It’s been a year of change here in the Kitchen Treaty house. So many things have actively steered us away from the typical American diet and more toward whole-food, healthy eating. It’s not always easy, but overall, it’s a good thing.
Good old-fashioned BLTs definitely fall more into the “typical American diet” category – but you know what, sometimes that’s okay too! Many aspects of said diet are glorious, and the traditional sandwich made with bacon, lettuce, tomato, crusty toasted bread, and a smear of mayo is definitely one of them.
But wait. I’m a vegetarian! And the truth is, since I become one a dozen or so years ago (where does the time fly?!), I just sort of gave up on BLTs. I mean, without bacon, they’re just a lettuce and tomato sandwich. And frankly, I have eaten a few of those. Not the best.
Then I laid my eyes on the Skillet Seared Tofu recipe in Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Suppers cookbook, and a world of vegan BLT possibilities opened up. Anyone who cooks much with tofu is probably vaguely annoyed, like I am, with the fact that you usually need to press it. I’m just not a fan of the extra time and fuss-factor that goes into doing so. So this method intrigued me off the bat – no pressing! Just slice your tofu, saute it up, and spoon a little sauce over the top. Done and done!
It wasn’t long after discovering this delicious method of cooking tofu that I went to the bacon place with it. I wouldn’t go so far as to call this “tofu bacon,” but it definitely has that salty-smoky-sweet goodness that you find with bacon, and just like bacon, it pairs perfectly with juicy tomatoes, crisp lettuce, creamy mayo, and crusty bread in these vegetarian BLTs … er, TLTs.
I thought about adding some avocados to the picture or mixing some chipotle with the mayo (or coming up with something other than mayo altogether), but ultimately, I decided to stick with the classic. It works for a reason! Well … except with tofu instead of bacon.
Smoky Tofu, Lettuce, and Tomato Sandwiches (Vegan BLTs)
For the Smoky Seared Tofu:
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 14-ounce block extra-firm tofu, cut in 1/4-inch slices (no need to drain)
- Pinch kosher salt
- 1/4 cup Tamari or low-sodium soy sauce* (for gluten-free choose a GF Tamari)
- 2 teaspoons pure maple syrup
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
For the sandwiches:
- 8 slices of your favorite crusty artisan bread (toasted) (for gluten-free use your favorite GF sandwich bread)
- Smoky Seared Tofu
- 2 large ripe tomatoes (sliced)
- 8 green leaf lettuce leaves (washed and dried) (butter lettuce is another fabulous choice)
- 1/4 cup mayonnaise (vegans use a mayo alternative such as Vegenaise)
- Salt & pepper to taste
- Set a large saute pan over medium-high heat. When hot, add the olive oil. When the olive oil is hot, add the tofu along with a pinch of salt. The tofu will hiss and jump around a bit, so watch out! Cook, flipping occasionally, until golden brown on both sides, 8-10 minutes. While the tofu cooks, mix the Tamari, pure maple syrup, and smoked paprika in a small bowl. When the tofu is done, reduce the heat to low and pour the Tamari mix over the top. Cook, flipping occasionally, until the sauce has reduced and thickened, about 1 minute. Transfer the smoky seared tofu to a plate.
- Toast the bread then smear each piece with mayonnaise, as little or as much as you like - 2 teaspoons to 2 tablespoons or so. Top four pieces of bread with tomatoes; sprinkle with a touch of salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add the tofu, then pile with the lettuce. Top with remaining slices of bread. Cut in half and serve.