Savory Plantain Splits

2013-08-18_22-17-09_377

If you have been reading for awhile, or if you have taken some time to dig around here, you may know that one of my very first posts was a recipe for Tostones, fried plantains. I started Vegology to chronicle my adventures in the kitchen, particularly with ingredients and methods that were new to me. In the beginning, I was two years into vegetarianism and five years into my home cooking habit. I had started to be more adventurous in the kitchen and found new and exciting ingredients at the farmers’ market weekly. There were so many options that I had to consciously spread them out so that I wouldn’t bite off more new ingredients than I could chew each week. Now, three years later, I have to search a little harder to find ingredients that are brand new to me. There are still as many ingredients that I haven’t tried as there are stars in the sky, but I do have to look a little farther beyond my local farmers’ market to find them.

2013-08-18_20-51-07_976

Take, for example, jackfruit, which I discovered was an excellent stand-in for pulled pork last year. You can find a lot of things at a Virginia farmers’ market, but jackfruit is not one of them. Soba is another, and epazote yet another. So I have discovered a lot of my new-to-me ingredients over the last several months in specialty stores and grocers. However not every showstopper meal requires a trip to the end of the earth for exotic ingredients. When I am working with my same old kitchen staples, I try to reinvent the classics to get that jolt of adrenaline that I often do from novel food. Which leads me to the star of this show, the Cuban plantain split.

2013-08-18_22-14-54_849

Inspired by the elaborate and aesthetically appealing arrangement of the components of the classic ice cream shop creation, the banana split, I set out to make a savory version with starchy, green plantains instead of bananas. I often associate plantains with Cuban food, so I started brainstorming in that direction. I came up with my vegetarian paella to start. Then I recalled a Cuban dish that I made in my pre-vegetarian days, consisting of shredded meat, tomato sauce, spices, and green olives. Ropa vieja is like a Cuban sloppy joe, except that it’s so much better. Stuck at two scoops, I reached out to a foodie friend to come up with the third: slow simmered Cuban-inspired black beans.

2013-08-18_22-14-24_114

Topped with cilantro, avocado, a drizzle of hot sauce and a spritz of lime, this is a hearty vegan dish with complex flavors and a variety of textures. If you have an open mind, it is seriously fun to eat, and if you’re up to the challenge, it is easy to stuff yourself with this spicy comfort food. But let’s be real. This dish is a ridiculous time commitment.

Realistically, you’re going to get four separate recipes out of this post and you may never make them all at once like I did. To make them all together and assemble the plantain split masterpieces from scratch, it took me and another cook two hours in the kitchen, working together with no idle time. In the end, we agreed the result was worth it. But then again, I’m the kind of person who considers a night spent in the kitchen revamping the classics while chopping several pounds of produce and dancing to samba music to be a great time. If you are not that ambitious (or crazy?) each component takes less than an hour on its own and can be paired with a fresh salad for a quick, flavorful and filling meal.

2013-08-18_22-15-50_162

Cuban Plantain Splits

Prepare one batch of each: Split Plantains, Vegetarian Ropa Vieja, Cuban Black Beans, and Quick Vegetarian Paella. Arrange plantain halves along the long side of an oval shaped dish. Arrange one scoop of each of the other components, in a row between the plantain halves. Top with chopped fresh cilantro and fresh avocado. Serve with hot sauce if desired. Serves 4-6.

Split Plantains

Ingredients:

  • 4 large green (unripe) plantains
  • sea salt to taste
  • 2 cups vegetable oil for frying

Preparation:

  1. With a sharp small knife cut ends from each plantain and cut a lengthwise slit through skin. Cut plantains once lengthwise and once crosswise into quarters. Beginning at slit, pry skin from pieces.
  2. In a 12-inch nonstick skillet heat 1/2 inch oil over moderate heat until just hot enough to sizzle when a plantain piece is added. Fry plantains in batches, without crowding, until tender and just golden, 2 to 3 minutes on each side. With tongs transfer plantains as fried to paper towels to drain.
  3. Remove skillet from heat and reserve oil. With the bottom of a heavy saucepan or a wide solid metal spatula flatten plantains to 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick.
  4. Into a bowl of warm salted water dip flattened plantains, 1 at a time, and drain them well on paper towels.
  5. Heat reserved oil over moderate heat until hot but not smoking and fry flattened plantains in batches, without crowding, until golden, about 3 minutes. With tongs transfer tostones as fried to paper towels to drain and season with salt if desired.

