Jackfruit: The Vegetable Meat and Native Food’s New “BBQ Jackelope Sandwich”

I dropped by Native Foods today for lunch and imagine my surprise when I saw a new menu item, The BBQ Jackelope Sandwich! (I was also dismayed to see that it replaced my current favorite, the Bistro Steak Sandwich, but that’s another story). The new Jackelope Sandwich is made from slow cooked jackfruit, smothered with smokehouse BBQ sauce and topped with Asian salad.

jackfruit

What? You’ve never heard of jackfruit? Well, you’re in for a treat. A healthy, all natural, vegan treat!

The jackfruit grows in tropical locales on tall, evergreen trees. Pricky and green in its unripened state, which is when it is perfect to use as a meat substitute (it is yellow and sweet when ripe). It is cultivated in India, Ceylon, southern China, Thailand, and other countries with hot, humid climates.

Jackfruit

The jackfruit is not cultivated much in the United States, and though attempts have been made in Florida and Hawaii, it is rare to see a jackfruit tree in this country.

jackfruit

But, how does it taste? The unripened jackfruit has a taste and consistency similar to chicken when it is cooked. It can be shredded or cut into chunks, and can be slow cooked for extra flavor. Because of its cultivation in Asian countries, it is frequently used in curries. The one other time I ate jackfruit was at the Bohdi Tree, a vegan Asian restaurant in Huntington Beach.

The jackfruit is nutrient rich, especially in vitamins C and B complex. It has small amounts of vitamin A, plus potassium, magnesium, manganese, and iron. It is also high in dietary fiber.

So you don’t have a jackfruit tree in your backyard? No worries. In this country, jackfruit is most frequently available in cans and is sold at Asian and Caribbean markets. Because of it’s moderate popularity, I’m not sure if it is available at supermarkets like Whole Foods.  There are a few online sources, including Amazon.com. Make sure to look for unripe (or young) jackfruit in brine.

Recipes? I’m sorry to say that I have never cooked with jackfruit (yet!). I have done my research for you though. Here is a video from Melisser Elliot from Everyday Dish TV with her Jackfruit Carnitas Tacos.

Here are two recipes from Clean Green Simple, Carolina Pulled “Pork” Sandwich, and Jessica’s version of the Jackfruit Carnitas.

Vegan Sandwiches Save the Day! has a recipe for Carnitas sandwiches (Cadry reviewed the book and made the sandwich, you can check her post out here).

I have to say that a long time ago I used to love carnitas. I will definitely try one of these recipes!

jackfruit

So, how did I like my BBQ Jackelope sandwich from Native Foods? Well, I liked it a lot. The texture is amazing (unless you’re a vegan who gets freaked out by food that feels too “meaty”). The flavor of the jackfruit was a little overwhelmed by the sauce which was a little too spicy. I say that as someone who would put Sriracha on everything, so if you aren’t into spicy food, this particular sandwich might not be right for you. The Asian slaw (which is on the sandwich itself), helps to cool it down and adds a satisfying crunch. I will order it again.

Jackfruit

Have you ever tried jackfruit? What did you think?

Tempeh Burgers. Vegan and Gluten Free

It has been more than five years since I became a vegetarian (more than two as a vegan). I made the transition as many people do, starting with meat-free substitutes, basically making cruelty-free versions of my former recipes. Great for transition purposes, but not very healthy for the long term.

Tempeh Burgers

Over time, I’ve gradually made the change to a less processed plant based diet, lots of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and avoiding faux meats and cheeses. While I’ll occasionally party down with vegan snacks, I stick with natural proteins sources like beans, quinoa, nuts, and less processed soy products like tofu and tempeh.

Ah, tempeh. Tempeh is a fermented soy product that has a chewy texture and somewhat nutty flavor. I have a love/hate relationship with tempeh. I love it when I have a Scorpion Burger at Native Foods. I hate it when I try to make my own version. And I couldn’t figure out why.

Until now. I read a lot of vegan cooking blogs, and unfortunately, I can’t remember where I got this tip in order to give credit where it is due. It is so simple that it may be universally known and I was the only one who was out of the loop. The key to tasty tempeh? As simple as steam.

I now steam my tempeh for about 15-20 minutes before preparing it. Steaming removes some of the bitter taste and allows the tempeh to soak up any marinade or sauce that is used in its preparation. It actually smells delicious when you remove it from the pan! I highly recommend you take this step before you prepare a recipe using tempeh, even if the package states that it is already cooked (as is most store-bought tempeh). For me, it was the difference between hate and love.

Tempeh Burgers

Ingredients
8 ounce package tempeh, cut in half, then sliced lengthwise to create 4 burger size patties. Note: For gluten free, check ingredients. Some tempeh is not gluten free.
1/4 cup tamari
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon brown mustard
4-5 drops liquid smoke
2 tablespoons tomato sauce
Your favorite vegan/gluten free buns or bread
Choose your favorite burger condiments: mustard, vegan mayo, lettuce/spinach, tomato, onion, avocado, pickles, vegan cheese, or whatever else you little heart desires.

Preparation

Steam tempeh in a steam basket or rice cooker for 15-20 minutes.

While tempeh is steaming, mix together tamari, olive oil, mustard, liquid smoke, and tomato sauce.

Remove tempeh from steaming basket. Place in a flat dish and cover with marinade. Set aside for a minimum of 15 minutes.

