April 19th, 2012

Jerk Sloppy Joes With Coconut Creamed Spinach

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Serves 4 to 6
Time: 45 minutes

Jerk Sloppy Joes

Oi vey has life been hectic over the past few weeks! I’ve been traveling a ton, as well as working on a new solo cookbook and wrapping up the desserts for the Forks Over Knives cookbook. On top of that, I’m working on a few other projects that I’ll talk about soon. Point being, I’ve been a little remiss in my blogging duties, but this is a good one and just might make up for my month of silence.

My recent travels took me to NYC and Austin, Texas where I was spoiled to death by all of the amazing vegan food. From migas to tamales to dumplings to curries, my palate was blessedly overstimulated and I arrived back home in Omaha with some major cravings for big flavors. This was the first meal I cooked as soon as I settled in. It combines my love for sauteed callaloo and West Indian jerk sauces (which I miss more than anything!) with my love for sloppy, saucy midwestern sandwiches. Callaloo comes from the leaves of the taro plant, which is virtually impossible to find in the midwest, but spinach makes a great stand in. This Sloppy Joe, made with seitan, is stick-to-your-ribs spicy and tangy, and the spinach is cooling and creamy with coconut and the ethereal sweet licorice flavor of star anise, which is a component in lots of Jamaican curry powders.

To time everything right, start the spinach when you add the tomatoes to the seitan. Of course, you can just enjoy the Sloppy Joes on their own sans spinach (but don’t you love your veggies?) or enjoy the spinach alongside any other jerk sorta’ recipe. And if you don’t feel like having sandwiches, this would be pretty awesome over rice, too.

Oh and I was considering calling these Sloppy Jerks or Jerky Joes, so in the privacy of your own home, feel free to call them whatever you like!

For the Sloppy Joe:
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon coconut oil, divided
1 medium onion, diced medium
1 pound seitan, chopped into bite sized pieces
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
1 tablespoon sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
Several dashes fresh black pepper
14 oz can crushed tomatoes
2 tablespoon pure maple syrup
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons yellow mustard

For the spinach:
2 teaspoons coconut oil
2 cloves minced garlic
1 lb spinach, washed well, stems removed
1 cup coconut milk (regular or light)
2 star anise
1/4 teaspoon salt

To serve:
4 to 6 big sandwich buns

Prepare the Sloppy Joe:
Preheat a large, heavy bottomed pan over medium-high heat. Saute onion in one tablespoon coconut oil and a pinch of salt, until translucent, 3 to 5 minutes.

Add the seitan and cook for about 10 minutes, until nicely browned, stirring often. Push the seitan and onions to one side of the pan so that you have space to quickly saute the garlic and ginger. Put the remaining teaspoon of coconut oil in the pan and toss in the garlic and ginger, stirring as it sizzles, for about 15 seconds. Then mix it up with the seitan and onions.

Add thyme, paprika, salt, allspice, red pepper flakes, cinnamon and black pepper and toss to coat everything and cook the spices a bit.

Add the tomatoes, and cook for about 10 more minutes, tossing often. Lastly, mix in the maple syrup, lime juice and mustard. Let cook for a minute or so, then taste for salt and seasonings, and serve.

Prepare the spinach:
Preheat a large, heavy bottomed pan over medium heat. Quickly saute the garlic in coconut oil, just so it sizzles for a few seconds, being careful that it doesn’t burn. Add the spinach in batches, tossing with tongs, until it is all wilted and fits in the pan. Cook for about 3 minutes, until a lot of moisture is released.

Now we’re going to get rid of the excess moisture, but try not to lose any garlic or spinach in the process. Shove the spinach off to one side, and carefully (don’t burn yourself, dummy!) lift the pan and drain the excess water into the sink. The spinach might all just behave itself and stay on one side of the pot, but use the tongs to keep it from falling into the sink just in case.

Now return to the heat, add the coconut milk, star anise and salt. Bring coconut milk to a boil and stir often, for about 5 minutes, so that the star anise releases its flavor. Turn the heat off and let it rest for 10 minutes or so, soaking up the coconut milk yumminess.

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