When I first ventured into eating more plant-based, I thought I would have to just say goodbye to flavors such as bacon for good. But the more I cook vegan food, the more in awe I am of how flexible this way of cooking can be (as long as I eat in; when we eat out in Annapolis, it’s hard).
Some things I’ve learned to cook with: I’ve discovered that there’s such a thing as liquid smoke seasoning, to impart that smoky, bacon-y flavor to my “non-meats.” I can soak cashews overnight, and make things like cream cheese, sour cream, heavy cream, and cheesecake of all things! I’ve discovered that adding some nori to a dressing can give it that fishy, sea flavor, so I’m no longer deficient in things like Caesar salad dressing. Adding cooked lentils to a chili gives that meaty texture. Making date paste out of dates and water adds subtle, natural sweetness to foods of all kinds. Adding apple cider vinegar to non-dairy milk replicates buttermilk (which is great, because I’ve always disliked the idea of sour buttermilk from a cow). And of course, there’s that nutritional yeast, or nooch, as the vegans call it. A little bit of this adds that cheesy flavor I’ve been looking for in pasta dishes, that umami factor. There really is no “bending” on the way of flavor and texture – all the people that have tried the things I made often exclaim, “but it tastes like the real thing!”
And I’ve discovered my own little ways of making this all easy to prepare with a busy life in the mix. Always be soaking something (cashews, almonds, dried beans), utilize the time you have to multitask (put a pot of beans on the stove to cook while you get ready for the day, make a jar of overnight oats for the next morning while your dinner is sauteing on the stove, blend soaked cashews quickly to make cream cheese for the week, etc). Not only that, think ahead to the next meal, jot down what you’ll make on your phone (or what you need on your grocery list, also on the phone), and just be productive when life gives you a spare few minutes (I only watch an hour of TV at night before bed).
Back to the “bacon.” I’ve been making BLTAs (“bacon,” lettuce, tomato, avocado) a few times the last couple weeks, because I love pairing them with my adaptation of Isa Chandra’s vegan flaxseed mayo. I have tried making other vegan versions of bacon before – with portabello, or baking tempeh, but I just find my version to be heartier, quicker (it takes less than 10 minutes-12 minutes, tops), meatier, and full of flavor. You can make this with breakfast potatoes in the morning, BLTAs for lunch, or top your vegan burger off with them for dinner. SO easy and tasty. Make it today!