The holidays are right around the corner, and I always host the meals because I love to cook, and so genuinely, enjoy the big day. I'm also a planner, so it's not really that stressful for me. That said, when I'm planning large dinners with many components, I try and "take it easy" on the traditional flavors leading up to the big day; hence this Indo-Asian flavor profile. I also try and do very convenient meals which limit my efforts so I can conserve the mental energy needed to create over the holidays stunning mains and amazing sides. Oh, and don't forget the dessert; sometimes I make two!
These little baby pizzas get a lot of ease from prepared foods (pita shells, canned jackfruit, and almond mozzarella cheese instead of making my own) combined with a few pantry staples but brightened a LOT by key fresh ingredients and fragrant spices. If you have never tried jackfruit before, it's a lovely alternative whole food "meat" that can be shredded and mimics the look and mouthfeel of either chicken or pork (in case you need a transition food comparative - I leaned on jackfruit heavily early in my transition to a vegan diet).
Sustainability Spotlight: Jackfruit is grown on jack trees; largely in Asian and sub-Asian countries and is touted as the "next big thing" for vegan alternatives to meat. Jack trees do not require additional water sources for irrigation nor pesticides or herbicides to flourish. Not unlike coffee,"...jackfruit is a shade crop that can be intergrown with other crops to create a regenerative eco-system" according to The Jackfruit Company.com. Why does that matter? "This means that growing jackfruit allows farmers to also grow secondary crops, to increase their revenues and enrich soil by replacing nutrients." The downside? Transport of these fruits are a heavy load on the planet via carbon emissions.
Surprise twist though! Jackfruit may be its own offset for net carbon achievement if Australian researchers' theory about the fruit proves correct. "The research uses the often discarded cores of (these) tropical fruit(s) as high-performance supercapacitors. This method of electricity storage is double-sustainable-both cost-effective and environmentally friendly," reports LiveKindly.co. The properties of the core that aid in the energy storage include large surface area (the more surface you have, the more energy you can store), mesoporous structure (natural "pores" that can contain material), and intrinsic nitrogen. The biomass of the fruit is heated and then freeze-dried to provide a light and porous material that can be used for a range of applications (including super-capacitors).
What is a super-capacitor? "...(An) energy reservoir that dole(s) out energy smoothly. They can quickly store large amounts of energy within a small battery-sized device and then supply energy to charge electronic devices, such as mobile phones, tablets and laptops, within a few seconds." Wow! If this research continues to yield positive results, I just might be eating my vegan meat alternative while charging this laptop I use to write these blog entries. It's amazing what technology and science can do together with the brightest minds of the world finding and using creative ways to turn "waste" into use and be more sustainable.
So, while the jackfruit in this recipe traveled a long way, the growth methods support sustainability and the future looks bright for the wastes from the fruit to be used as an energy storage method. That, to me, makes this ingredient worthy of a place in my sustainable kitchen.
(1) 14 oz can jackfruit (rinsed thoroughly if packed in brine)
1/4 cup plain cashewmilk yogurt (I used Forager brand)
1 tsp aleppo pepper (divided)
1 tsp smoked paprika (divided)
1/2 tsp salt (divided)
1 tbsp olive oil
3-4 garlic cloves (diced)
(1) 1 x 1 inch piece of fresh ginger (peeled and grated)
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
(1) 14.5 oz can fire roasted diced tomatoes - chopped in mini processor
2 tbsp plain plant-based creamer (I used Nut Pods Original)
5 whole wheat pitas
1/4 red onion (sliced thin)
1/2 almond mozzarella cheese block (grated) - I used Lisanatti brand
1 small handful cilantro (chopped)
Turn broiler on High. Space pitas evenly along a large baking sheet. Set aside.
Combine jackfruit pieces, yogurt, 1/2 tsp aleppo pepper, 1/2 tsp smoked paprika and 1/4 tsp salt in a small bowl. Spread jackfruit over a foil (you can rinse it after & recycle) lined small baking sheet coated with cooking spray.
Broil jackfruit for ~10 minutes until the jackfruit mixture has "dried" and started to brown. Remove from oven and set aside.
Heat a medium skillet over medium-high heat; add oil to pan and swirl to coat. Add garlic, ginger, 1/2 tsp aleppo pepper, 1/2 tsp smoked paprika and cayenne pepper to pan and saute for ~1 minute until fragrant. Stir in tomatoes and cook on Low for ~5 minutes (sauce will begin to thicken).
Stir in remaining 1/4 tsp salt and the plant-based creamer; add jackfruit and stir to incorporate. Remove pan from heat.
Spoon even amounts of the jackfruit mixture onto each pita bread, top with red onion pieces and cilantro. Next, add grated cheese to each pita and slide the pan into the oven to broil for ~2-3 minutes. Cheese will start to bubble and brown.
Remove from oven and let cool slightly. Cut into fourths and serve.
With love & hope for a better future for all of us - Jamie