced tomatoes and mix everything together.
  6. Cover and cook on low for 5 hours.
  7. Serve over basmati rice, or even pasta. This stew is fragrant and just discretely spicy. You can definitely adjust the level of spiciness to fit your palate.
  8. Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2017

Clams-free “Clam” Sauce

Jackfruit Clam Sauce with Black Bean Pasta
Jackfruit Clam Sauce with Black Bean Pasta, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow

Cooking is in many ways similar to doing experiments in a research lab. In a lab we start from a protocol, or a recipe (oh, yes… we use recipes in science big time!), and more often than not we change things up to see what happens to our experimental results under a new set of parameters or conditions. We make observations and jot them down. The main and the biggest, actually a life and death, difference between cooking and science is that you don’t taste results of your science experiments, while tasting cooking experiments is recommended.

Why do I mention experiments? Well, although seldom talked about most experiments actually give negative results or even fail. Now this happens in cooking too, but I have to say at this point in my life not very often. So, it is with a bag of mixed emotions that I am jotting down this recipe – the Clam-free Clam Sauce with Black Bean Pasta – as this did not turn out the way I was hoping it would.

The sauce itself is actually spot on, creamy and delicious. It uses jackfruit as a stand in for clams, similar to what I’ve done in my New England “Clam” Chowder, and a batch of homemade vegan mozzarella, recipe for which I found on a fun vegan cooking blog site it doesn’t taste like chicken. This vegan mozzarella, combined with the jackfruit, some almond milk, lemon juice, and a dash of Old Bay Seasoning gave a beautiful, rich, and creamy sauce.

The main problem was that I decided to pair this delicious sauce with black bean pasta, instead of more traditional linguine pasta, and this DID NOT work at all. The black bean pasta had a strong flavor that interfered with the subtle flavors of the Clam-free Clam Sauce so the final dish was definitely very far from authentic pasta with the clam sauce.

Conclusion of this experiment? When in possession of the clam sauce, even if it is a vegan version of it, just go with linguini, which is exactly what I’ll do next time!

Clam-free Clam Sauce

What you’ll need:

1 can (10 oz, 280 g) young green jackfruit in brine

1 tablespoon Old Bay Seasoning

2 tablespoons garlic, crushed

1/2 cup vegan mozzarella

1 cup almond milk

1 tablespoon corn starch

2 tablespoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon dry basil

1 teaspoon dry oregano

Cooking spray

Fresh flat leave (Italian) parsley

What you’ll do:

    1. Prepare the vegan mozzarella according to instructions on it doesn’t taste like chicken site.
    2. Prepare the jackfruit by draining the brine out and washing the jackfruit off from access brain to make sure that most of the salt is washed off. Pull jackfruit apart into smaller pieces, about the size of clam “meat”.
    3. Spray the bottom of your pot with cooking spray and turn the heat on medium-high. Add jackfruit and sauté for 3-4 minutes.
    4. Add Old Bay seasoning, mix well and sauté for 1-2 minutes.
    5. Add garlic and sauté for another minute, until the garlic releases its aroma.
    6. Next add the vegan mozzarella and mix everything together. Let it simmer for 2-3 minutes.
    7. Add almond milk and decrease the heat to medium to medium-low. Let the sauce come to simmer.
    8. In a small bowl, mix corn starch and couple of tablespoons of sauce to temper the corn starch. Then add it to the sauce and mix well. Let the sauce simmer for 10-15 minutes.
    9. Add lemon juice, oregano and basil. That ought to do it. But remember: no matter what don’t pair this sauce with the black bean pasta, it’s not worth it!

Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2017

New England “Clam” Chowder

Bowl of New England “Clam” Chowder, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow

A week ago New England was thrown into a March snow storm that dumped 1-2 feet (30 – 60 cm) of fresh powder all over the region. Schools were closed, businesses advised people to work from home if they can, and by the time late afternoon rolled around we were all outside digging ourselves out.

