Vegetarian BLT with Creamy Avocado Basil Spread

Vegetarian BLT with Creamy Avocado Basil Spread | A Sweet SpoonfulLast month when I was in Los Angeles, I ate at a few vegetarian and vegan cafes with really interesting, inspired dishes (cauliflower grits! adzuki bean bacon!). I thought to myself, Man LA is creative. I never see this level of innovation in Seattle these days — but then I had to remind myself that since having Oliver we rarely go out to eat (or at least, out of our neighborhood), so it’s likely happening. We’re just not witness to it (at the moment, anyway). I keep a little journal while traveling, jotting down ideas for recipes and the like, and while I thought I’d work on that adzuki bean bacon for you, I also wanted to write about something you could make in your kitchen tonight (or, at the very least, this weekend) that wouldn’t be a big to-do. Something that would tease us all with hints of warmer weather and that wouldn’t need much explanation or preface: a classic BLT sandwich with a vegetarian twist.

Vegetarian BLT with Creamy Avocado Basil Spread | A Sweet SpoonfulInnovation, explanation and preface is always exciting when traveling: being in new neighborhoods, restaurants and kitchens and learning how other people interpret and use ingredients and spices is one of the things I love about getting out of town. But at home, after a normal day of work and puzzling over what to feed Oliver, innovation is rarely what I’m looking for. So I thought I’d honor that today and leave the kitchen wizardry for later, instead focusing on a versatile avocado spread you can use on everything (trust me), and a sweet and smoky baked tofu that’s happily tucked into wraps and sandwiches or scattered atop salads or grain bowls.

Vegetarian BLT with Creamy Avocado Basil Spread | A Sweet Spoonful

People can be very particular about their BLT’s, and I realize swapping in tofu here isn’t for everyone. I do happen to eat and love bacon, but a healthier option with a big hit of plant-based protein is a nice way to usher in some easy spring cooking. And while many insist on calling this “tofu bacon” to really grab at that “B” in the “BLT,” I’m going to resist for today and just call it what it is: really good baked tofu.

To make these sandwiches feasible on a weeknight, plan to do a few of the elements in advance. I make (and always double) the avocado spread and it lasts in the fridge a good four days, and I always bake the tofu the day before so I don’t have to bother with measuring out the marinade ingredients — plus the tofu takes at least two hours to marinate, so if you do it the night before you’re golden. Vegetarian BLT with Creamy Avocado Basil Spread | A Sweet Spoonful

I think these sandwiches are best served room temperature, but Sam happens to like them cold straight out of the refrigerator (so if we have leftovers, he loves to take one for lunch).  We did a lot of on-the-go lunches and easy (and often kind of haphazard) spring cooking the past few weeks as we spent time in Hawaii for our first family vacation. I’m really looking forward to telling you more about that trip and was up late last night organizing our photos, but until then, I hope these sandwiches tide you over and inspire some spring cooking in your own kitchen.

Vegetarian BLT with Creamy Avocado Basil Spread

Vegetarian BLT with Creamy Avocado Basil Spread

  • Yield: 2 sandwiches
  • Prep time: 25 mins
  • Cook time: 30 mins
  • Inactive time: 2 hrs 20 mins
  • Total time: 3 hrs 15 mins

The key to a great vegetarian BLT sandwich is using sandwich bread you’re excited about, and being extremely generous with the avocado spread. As for baking up great tofu, be sure to look for extra-firm tofu and, while many people will have you marinating the tofu in a freezer bag, I find that even the firm tofu is quite delicate and for that reason I like to marinate it in a single-layer in a baking dish. Feel free to double the tofu recipe to have extra on hand for salads, grain bowls, wraps or sandwiches throughout the week. Oh, and the avocado spread, too. You can’t have too much of the stuff.

Note: The baked tofu does take a minimum of two hours to marinate, so just be sure to plan accordingly. 

Ingredients

For Baked Tofu:

1 14-ounce package extra firm tofu, drained
2 teaspoons nutritional yeast
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon Sriacha hot sauce
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon water
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

For Creamy Avocado Basil Spread

1 large, ripe avocado, pitted and peeled
1 medium garlic clove, quartered
3 tablespoons Best Foods mayonnaise
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
pinch black pepper
pinch cayenne pepper
1/2 cup (18g) packed fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped

For Sandwiches

4 slices whole grain bread
2 small ripe red tomatoes, sliced
4 leaves Bibb / Butter lettuce (or Romaine)

Instructions

Wrap the tofu in a few layers of paper towels, and lay on a plate. Place another plate on top of the wrapped tofu and put something heavy (a can of tomatoes works great) on top to weigh it down. Let stand for 20-30 minutes to help drain the tofu of excess liquid.

In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the nutritional yeast, soy sauce, Sriacha, maple syrup, rice vinegar, water, smoked paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, and pepper.

Unwrap the tofu and, using a dry paper towel, wipe it dry. Slice the tofu into relatively thin 1/4-inch slices (depending on how your tofu is packaged, you should yield about 10-12 slices) and lay flat in a single layer in a baking dish. Pour the marinade over the tofu and gently spread so each slice is covered. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or up to 8 hours.

Preheat the oven to 375 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Leaving behind any excess marinade/liquid, place tofu slices on the prepared baking sheet in a single layer and bake for 15 minutes. Flip tofu slices and bake an additional 15 minutes; the tofu will firm up a bit as it cools.

While the tofu is baking, make the avocado sauce: scoop the avocado, garlic, mayonnaise, lemon juice, salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper into the bowl of a food processor or blender. Process until smooth. Add the basil leaves and pulse until well combined (it’s ok if there are little bits of basil visible in the spread).

To assemble the sandwiches: toast the bread. Spread a thick layer of avocado spread on the top of each slice. Lay a few slices of tofu on one slice of the bread, spread avocado spread on top of that tofu layer, and lay another layer of tofu slices on top of that. Top with a few slices of tomato and two slices of Bibb lettuce and place one of the remaining slices of bread on top, avocado side down. Repeat with the second sandwich. If you like, carefully slice the sandwich in half with a good serrated knife.

Comments

  1. Katrina

    This looks like an epic sandwich!! So much delicious stuff on there :)

  2. Sandra Lea

    Can't wait to try this sandwich but am looking forward to hearing more about the adzuki bacon.

  3. sam-c

    Sounds tasty, and I already have almost all the ingredients. (what happens if you leave out nutritional yeast?)
    What is your favorite tofu brand and where do they sell it? We really rely on Trader Joe's extra firm, but sometimes our shopping trips take us elsewhere. Thanks !

    1. megang

      Hi, Sam. I like Woodstock or Wildwood tofu the best, and always buy extra-firm. I haven't tried the Trader Joe's brand, but I'd say anything that's convenient and realistic for you is a good thing!

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