Vegetarian Ropa Vieja

Ingredients:

  • 2- 10 oz. cans jackfruit in water, drained
  • 1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 small onion, sliced
  • 1 small green pepper, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1- 15 oz. can fire roasted tomatoes
  • 1- 8 oz. can tomato sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 1/2 cup green olives with pimiento, sliced or halved
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh chopped cilantro

Preparation:

  1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add jackfruit and cook until browned, about six minutes. Remove from pan and shred jackfruit until the texture resembles that of pulled meat.
  2. Add onion, green pepper, and garlic to pan. Saute until translucent. Add ground cumin to pan and cook, while stirring, for 30 seconds.
  3. Add fire roasted tomatoes, tomato sauce, vinegar, and broth. Bring to simmer, then lower heat to medium-low. Cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Add olives, salt and pepper just before serving. Top with fresh cilantro.

Cuban Black Beans

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 small green bell pepper, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
    • OR 1 teaspoon dried oregano plus 1 teaspoon dried epazote
  • 2- 15 oz. cans black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 cup vegetable broth
  • 1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • Salt and pepper

Preparation:

  1. Heat oil in a large sauce sauce pan over medium heat. Add onion, pepper, garlic, and oregano, and epazote if using. Saute until translucent.
  2. Mash 1 cup of beans with fork, or blend in food processor, Add mashed beans, remaining whole beans, vegetable broth and vinegar to pan.
  3. Cook 15-20 minutes over medium-low heat, stirring often.
  4. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Quick Vegetarian Paella

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup medium grain white rice
  • 6 saffron threads
  • 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 large bell pepper, diced
  • 1 cup fresh vegetables, diced (I used zucchini, carrots, and peas)
  • 1- 6 oz. jar quartered, marinated artichoke hearts
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 4 oz. tomato sauce
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Salt and pepper

Preparation:

  1. Prepare rice according to package directions to produce 3 cups prepared rice.
  2. Boil 1/2 cup water in a small sauce pan. Turn off burner. Add saffron threads, cover, and let stand 10 minutes. Strain water into a bowl and discard threads.
  3. Heat vegetable oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add onion and pepper and saute until tender.
  4. Add vegetables, saffron water, artichoke hearts, vegetable broth, tomato sauce, and garlic to soup pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes. Add rice and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

 

Cook From the Blogs: BBQ Jackfruit and Coconut Rice

This year I made a commitment to myself to use my cookbooks more often. So far, I have found a lot of great recipes that have been hiding in between pages on my kitchen bookshelf for years. I have been taking pictures along the way and I hope to share more of these “cook from the books” adventures here on Veg:ology soon. While I’ve been hitting the books more often lately, the truth is that I get most of my recipes online or I make them up as I go. I’ve learned a lot of cool kitchen tricks and flavor combinations from the food blogger community.

wpid-2011-12-25_10-44-26_349.jpg

I recently had a major dinner success based on a recipe I read on Emily’s blog, Daily Garnish. You may recall that this isn’t the first time I’ve been inspired by Emily’s kitchen creations; I set up my glass jar ingredient storage after seeing this organization solution on Daily Garnish. Emily has a ton of delicious vegan recipes on her site, and recently she has been posting some quick and easy options, which are perfect for me. I have been working long days lately, followed by trips to the gym (when I can fit them in), which leaves me very little time for cooking on weeknights. This week I tried out the Rice and Peas on Emily’s blog, because it only requires 5 minutes of hands-on cooking time.

2013-03-16_13-53-50_780

I was extremely pleased to find that, especially if I stir a generous two tablespoons of coconut oil into the rice, it is a great match for my BBQ jackfruit. The spicy, sweet, islandish flavors made my late Thursday night dinner extraordinary.

Resampled_2012-11-25_19-16-27_67

Check out both recipes here:

Veg:ology BBQ Jackfruit

Daily Garnish Rice and Peas

Enjoy!

Veggie Redux: Vegan BBQ with Cole Slaw

Resampled_2012-11-25_19-15-11_354

If you have seen any of my veggie redux posts before, you know that I love a good vegetarian remake of a classic meaty dish. In the past, I have tackled bangers and mash, shrimp and grits, caldo verde, chicken pot pie, and more. Recently I started experimenting with jackfruit for a vegetarian remake of pulled pork barbecue. I had seen barbecue jackfruit on the menus at Ipanema and Strange Matter, so this isn’t a completely original idea, but the recipe is the result of several hours of testing spice combinations in my own kitchen.