As we all know, when it comes to the cold weather and snow storms nothing works faster to melt the chills away than a bowl of hot soup, so given the success of my Jackfruit “Crab” Cakes I decided to veganize a seafood classic, the New England Clam Chowder and see if jackfruit would work in this recipe as well.

For those of you not familiar with the New England Clam Chowder it is a creamy soup built from butter, heavy cream, celery, onions, potatoes, clam juice and clam meat. I had past success in making creamy soups using potato or corn starch as gluten-free thickening agents, and I was pretty sure that they will work here as well. I was interested to see how jackfruit will do as a stand in for clams and felt confident that it will turn out OK.

But how to make vegan clam juice, which is clam broth and a key ingredient in this soup that adds unique flavor evocative of sea and shell fish posed and interesting challenge. I decided to use some Old Bay Seasoning because it worked so well in my “crab” cakes, and for some extra sea flavor I used some seaweed broth. What I did is to soak two sushi nori seaweed sheets in some warm water for 30 minutes, and then pass the mix through a strainer to remove the seaweed and keep just the liquid. That was my “clam juice”, and it worked!

Beside that little neat trick, my one general recommendation is to use a Dutch oven or a similar heavy post with a lid, as the soup does need to simmer for a while. When the soup is done, it is best served fresh with a squeeze of lemon, coarsely ground (cracked) black pepper, a sprinkle of dry basil or fresh parsley, and a piece of bread. There’s nothing better to help you recover from all that snow shoveling!

New England “Clam” Chowder, Gently Simmering, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow

New England “Clam” Chowder

What you’ll need:

1.5 lbs (700 g) potatoes, peeled and diced

1 can (10 oz, 280 g) young green jackfruit in brine

6 stalks of celery

1 large yellow onion

2 tablespoons garlic, crushed

1 tablespoon Old Bay Seasoning

3 tablespoons corn starch

2 tablespoons lemon juice

3 bay leaves

2 sheets of sushi nori seaweed

2 cups hot water

3 cups almond milk

Cooking spray

What you’ll do:

  1. Soak seaweed sheets in 2 cups of hot water for 15-30 minutes.
  2. While seaweed is soaking rinse and drain the jackfruit and pull the pieces apart to create smaller chunks, roughly the size and shape of chopped clams. Set aside.
  3. Peel and dice potatoes, onions and celery.
  4. Spray the bottom of a large Dutch oven, or other heavy pot, with cooking spray and bring up to medium high heat.
  5. Add onions, garlic and celery and sauté for 3-5 minutes.
  6. Add potatoes and continue sautéing for another 3-5 minutes.
  7. Add jackfruit, sprinkle with Old Bay Seasoning, mix well and sauté for another 5-7 minutes.
  8. While the vegetables are sautéing, run the seaweed through a strainer to remove as much seaweed as possible. You should end up with 2 cups of water that is slightly brown and smells like seaweed. That’s your “clam” juice
  9. Mix in the starch into the vegetables, and add the “clam” juice, bay leaves, and lemon juice. Bring the soup to gentle boil, mixing occasionally.
  10. Add almond milk, and keep the soup on gentle simmer for 20-30 minutes. Serve hot, with a squeeze of lemon and a piece of bread.

Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2017

Vegan Jackfruit “Crab” Cakes

Vegan Jackfruit “Crab” Cake, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow
I discovered jackfruit about two months ago and can’t live without it ever since. I used it as my secret “chicken” in the Vegan Chicken Tikka Masala, as well as a quick and easy taco filling. If you are new to jackfruit, here is a brief intro. The type of jackfruit that works for savory main dishes is called young green jackfruit and for most of us it will come in a can, usually packed in brine or water. There is also jackfruit in syrup, which is ripe and sweet – I did not taste that one yet, but it seems like it tastes like pineapple or grapes.

One thing I noticed over the last few weeks is that people are very much interested in trying jackfruit but they don’t really know where to find it. My source is a local Asian food market – the trip is fun and the price is right. But, I know that not everyone has a handy Asian food market nearby so in that case places like Amazon.com will help, or places like Whole Foods Market that carries products of The Jackfruit Company, which is a Boston-based company I just stumbled upon dedicated to promoting use of jackfruit and supporting farmers who grow it.  The Jackfruit Company site also includes a long list of interesting looking recipes, but no “Crab” Cakes – they don’t know what they are missing!

