When I was a kid, my dad (a butcher) would literally “bring home the bacon” every weekend.
Because he worked 6 days a week, Sunday brunch was sacrosanct as family time. Brunch was an occasion to share significant events from the week, announce important homework assignments, try to convince Dad that we really needed that new bicycle, or report on what we had done over at a friend’s house.
On Sunday mornings, we kids always let our parents sleep in as long as they wanted to. And then, the preparations began.
First, my mother would lumber into the kitchen and pull out the meats, eggs and cheeses from the fridge: we always had bacon, of course, but also sunny-side up or scrambled eggs with a variety of hard cheeses from Dad’s store, like orange cheddar, Swiss, or my mother’s favorite, havarti. Sometimes there were sausages as well, or spicy Kielbasa that would be grilled like sausage. And if we were really lucky, my mom was in a good mood and whipped up a batch of pancakes as well, complete with butter and Aunt Jemima syrup (which, bizarrely, felt like a treat to us all, having been raised in Quebec where real maple syrup abounds).
But of course, the bacon was the star of the show. A mediocre cook in most areas, Mom did know how to fry up some perfectly-crisped bacon. My sisters and I would argue over who should get the really crispy pieces, since those were by far our favorites.
Before long, the table would be heaving with platters of bacon and sausage, eggs, toast and pancakes. We’d all dig in, passing the platters round, until each plate was filled with an assortment of everything. I always lay my bacon over the top of the pancake stack, balancing it Jenga-style, then dousing the whole tower in syrup. A big, drippy forkful of airy pancakes and salty, crisped bacon never failed to get the day off to a great start.
When I left home for university, bacon more or less left my diet. Although I didn’t eat entirely plant-based when away at school, my father’s admonition remained sharp and clear in my mind (“NEVER eat meat from a restaurant or cafeteria! I used to sell to them, and believe me, that meat is the worst form of GARBAGE“), so I was always afraid to indulge. And by the time I realized I was eating 99% plant-based because I actually preferred it, bacon was no longer an attraction.
That said, I did still enjoy foods that were crispy, salty, and smoky (potato chips figured large as snack foods for many years). So when I discovered tempeh bacon, I was ecstatic.
Before I share the recipe, though, let me be clear: tempeh bacon doesn’t actually taste like bacon. Gasp! Let’s say, instead, that it has “bacon-like qualities.” And what appealing qualities those are!
This tempeh bacon is crispy on the outside, softer and toothsome on the inside. It’s a high-protein food that contains all the essential amino acids you need, so no worries there. It has a smoky, salty, umami flavor with subtle sweet and acid undertones.
You will adore it.
In this recipe from my book, Living Candida-Free, my cooking method produces the same effect as traditional tempeh bacon, which has to be baked in the oven for some time. Using a frypan instead, you can not only achieve the same results, but you’ll be able to dive into that platter of tempeh bacon faster than you can imagine.
But no arguing with your siblings, though, okay?
Tempeh Bacon (Glazed Tempeh)
from Living Candida-Free by Ricki Heller (Da Capo Press, ©2015).
Glazing the tempeh by panfrying until the marinade is absorbed is a fairly quick and easy way to transform this food into a flavorful and versatile high-protein addition to your meals. When sliced thinly and panfried until crispy, the tempeh can be used in place of bacon in your favorite Caesar Salad.
3 Tbsp (45 ml) Bragg Liquid Aminos or wheat-free tamari
1½ tsp (7.5 ml) smoked paprika
10 drops plain pure liquid stevia
1 Tbsp (15 ml) raw apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp (15 ml) extra-virgin olive oil, preferably organic
10 large grape or cherry tomatoes, or 1 large tomato, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
Pinch of fine sea salt
1/3 cup (80 ml) filtered water
1 (12- to 16-ounce [375 to 400 g]) package tempeh (can be soy-only or soy with grains)
Blend all the ingredients except the tempeh in a blender until liquefied.
Cut the tempeh into thin strips lengthwise, about ¼ inch (6 mm) thick (the number of strips will depend on your block of tempeh).
Place the tempeh in a nonstick skillet and pour the liquid over it. Turn each piece of tempeh over a few times to coat on both sides. Cook over medium-low heat, flipping the tempeh periodically, until all of the marinade is evaporated and the tempeh begins to brown considerably, about 15 to 25 minutes. Serve. Makes 4 servings. May be frozen.
Suitable for: ACD All stages; sugar-free, gluten-free, grain-free, dairy-free, egg free, nut free, yeast-free, vegan, low glycemic.
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