June 1, 2004
Fakin', Lettuce and Tomato

As a relatively newly minted vegetarian (ovo-lacto-pescetarian, really), I sometimes crave the meat-laden fare of my youth. My mother made few dishes, and most of them not really well (she baked my hamburgers, for Pete's sake). Without a doubt, she excelled at one sandwich - the Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato.

That is NOT what you see in the photo here, though. What you see is a combination of vegetarian substitutes that produces a sandwich that may surpass the BLT's of my youth. Here is my "recipe" for a great vegetarian BLT that I call the Fakin', Lettuce, and Tomato or FLT. My wife the long-term vegetarian is crazy for these things. There are a few brand names here, but if you have a product you prefer, use it. This is just the way I make these sandwiches today.

Fakin', Lettuce, and Tomato, per sandwich:
4 slices Smart Bacon
2 teaspoons olive oil
3 slices Natural Ovens Bakery Cracked Wheat Whole Grain Bread or other hearty wheat bread.
8 cross slices plum tomato
some lettuce (to taste but enough to cover two slices of bread)
2 teaspoons Vegenaise or to taste.

Substitute Mayonnaise if Vegenaise is not available, but you'll miss out. I like the taste and texture of the Vegenaise a lot better and it is much healthier for you.

In a skillet, fry the Smart Bacon about 2 minutes each side in the olive oil. Remove from oil and heat, let drip a few seconds, but do not blot. Bacon will get hard as it cools.

Toast three slices of bread. Spread almost a teaspoon of the Vegenaise on a slice of bread, add lettuce, 4 slices of tomato, 2 strips of bacon. Spread Vegenaise on a slice of bread, put dry side down in top of bacon. Repeat layers. Spread remaining Vegenaise on last slice. Place Vegenaise side down on top of sandwich, cut diagonally.

The bread is great toasted, and the olive oil helps to add just enough fat to give the sandwich the right mouth feel. The bacon doesn't have the right texture (it's a little too hard), but the sandwich tastes great, and the hearty bread helps with the fake bacon texture problem.

If someone has found a vegetarian bacon better than Lightlife's Smart Bacon, please let me know. It tastes great, but as noted, the texture's a bit too hard when cooked and cooled.

Also, if making two sandwiches, don't add more olive oil when you fry the second batch of Smart Bacon. What's left in the pan will suffice. Try toasting the "middle slice" of bread first so the outer slices are piping hot when you serve the sandwich.

I had to post this "recipe" because we've had these for dinner four out of the last ten nights. They're that easy and that good.

UPDATE: Will Baude over at Crescat Sententia, a favorite non-food blog of mine from my old school, writes that this is not an appealing sandwich at all, and suggests a grilled cheese with lettuce, tomato, and garlic aioli instead.

I have to respectfully disagree. Sometimes you just don't want cheese. Sometimes you want - or NEED - a B|FLT. Try the FLT out and if you hate it, try Will's suggestion. Or better yet, try both. His CLTgA sandwich also sounds great.

Posted by Barrett in Maryland at June 1, 2004 10:36 PM | TrackBack Print-friendly version

Sounds very good, but I can't help but think that some avocado would also go well in there...

Posted by Meg in Paris on June 2, 2004 at 4:41 AM

If you don't mind egg whites, these are a good stand-in for bacon. You can cook them so they are more or less crispy, depending on your preference. I also like them straight out of the freezer!

Posted by Kendra Perry on June 2, 2004 at 7:32 AM

Meg - you know, I happen to have some avocado in my fridge, right now...

Kendra - I will give that a try. I've also tried the tempeh, lettuce, and tomato sandwich at the Chicago Diner and enjoyed it quite a bit.

Posted by Barrett on June 2, 2004 at 9:06 AM

As the husband to a committed vegetarian, I know you can do better. Try a veggie Rueben:

slice 1 block of Chinese-style firm tofu into 1/4-inch slices. You can either put the slices into boiling water for 20 seconds or so now to firm them up some, or bake after marinating. Either way:

Marinate in the following:
1/4 cup juice from a can of beets (for pastrami-like color as well as for flavor)
2 tbsp cider vinegar
2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp each caraway and dill seeds
1/2 tsp rubbed sage and dried thyme
plenty of black pepper
maybe a little allspice and/or coriander if you feel like playing around a bit.

Marinate for at least 2 hours, preferably 4, then either bake on cookie sheets in a very hot (400-degree) oven for 10-15 minutes or (if you previously boiled the tofu) panfry a little to get some color on there.

Put on rye toast with good (homemade!!!) sauerkraut, swiss cheese, and brown mustard, and thank the powers of your choice that you are alive to enjoy this sandwich.

If you can't get homemade sauerkraut, you need to do the following to that crappy bagged stuff from the supermarket:

In a casserole dish, combine 1 bag (about 1 quart?) kraut with 1/2 an onion sliced very thin, 1 tbsp brown sugar, some black pepper, a few caraway seeds, and 2 garlic cloves, minced. Add 1/2 beer or white wine or vermouth or water. Put in 325-degree oven for at least 1 hour, stirring occasionally and adding liquid if everything gets too dry.

Trust me, this is living.

Posted by Johno on June 4, 2004 at 3:28 PM

Thanks for the recipe, Johno. I'm sure some of our readers will enjoy it.

I have one problem with the recipe, though. I dislike Reubens and did even when I was eating meat. I just can't get behind sauerkraut on a sandwich. Sorry!

Posted by Barrett on June 4, 2004 at 5:14 PM

I do know a vegetarian bacon that tastes a lot better than the one you're using.
I get it through an underground network ( it's legal).
Let me know where I can send you and your wife some to try.

Posted by ely Pugh on January 23, 2005 at 5:36 PM
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