My jackfruit comes in a brine so I always begin by rinsing the jackfruit off really well and letting it drain for a while. Basically I leave it in the same strainer I wash it in over a bowl on the kitchen counter for at least 30 minutes, and then I also pat it dry. For this crab cake recipe, I recommend pulling the jackfruit pieces apart to make them roughly the same size crab chunks usually are. The two other ingredients that I enjoy in crab cakes are scallions (green onions) and red peppers, both of which I chop relatively finely.

Vegan Jackfruit “Crab” Cakes Step 1, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow
Finally, one ingredient that you simply can’t have a crab cake flavor without it is Old Bay Seasoning. One note of caution when using Old Bay Seasoning: if you are keeping your meals low salt you may want to skip this one and make your own seasoning mix, or use a smaller amount.

If you are wondering if there are any other tricks to this recipe, I would say that the really neat trick is to leave the cakes in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before cooking. This will help them keep their shape while cooking and as a result you will have a plate of Jackfruit “Crab” Cakes that are delicious, and good lookers to boot!

Vegan Jackfruit “Crab” Cakes Last Step, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow

Vegan Jackfruit “Crab” Cakes

What you’ll need:

2 cans (10 oz, 280 g each) young green jackfruit in brine

6 scallions, finely sliced

1/2 large red bell pepper, finely diced

2 cups panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)

3 tablespoons flax meal

6 tablespoons warm water

2 tablespoon dijon mustard

2 tablespoon Old Bay Seasoning

Cooking spray

Fresh cilantro and lemon wedges for garnish

What you’ll do:

  1. Use flax meal and warm water to make vegan flax egg. What you need to do is in a small bowl or a measuring cup mix flax meal and water in 1:2 ratio (1 tablespoon flax meal plus 2 tablespoons warm water and scale up from there if you know you need more binding agent), mix well and let sit for 15-30 min.
  2. Drain and wash the jackfruit. Pull apart with your fingers into smaller pieces that are approximately size of crab meat used in crab cakes. Place into a large mixing bowl.
  3. Dice the red pepper into small dice and add to jackfruit.
  4. Chop scallions (white and green part) finely, add to the bowl.
  5. Add all the other ingredients including the flax egg and mix well.
  6. Line a tray with wax paper, form crab cakes with your hands, and set on the tray. This amount of jackfruit should yield 6-8 cakes. Leave the cakes in refrigerator for 30-60 minutes.
  7. Spray the bottom of the frying pan with cooking spray and heat it over the medium high to high heat. Place 3 to 4 crab cakes into the pan at a time. Make sure you leave enough room between the crab cakes as it will help you move them around and flip them over. Cook for about 4-5 minutes on the first side and 3-4 minutes on the second side.
  8. Sprinkle the Vegan Jackfruit “Crab” Cakes with some freshly chopped cilantro and a squeeze of lemon.

Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2017

Vegan Chicken Tikka Masala

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Vegan Chicken Tikka Masala with Saffron Brown Basmati Rice, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow
Chicken Tikka Masala has been on the menu of all Indian restaurants that I ever went to. But the origins of this dish are far from clear, some claiming that the dish was created in Glasgow, while others claim it originates from Punjab. Regardless of its origin and history, every Chicken Tikka Masala recipe I ever tasted had five things in common: juicy and tender chicken,a yogurt marinade, fragrant tomato simmer sauce, cream, and lots and lots of ghee (clarified butter).  These five things make Chicken Tikka Masala incredibly tasty, as well as elaborate to make, as well as very heavy on saturated fat and calories.

Well, I think the dish is overdue for a makeover, and there are many that agree with this view. While researching, I found many recipes that explore using tofu, meatless chicken strips, cauliflower, chickpeas, or other things as a chicken substitute, and I bet these all taste great. But, what I wanted to do here is take my new favorite ingredient, jackfruit, which I recently transformed into a fabulous Jackfruit Tacos, and see if it works in an Indian dish.