Burgers can be prepared in a saute pan, grill, or broiler.  If you saute, brown on both sides, then pour the remaining marinade over the tempeh and allow to simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated. If you broil or grill, brown the tempeh on both sides, then lightly brush the tempeh with the marinade and cook a few more minutes.

Serve with buns and condiments.

Do you like tempeh? What’s your favorite way to prepare it? Seriously, give me recipes (or links)!

Recipe: Vegan Shawarma

I’ve told the story of my love for Shawarma before. Before I was vegan, it was my favorite “fast” food.  When I first tried to make a vegan version, I used Gardein Chik’n Strips and it was very tasty. Last night I wanted to try it with seitan, and I think it was even better. I took it a step further and made my own hummus, too. I decided I need to write up the recipe properly (in my previous post, it was “add a cup of this, and a teaspoon of that.”), so that it would be easy to follow and be consistently delicious.

Vegan Shawarma

Ingredients:

One package (or one cup if homemade) seitan or chicken substitute, cut into strips
One Tablespoon lemon juice
One teaspoon Garam Masala
1/2 teaspoon Paprika
1/4 teaspoon Cumin
1/2 teaspoon Salt
Pepper to taste
1/2 cup soy yogurt
One Tablespoon Malt Vinegar
Two Cloves Garlic, minced

Method:

In a small bowl, sprinkle the seitan with the garam masala, paprika, cumin, salt and pepper. Add the lemon juice and toss to mix. In a separate bowl, combine the yogurt, vinegar, and garlic. Add the “meat” mixture and stir together. Marinate for a minimum of 30 minutes, or up to overnight.

Preheat Broiler. Spray broiler pan lightly with cooking spray. Spread seitan in a single layer on the pan. Broil until lightly browned, then turn over and repeat on the other side.

Serve with warmed pita bread, hummus (recipe below) or shawarma sauce (recipe below). (Can also be served with vegan tzatziki or tahini sauce.) Top with tomato salad (recipe below).

Hummus

One can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
Two Tablespoons Lemon Juice
1/4 cup Olive Oil (plus another tablespoon to drizzle over the top)
One teaspoon Tahini
Two cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt

Place all ingredients in a food processor or blender. Process on high until creamy and smooth.

HummusShawarma Sauce

Three Tablespoons vegan mayonnaise
Two Tablespoons Rice vinegar
Two cloves garlic, minced
One Tablespoon Olive Oil
1/2 teaspoon salt

Blend all the ingredients until smooth.

Tomato Salad

One small tomato, chopped
1/4 cup onion, chopped
1/2 cup cucumber, chopped
1/2 cup olive oil
Two Tablespoons red wine vinegar
Salt & pepper to taste

Combine the vegetables. Mix the rest of the the ingredients and pour over vegetables. Toss lightly.

Recent Dishes: Vegan Cacciatore and More

I’ve been doing some pretty good cooking and eating lately, in spite of enduring the cold from hell for the last few days. Being sick has done nothing to reduce my appetite, even though at this point I can hardly taste a thing I put in my mouth. Okay, enough of the whining, let’s get on with the food.

For Valentine’s Day, I wanted to make something special, even though it was really the first day of my cold and I was feeling anything but romantic. I decided on “Chicken” Cacciatore, something I haven’t prepared since becoming a vegetarian. The irony of taking a dish called “Hunter’s Chicken” and making it vegan is not lost on me, but my memory was of a rich, thick, delicious sauce made my mouth water, so I decided to go for it.

I planned to use Gardein Chick’n Filets, but they weren’t available at the market, so I picked up the Herb Dijon Breasts instead (and put the sauce away for another use). Other than that, I used a recipe from my old Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook, with just a few minor changes, like substituting red wine for the white called for in the recipe (a preference of mine in cacciatore). I also didn’t have any rosemary (I know, I was shocked, too!), so I used Italian seasoning in place of the herbs called for in the recipe. If I’d been feeling better, I may have run out to pick it up, because rosemary in an important flavor in the dish, but it was still delicious. Definitely something I will prepare again.

vegan cacciatore

The next night, I wanted to use that herb dijon sauce, so I sauteed some tofu in it, adding some mushrooms, zucchini, yellow squash, and green onions. Served with a rice medley, it was really tasty, and, more important this week, easy.

On Thursday, I felt like a burger, but didn’t feel like having it the standard way, with bun, condiments, etc. Instead, I made this black bean patty, although I used the food processor instead of just “smushing” the beans, and added two tablespoons of ground flax seeds, hoping that it would hold together a little better. It didn’t, but it sure tasted great. I served it bun-less, with some sauteed zucchini, yellow squash, kale, and onions on the side.

Finally, last night, I went back to tofu. After marinating for a little while in soy sauce, veggie broth, mustard and a little olive oil, I dusted it with flour.  I put potatoes, carrots, onions, and yellow pepper in a baking dish and stirred it up with the marinade, then laid the tofu on top of the veggies. I poured some more vegetable broth over the top, then baked it for about 45 minutes in a 400 degree over, turning the tofu and basting it once.

If there was a theme to all these meals, it was that they were all really easy, even the cacciatore, which was really important in a week when I was feeling lousy but still hungry.

An finally, something that actually made me feel better! While I was shopping at Trader Joe’s yesterday, Alan was looking for something sweet and found this:

Oh, what a treat! I haven’t had an ice cream sandwich since I was a kid (well, almost). These were pretty tiny, which is probably a good thing, but they were just as remembered. Yummy. (They also make them with vanilla.)

Here’s to healthier days ahead. Cheers!