Resampled_2012-11-19_19-40-42_891

It all starts with young green jackfruit, a fruit that is indigenous to Southeast Asia. I found it canned at Tan-A, a large Asian supermarket in Richmond. This fruit works well because the texture is fibrous like pulled pork, and when unripe, it does not have a very strong taste. The young green jackfruit is a little tangy on its own but it is mainly a vehicle for the flavor of the barbecue sauce.

Resampled_2012-11-25_18-23-58_304

It is important to use either jackfruit in brine (rinsed) or jackfruit in water. Do not use jackfruit in syrup or else it will be very sweet. As the jackfruit cooks, it releases some liquid into the sauce and begins to pull apart. After some seasoning, simmering, and coaxing with forks, the jackfruit begins to resemble pulled pork barbecue.

Resampled_2012-11-25_19-16-27_67

When I had mastered my barbecue sauce recipe, I realized that I was on the way to not just a vegetarian barbecue sandwich, but a vegan one. I started working on a cole slaw recipe with that in mind. I grew up eating barbecue with creamy cole slaw, so I had to make sure I had some cool and crunchy cole slaw to balance my smoky and spicy barbecue jackfruit.

Resampled_2012-12-08_13-16-38_671

I made the cole slaw creamy and vegan by making vegan cashew cream and then expanding upon that technique to create a dressing. It starts with ground cashews and water, then after the addition of oil, vinegar, mustard, dill, salt, pepper, and a touch of maple syrup, a sweet and tangy dressing comes together. It is so creamy that it’s hard to believe that it’s vegan.

Resampled_2012-12-08_13-04-43_271

Since finalizing my recipes for both components, I have experimented even more with jackfruit, by putting the barbecue jackfruit on buns, over polenta, and piled on tostadas. Later this week, we’ll try it in enchiladas. Kyle has requested in in banh mi soon. If you add a little chili powder to the barbecue recipe and let it cook a bit longer over higher heat, you get something that resembles barbacoa, which is delicious stuffed in tortillas with fresh sliced avocado and lime.

Resampled_2012-11-25_19-32-46_301

I think omnivores and herbivores alike would enjoy this very smoky, spicy barbecue. It’s not going to fool you into thinking you are eating pork. but the flavor and texture might be close enough to the real thing to satisfy a craving. Warning: if you like your barbecue sweeter, back off on the spice just a bit. This one has a good amount of heat.

BBQ Jackfruit (Vegan “Pulled Pork BBQ”)

Resampled_2012-11-25_19-15-21_509

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1- 20 oz. can young green jackfruit in water, drained (or in brine, drained and rinsed)
  • 3 Tablespoons ketchup
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1 Tablespoon molasses
  • 1/4 cup water

Preparation:

  1. Heat 2 Tbsp oil over medium heat. Saute onion and garlic for 1 minute.
  2. Add next six ingredients (cayenne through sea salt), stir, and cook for 1 minute.
  3. Add jackfruit and stir to coat. Cook for 5 minutes.
  4. While jackfruit is cooking, mix together the remaining ingredients: ketchup, apple cider vinegar, maple syrup, molasses and water. Add 1 tsp of vegetable oil. Stir to mix thoroughly and add to jackfruit. Bring to a simmer and cover.
  5. Cook over medium heat, covered, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes.
  6. Use forks to partially pull apart the fruit into strands and bite size pieces. Reduce heat to low and keep covered until ready to serve.

Creamy Vegan Cole Slaw

Resampled_2012-12-08_13-16-57_715

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup dry, shelled, unsalted, raw cashews
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried dill
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse ground mustard
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons maple syrup
  • 1- 12 oz. package of rainbow slaw
  • 3 green onions, thinly sliced
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preparation:

  1. In a food processor, grind the cashews into a meal, as finely chopped as possible.
  2. To the cashews, add dill and mustard and pulse until incorporated.
  3. Add water, olive oil, vinegar and maple syrup to the food processor and process until all ingredients are incorporated and the mixture resembles a vinaigrette.
  4. Dump the rainbow slaw into a large bowl with the green onions and add dressing. Stir to coat all of the slaw with the dressing and season to taste with salt and pepper.
  5. Cover and refrigerate at least one hour and up to eight hours before serving.