Spare the Ribs

We are now full swing into grill season in the United States. What a long, strange Spring it’s been. Most of us know that meaty, fatty barbeque is not healthy. In recent months, meat has been harder to come by, and with the closures of meat processing plants, it has been becoming more expensive. Even though the closed meat plants may be coming back online, in our current climate, it’s the perfect time to try a different kind of barbeque.

The doctors at the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine believe it is time for a change in how we eat and that meat plants should remain closed. They have a message for the White House Coronavirus Task Force which they communicated in a letter:

“Meat consumption raises the risk for many of the underlying medical conditions that can make COVID-19 infections more deadly. In a recent study, it was found that regular consumption of processed meat, red meat, or poultry increases the risk for cardiovascular disease. Research also links red meat, poultry, and fish to an increased risk for diabetes. We urge you to prioritize life and health over pork chops and bacon. Reopening meat processing facilities is ill-advised, and we ask you to cancel this order.”

The Physicians Committee “Food for Life” workshops that I teach focus on the health benefits of fruits, vegetables, beans, and grains. They provide information about the health risks of meat and animal foods and are centered around healthful recipes and cooking demonstrations to show you how to have your barbeque and eat it too.

The Fourth of July is also National Spareribs Day. In this featured recipe, we are going to spare the ribs and still experience a savory, flavorful main dish that will fill your taste buds with fireworks.

Jackfruit “Spareribs”

  • 1 20-ounce can young green jackfruit, rinsed and drained
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 cup chopped red onion (about 1 medium)
  • 2 cloves crushed garlic
  • ½ cup of your favorite barbecue sauce
  • 1¼ cups vital wheat gluten*
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • ½ to 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon liquid smoke
  • ½ to 1 cup barbeque sauce for brushing

Heat a six-quart pot over medium-high heat. Add one-quarter cup of water and chopped red onion. Cook until softened. Add the crushed garlic and stir. Allow to cook for another two minutes. Add rinsed jackfruit and one-half cup of barbecue sauce and stir.  Cover and reduce to medium-low heat for 20 minutes, stirring halfway through and mashing jackfruit with a spatula or fork. Once cooked and tender, take your time and really mash it until the pieces break apart. You will be surprised how much this resembles pulled pork. Set aside and allow jackfruit to cool. You will be adding the remaining ingredients to the pan.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Line an 8×8 or 9×9-inch pan with parchment paper.

Combine the vital wheat gluten and all the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl and stir well. Add the water and liquid smoke to the cooled jackfruit. Add the dry ingredients to the jackfruit next and stir until the ingredients are evenly distributed and all wheat gluten is absorbed, adding a tablespoon or two of water if needed.

Spread the mixture evenly in the parchment paper-lined baking pan. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven. Using the parchment paper as a sling, lift out of the pan and transfer to a plate or cutting board. Cut into four pieces. Spread barbeque sauce over the top of each piece and transfer back into the parchment paper-lined pan, barbeque sauce side down. Coat the top with barbecue sauce and return to the oven. Bake for 30 or more minutes, until ribs are firm and cooked in the middle and a little crispy along the edges.

Cut each piece once more, into eight “ribs” and serve with additional barbecue sauce. *Vital wheat gluten is a protein found in wheat. It resembles  flour and is used to make “wheat meat” or seitan.

Every dish needs a sidekick and this one will surprise and delight you. It has a unique combination of ingredients and is simple to make.

Orzo with Tomatoes, Basil, Peas and Pine Nuts

A PCRM “Food for Life” recipe

  • 8 ounces orzo, white or whole wheat
  • 1½ cups cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 1 cup green peas, frozen and thawed, or canned and rinsed
  • ½ cup basil, minced
  • ¼ cup low-fat or fat-free balsamic dressing
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper, fresh if possible
  • Optional: 1 tablespoon pine nuts, toasted

Cook orzo according to directions on the box and thaw frozen peas. Toast pine nuts in sauté pan on low heat until they turn slightly brown and are fragrant. Mince basil and slice tomatoes. Mix all ingredients with pasta and serve.

Contributing Writer: Betsy Bruns

Betsy Bruns is a plant-based health coach, “Food for Life” instructor with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) and EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) tapping practitioner. When she isn’t making healing food taste like comfort food or helping clients tap away stress & cravings with EFT, she’s cuddling her one-eared French bulldog, Van Gogh. Visit www.Vegsetter.com