I also wanted to make a lengthy prep into something more manageable, so my recipe uses a slow cooker to do all the work of bringing jackfruit, spices and the tomato simmer sauce together. This also helps with the fat content, which I cut way, way down while maintaining the intensity of the flavors. The resulting recipe is straightforward but there are couple of tricks and tips to it.

First tip is to use a slow cooker liner. I am not sure if there are other brands out there, but I found that Reynolds Slow Cooker Liners work really well. The food gets cooked perfectly and the clean up is a breeze!

Second tip is to quick pre-cook your aromatics. In this case I use onions and garlic, and apply a method that I found in one of the America’s Test Kitchen cookbooks where you mix your aromatics with a bit of oil and microwave them for 5-6 minutes before adding them to the slow cooker. I’ve been using this method for more than a year now and apply it to get the aromatics (onions, garlic, carrots, celery,…) going, because I found that the slow cooker just can’t get them to develop the slightly caramelized flavor that a stow top cooking will do for you. However, microwaving with a bit of oil takes care of that and works perfectly!

Third tip is to rinse, drain and dry your jackfruit, assuming that you are starting from the canned version, and chopped it into small pieces. Do make sure that jackfruit is well rinsed and drained. Otherwise you will end up with Vegan Chicken Tikka Masala that may be too salty and too soupy.

So, once you have your jackfruit and your aromatics ready, it’s time to get cooking!

veganchickentikkamasala
Vegan Chicken Tikka Masala in a slow cooker, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow

Vegan Chicken Tikka Masala

What you’ll need:

2 cans (10 oz, 280 g) young jackfruit in brine

1 can (28 oz, 800 g) crushed tomatoes, no salt added

1 yellow onion, diced

2 tablespoons garlic, crushed

2 tablespoons tomato paste

2 teaspoons ginger, freshly grated

2 teaspoons garam masala

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1/2 cup cashews, raw

1/4 cup almond milk

cooking spray

fresh cilantro

What you’ll do:

  1. Place diced onions, garlic (I use the one from the jar, as I shared in my Oh My! It’s Vegan Shepherd’s Pie! post) and tomato paste in a microwave safe bowl. Spray the aromatics with cooking spray, mix well and microwave on high for 5-6 minutes. Be careful when you handle the bowl, it will be hot so I recommend using oven mittens.
  2. Line your slow cooker with the liner, and add the can of crushed tomatoes, jackfruit that has been rinsed, dried and chopped to small pieces, as well as all the spices and the microwaved aromatics. Mix well. Cover and turn your slow cooker on “HIGH” for 4 hours.
  3. While the slow cooker is going, start soaking the cashews in water. Let them sit for 4 hours in the refrigerator and once your slow cooker is done take the cashews out, dump the water out and place the cashews and almond milk in a blender. What you are doing here is making vegan Cashew Cream, and this amount of cashews should give you more than enough to make this Vegan Chicken Tikka Masala into a creamy perfection. However, do take it easy when adding Cashew Cream and what I usually do is add the cream one tablespoon at the time, mix Vegan Chicken Tikka Masala well, and check for flavor. I keep adding the Cashew Cream until I am happy with the flavor, color and consistency. Don’t worry if you discover that you made a bit too much Cashew Cream, you can always use it to top your backed potatoes, or turn it into Vegan Herb Mayo.
  4. When  ready to serve, plate your Vegan Chicken Tikka Masala, or should I call it Jackfruit Tikka Masala?, with some Saffron Brown Basmati Rice and top it with fresh cilantro.

Note: Cilantro does tend to go flat in few days from purchase so one way to keep it fresh for longer is to rinse it out soon after you get back from the grocery store, put them in a glass jar like you would a bunch of flowers, and keep them on your kitchen counter top – which is a trick I picked up watching Rachel Ray. Also when it comes to cilantro, basil and parsley, I prefer to use my kitchen scissors to cut them up!

Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2017

Jackfruit Tacos

jackfruit-tacco
Jackfruit tacos, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow

I never had jackfruit in my life until last night. And just like that this weird plant food became one of my favorite ingredients and the one I want to use in as many of my dishes as possible. What is jackfruit?

Jackfruit is a popular ingredient in South and Southeast Asian cooking, but it remains obscure to most living in the Western world. This means that finding jackfruit may turn out to be difficult as your regular grocery store is unlikely to carry it. But, let me tell you: jackfruit is so wonderful that it is worth jumping through few hoops to get it. My starting point were online retailers, like Amazon, and that would have been fine has it not been for the fact that I wanted to start cooking right away and could not wait for the delivery.

So I got down to plan B and found a local Asian market, in my case Formosa Marketplace, and the place did not disappoint. They got exactly what I was looking for – young jackfruit in brine. Jackfruit also comes ripe in syrup, but that is not the kind that you want for your savory dishes, plus it is not the kind that seems particularly healthy given all that added sugar.  If you are interested in learning more about jackfruit and getting the idea what type of dishes you can use it in, the Vegetarian Resource Group has a useful post.

How do you get from a can of young jackfruit to a taco filling? It’s super easy. All you need to do is rinse the jackfruit and let it drain and dry. Once the jackfruit stops dripping, you will need to go and pull the fruit pieces apart, which does take a bit of effort and time but makes for more surface area to absorb all the lovely flavors you will add next.

Although you could use a pre-made taco seasoning mix, there’s no need for that as those usually contain quite a lot of quite unnecessary salt. One additional ingredient that you will need is almond cheese. I have not yet figured out how to make almond cheese on my own, so for now I get the one from my local Trader Joe’s. They carry shredded almond cheese that is delicious and affordable.

When all is said and done, your jackfruit taco filling will look something like this.

jack-fruit-tacco-filling
Jackfruit Taco filling, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow

To build tacos, you will also need corn tortillas, but possibilities are close to endless. You can customize your tacos by adding salsa, avocado, fire roasted green chili peppers, cilantro, lime juice, and shredded iceberg lettuce. For me some cucumber slices and pearl tomatoes on the side hit the spot!

Jackfruit Tacos

What you’ll need (for 4 tacos, 2 people):

1 10 oz. (280 g) can of young jackfruit in brine

1 onion, finely diced

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

1 teaspoon chili powder

1/2 lime, just juice

1/4 cup water

4 corn tortillas, soft

1/2 cup almond cheese

cooking spray

What you’ll do:

  1. Place jackfruit in a strainer and rinse it well with water to get rid of the salty brine. Let the jackfruit drain for 15-20 min, and then pat dry with a paper, or a cloth towel. Next, pull the jackfruit pieces apart to get a pile of finer shreds.
  2. Spray the bottom of a pan with cooking spray and turn the heat to medium high. Add finely diced onion and minced garlic to the pan and let the onion and garlic aromas develop for 3-5 min.
  3. Next add the spices and let them simmer for 1-2 min. This will help the spices toast and intensify the flavor. Don’t worry if some of your spices, onion or garlic stick to the bottom of the pan as lime juice and water that you’ll add next will serve to deglaze the bottom. You may need to adjust the amount of water as you go along, so I recommend starting easy by adding 1-2 tablespoons and going from there.
  4. Once you are happy with the deglazing and the consistency, which should be somewhere between the ketchup and tomato paste, it’s time to add jackfruit. Make sure jackfruit is fully coated with your sauce, and simmer for 5-10 min, until jackfruit browns just slightly. Leave to the side.
  5. Heat a non-stick frying pan with cooking spray and place over high heat. Put one corn tortilla in, top it with jackfruit filing and 1/4 of your cheese and fold the tortilla over. Brown on one side for 1-2 min then flip over and brown on the other side for 1 min or so.
  6. Enjoy!

Note: You can use leftover taco filling in number of different ways. You can top a sandwich, or rice and other grains, as well as pasta or zucchini spaghetti

Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2017