Friday, September 13, 2013

Vegan MOFO: Fry-it Friday–Beggin' Strips

I do miss a BLT. Not that I miss eating animals, I just miss that mix of flavors. A number of vegetarian "bacon" substitutes have crossed my path, but they have fallen away for various reasons. One was not vegan, and the most current one in our house (Lightlife Smart Bacon, which The Girl loves) is based in wheat gluten and expensive! That whole BLT thing is nearly lost to me now–I don't eat bacon, tomatoes give me reflux and wheat bread gives me IBS. I'm fine with lettuce, thank goodness and avocado (a favorite add-on) is still a staple for me.

So what's a vegan, refluxing, cramping girl supposed to do?

Come up with a bacon substitute, for one thing.

This is my own creation, although I'm sure others out there have come up with the same thing. I just tried this out in my kitchen and I like it. My inspiration was realizing I could cut my tofu very thinly and fry it. But I am not a consistent slicer. The truly inspired moment came when I gazed upon a kitchen implement–the cheese slicer (still in our house because The Man still eats dairy cheese).

Oh, you say I can use a cheese slicer on firm tofu and get a consistent thin slice of tofu? And it will approximate a slice of bacon? Yes. Approximate is the key word here. It's close, it's not exact, but it's a start. And a whole lot cheaper than a $5, 5 oz box of vegan bacon slices.

And even though this is "Fry-it Friday" I give alternate directions for baking this. I know some of you prefer to reduce oil consumption. And, it's less messy. But it's Fry-it Friday for gosh sakes.

Beggin' Strips for Humans
(about 60 3" strips)

1 block firm tofu, drained of any water. I prefer the Wildwood brand vacuum-packed. About 12 oz.

1/2 cup Soy sauce or Tamari (wheat-free if needed) or Bragg's Liquid Aminos (salty!!)*

1 tsp smoke flavoring (I used Wrights Hickory)

Oil for frying or spray oil for baking.

Directions (How-to photos at bottom)
1. Use a cheese slicer to cut your tofu into any size or shape you like. To approximate a strip of bacon, cut your large block of tofu in half or thirds on its narrow side (this all depends on the size and shape of your block of tofu).
2. Slice from the narrow edge into as many strips as you can get. You can slice very thinly for a crispier bacon or a little thicker for a chewier strip. Your choice. Experiment. It's not rocket science.
3. Blot each strip carefully (especially if you've cut them really thin) between two paper towels or a clean cloth towel.
4. Mix your Soy Sauce/Tamari/Braggs in a bowl or deep dish with the smoke flavoring.
5. Let your strips soak in the liquid for a few minutes or a few hours.

6a. Heat your pan and oil. Place soaked strips in oil carefully. They will splatter.
7a. Cook on one side a few mintues until "done" to your liking (brown, crispy, etc), flip and brown on other side.
8a. Let drain on paper towels.
6b. Heat your toaster or regular oven to 350 degrees. Spray a cookie tray lightly with oil, place strips on tray, spray strips.
7b. Bake for about 7-10 minutes (depends on the thickness of your strips and your oven), then turn over, bake another 5-10 minutes.
8b. Drain on paper towels if needed.

Serving Suggestions
  • Great for a BLT of course. 
  • Just plain. Eat with sliced avocado. 
  • Wrap it up in a lettuce leaf or tortilla with some avocado and some vegan mayo. 
  • OK, you can add those tomatoes if you can handle them.
Final note: After I tried my recipe and wrote up these directions, I found that Bryanna Clark Grogan has a similar recipe and blog post at her site. Her recipe is a little more involved (more ingredients, but still simple) and she lets her tofu marinate much longer. But I think her post is worth a look It's a recipe from her own book (The Almost No-Fat Cookbook) that she tweaked a little. Visit her post at Vegan Feast Kitchen.

* Bryanna's post includes a link to information she gathered about sodium content and prices of several leading soy sauces and Bragg's. Be sure to use what best fits your health needs and budget. I tried this recipe with both Bragg's and Low Sodium Wheat-free Tamari, and they were much saltier with the Bragg's (a lot like the vegan jerky I buy now and then).

The How-to of it all...
 Slice like cheese. This is why a really firm tofu is necessary.

 Blot on paper or cloth towels so marinade will be absorbed better.

 Let sit in marinade a few minutes or a few hours.

 I realized I had a better container that would stay
sealed when flipped and distribute marinade better.

 Fry in some oil in the pan... or...

 ...bake in the toaster oven with sprayed on oil.

Blot on paper towels as last step before eating!

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