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BLT Mac and Cheese with Eggplant Bacon

BLT Mac and Cheese with Eggplant Bacon


Description

From Vegan with a Vengeance by Isa Chandra Moskowitz. Reprinted with permission from Da Capo Lifelong, © 2015

BLT Mac & Cheeze! Do I have your attention? If it’s summer and you have a garden, or a CSA, or just want to use some in-season produce from the grocery, maybe you can relate to the challenge of Too Many Tomatoes (though, really, can you have too many?). After moving to Omaha, I began growing tomatoes and looked for any reason to put them in everything. And so BLT Mac was born. I made the “B” out of eggplant (remember: vegans will make ba-con out of anything). For the “L,” arugula is always prolific in the garden, plus I love its muskiness, which goes per-fectly with the bright and smoky flavors of the other ingredients.


Scale

Ingredients

FOR THE CHEEZE

  • 1 cup cashews, soaked in water
  • for at least 2 hours or overnight
  • 1 cup vegan vegetable broth
  • 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes
  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • Salt and freshly ground
  • black pepper

FOR THE BLT MAC

  • 8 ounces small shell pasta
  • or macaroni (gluten-free, whole wheat, or any type)
  • 4 cups baby arugula
  • 2 cups halved cherry tomatoes (or chopped regular tomatoes)
  • 1 recipe Eggplant Bacon 

EGGPLANT BACON (makes 2 cups bacon)

  • 1 pound eggplant
  • Cooking spray
  • 1⁄4 cup soy sauce or tamari
  • 1 teaspoon liquid smoke

Instructions

TO MAKE THE CHEEZE

  1. Drain the cashews and place with all the sauce ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend away until completely smooth. Scrape down the sides with a spatula to make sure you get everything. Depending on the strength of your blender, this could take from 1 to 5 minutes. Taste for salt and pepper, keeping in mind that you want it just a little saltier than you think because it’s going to be poured over all of the other ingredients.

TO MAKE THE BLT MAC

  1. Prepare the pasta according to the package directions. When the pasta is tender, drain it in a colander. Immediately place it back in the pot you boiled it in and stir in the sauce. Place the pot on low heat and stir for 3 minutes or so, until the sauce is thickened a bit and everything is deliciously creamy. Taste for salt again.
  2. Now toss in the arugula, tomatoes, and eggplant bacon, leaving a little extra aside to garnish, if you like.

EGGPLANT BACON

This recipe is so easy you’ll be making eggplant bacon in your sleep! The perfect slice has varying textures from crisp and browned in some spots, to tender and chewy in others. To that end, hand slice these babies instead of using a mandoline and aim for 1⁄8-inch slices, but don’t worry about perfection. The varying degrees of thickness will work to your advantage here. Just don’t cut it too thick, the eggplant needs to crisp up, and slices that are much thicker will just get soggy.

 

  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. Prep the eggplant while the oven is preheating. Eggplants vary in size, so if using baby eggplant that is 2 inches wide at its widest, just slice into 1⁄8-inch-thick circles. If using large eggplants, first cut in half lengthwise, then slice the halves into 1⁄8-inch-thick half-moons. Now, what we’re going to do is bake it at a high temperature with just a bit of cooking spray, then let it cool, then give it smoky salty flavor and reheat.
  2. Spray the lined baking sheets lightly with cooking spray. Arrange the eggplant pieces in a single layer and spray lightly once more. Place in the oven and bake for about 8 minutes, keeping a close eye. Rotate the pans about halfway through baking. Remove from the oven and flip the slices. They should be browning already, and if any are slightly burnt, don’t worry; just transfer them to a plate to cool.
  3. Return the remaining strips to the oven for about 3 minutes. Remove from the oven. The eggplant should be dark brown to burnt in some places, and yellowish white and tender in some places. Transfer to a plate to prevent further baking.
  4. Lower the oven temperature to 350°F. Mix the soy sauce and liquid smoke together in a large bowl. Dip the eggplant slices in mixture a few at a time and return to the baking sheet. Bake for about 3 more minutes, until heated through. Serve! Keeps well for a few more hours, but definitely use these the day of.