Jack of All Trades

Anything meat can do, plants can do better.

This isn’t news, but affirmation of fact. Brilliant marvels of engineering, science, and nutrition are bringing greater alternatives to the market every day, but sometimes it seems like the best substitutes have been right under our noses all along, growing in plain sight. Jackfruit is that underdog; the geeky guy in high school that ends up getting the girl and beating the popular kids at their own game. All it takes is a new perspective, some small insight and self-discovery, to unlock its full potential.

Though I adore eating the fresh, sweet fruit, the young, canned jackfruit in brine is the meat of the matter here. Slowly simmered in an aromatic marinade inspired by sweet tea, an irreplaceable summertime brew designed for maximum refreshment, these immature arils tenderize to a texture almost indistinguishable from pulled pork. Spiked with fresh lemon, it has a tart, sweet-and-sour balance, pulling out all the savory stops.

Deceptively simple, the ginger-scallion slaw is not to be underestimated, nor overlooked. Crisp, cooling, yet bright and invigorating in flavor, I could honestly just eat this by the bowlful. It’s an ideal foil to the richly meaty main, and truly completes this deeply satisfying sandwich.

Thinking along the lines of complete culinary inclusion and offering a main dish to suit all diets, I was also inspired by the Steviva Blogger Challenge.

Sugar is neither stranger nor foe to me. As a baker with a serious sweet tooth, I consider myself very lucky that it’s one ingredient that I don’t need to worry about. Many are far more sensitive, and it always bums me out when I can’t share my latest creations with them. For this dish, while you could use plain granulated sugar in a pinch, plant-based Erysweet, made of erythritol, sweetens the deal. It’s not as sweet as table sugar, so it merely smooths out the harsh edges of the citrus and tea in this tangy marinade.

Life is sweeter when it can be shared. Meatless, sugarless, or otherwise, this is a dish that everyone can enjoy*.

*This is especially true if you use tamari instead of soy sauce and opt for gluten-free buns if wheat is an additional concern!

Sugar-Free Sweet Tea Pulled Jackfruit

1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1/2 Medium Red Onion, Thinly Sliced (About 1 Cup)
2 Cloves Garlic, Minced
1 Teaspoon Black Tea Leaves
1/4 Cup Erysweet (or 3 Tablespoons Granulated Sugar if Not Sugar-Free)
1/4 Cup Lemon Juice
1/4 Cup Vegetable Stock
2 Tablespoons Soy Sauce
14 Ounces Young Jackfruit, Drained and Rinsed
1/2 Teaspoon Dried Rosemary, Crushed
1/4 Teaspoon Ground Black Pepper

Ginger-Scallion Slaw:

1 Cup Roughly Chopped Scallions
1 Inch Fresh Ginger, Peeled and Chopped
2 Tablespoons Lemon Juice
2 Tablespoons Rice Vinegar
1/4 Teaspoon Salt
1/4 Cup Olive Oil
1/2 Medium Head Green Cabbage, Shredded (about 6 Cups)
1 Cup Shredded Carrots

3 – 4 Sandwich Buns, for Serving

Place a medium saucepan over moderate heat. Add the oil and onion, stirring periodically until softened and aromatic. Introduce the garlic and tea leaves next, cooking until golden all over. Give it time, because this could take 10 – 15 minutes to properly brown. Stir in the Erysweet (or sugar, if you’re not worried about making this sugar-free) and then quickly deglaze by pouring in the lemon juice, vegetable stock, and soy sauce all at once. Thoroughly scrape the bottom of the pan to make sure that nothing is sticking and burning.

Add the jackfruit, rosemary, and pepper next, stirring gently to incorporate without splashing. Turn down the heat to medium-low and simmer until most of the liquid evaporates; about 20 – 30 minutes. Use the side of your spatula to roughly mash/shred the jackfruit once it’s fork-tender.

For the slaw, toss the scallions, ginger, lemon juice, vinegar, and salt into your blender. Pulse to break down the more fibrous aromatics, pausing to scrape down the sides of the container if needed. With the motor running, slowly stream in the olive oil to achieve a creamy emulsification. Pour the dressing over the cabbage and carrots in a large bowl, mixing to thoroughly coat all of the veggie shreds.

To serve, lightly toast the buns and top with generous spoonfuls of the stewed jackfruit and slaw. Devour immediately! These are unapologetically messy sandwiches, so don’t be afraid to dive right in trying to be dainty about it. The buns will only grow progressively more soggy once fully assembled.

Makes 3 – 4 Servings

Printable Recipe

Soda Satisfaction

There’s a silent soda war going on behind those shiny metallic cans, and it’s not just between the titans of industry, Pepsi and Coke. No, this battle is at the root of every fizzy solution, bubbling up to the surface every time the classic question of sweetness is posed. Should “diet” sodas merely strive to maintain the status quo, sticking with the traditional formulation of artificial sweeteners that may or may not be even worse than sugar or even high-fructose corn syrup, or could there be something better still out there? Zevia is one company bold enough face that controversial query head-on, producing zero-calorie carbonated beverages in a rainbow of natural colors that eschew the classic chemical cocktail that most brews rely on.

It was love at first sip so many years ago, and you’ll rarely find my pantry stocked with fewer than three different varieties at a time. Now, when I heard that they were switching up the foundation, adding an innovative new sweetener into the mix, I was alarmed. Would my beloved Zevia still taste as good, or would this story turn into a modern retelling of New Coke?

Offering the same lineup of flavors I’ve come to know and love, now monk fruit extract, the newest all-natural non-caloric sweetener, has been invited to the party. Stevia and erythritol round out the sugarless foundation, a trio that Zevia as dubbed “SweetSmart.” Strongly resistant to change in general and repelled by the concept at first, it seemed like crazy talk to merely suggest tampering with the formula. Why fix what isn’t broken? Zevia has been the only soda in my fridge for a number of years now, so surely any variation in that familiar flavor could only weaken the brand.

Dispelling that notion with just one big, fizzy slurp, I couldn’t be happier that my assumptions were proven wrong. Sure, family and friends had sometimes remarked that the bubbly elixir was too sharp and not nearly sweet enough for their palates, but these were comments brushed off as unfair comparisons. No, a so-called “diet” soda wouldn’t have the same addictive sugary rush as a corn syrup-sweetened can of conventional soda, although now I see the validity in that point. The new and improved Zevia sodas are distinctly smoother, less harsh and acidic, while placing a greater emphasis on the underlying flavors. That allows the beverages to impart a sweeter taste without actually veering off into liquid candy territory.

Just as good as before, and yet somehow better than ever? Now that’s a sweet change that I can fully embrace!

Spread It On Thick

Augh, I’ve lost out again!

The crushing truth is now finally hitting me, hard. How sad am I that I’ve now missed out on the prime season for turning fresh fruits into sweet, syrupy jams, having nothing to preserve from summer and save for those colder days. It just figures, every time I get these big plans for seasonal things to make, I never fulfill my ambitions. Forget those ice creams, frozen fruits, cold soups; I’m sick of loosing whole seasons like this! I swear, this is the last time I’ll be resigned to comforting myself with the standard saying of, “There’s always next year…”

Despite my complaints, I am happy to at least have winter ahead of me and fall currently within my grasp. And while I can’t get those plump, juicy stone fruits to preserve any more, I do have one of my favorite autumn specialties – Pumpkin.

Even if it isn’t from my own garden but a can instead, pumpkins always manage to lift my spirits when lamenting the end of summer. Such a lovely glowing orange, everything about them is cheerful. I would have bought a whole one and roasted it, but they aren’t yet widely available, (Or particularly cheap…) So canned it was!

I literally have a whole list of pumpkin-based goodies I’m just dying to create in the kitchen, but at the very top is always pumpkin butter. Who needs those other sticky, sickeningly unctuous jams when you’ve got the deep, brassy tones of pumpkin and spice, highlighted by the refined and delicate sweetness of maple syrup. Brainlessly easy, I bet that even our president could make it. Yeah, it’s really that simple.

There are thousands upon thousands of recipes out there, some calling for honey, some with molasses, mixing up the spices and adding in various flavors, but this is how I make mine. It’s very straightforward, and every time I spread a dollop on top of a slice of toast, muffin, you name it, it is guaranteed to always make me glad this year’s summer is over and done with.

Yield: Makes 1 - 1 1/4 Cups

Pumpkin Butter

Pumpkin Butter

A rich spread with the deep, brassy tones of pumpkin and spice, highlighted by the refined and delicate sweetness of maple syrup.

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes

Ingredients

  • 15 oz Can (About 1 3/4 Cups) Pumpkin Puree
  • 1/4 Cup Maple Syrup
  • 1 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Ground Allspice
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Ground Cloves
  • 1/8 Teaspoon Ground Nutmeg

Instructions

  1. In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, mix together the pumpkin mush and maple syrup until they’re both fully combined. If you prefer your spread to be sweeter, don’t be shy and feel free to add in as much syrup as it takes to satisfy that sweet tooth. Have fun with it – It’s pretty hard to screw this recipe up.
  2. Continue to stir the pumpkin slowly for about 10 – 15 minutes, or until the mixture had thickened to a desirable consistency. The stirring is important though, so DON’T walk away! If you do, your pumpkin may scorch and get burnt onto the bottom of the pan, and that wouldn’t be so tasty. The black bits really don’t look to attractive, either.
  3. Anyway, once you’ve determined that it’s nice and thick, take your pan off the heat and you can go ahead and mix in all your spices. I also add in just a pinch of salt, because I believe that it helps to round out all the flavors and make them a bit brighter, but you don’t need to by all means.
  4. Now, I don’t know anything about the proper way to can foods, so you’ll have to ask someone else. What I do is take a clean, empty jar and spoon in the hot pumpkin butter. I allow it to cool before topping it off with the lid, and then make sure it’s reached room temperature before moving it to the fridge. Refrigerated, it should last a solid month or two. That is, if it isn’t all eaten before then.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

16

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 23Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 2mgCarbohydrates: 6gFiber: 1gSugar: 4gProtein: 0g