There are two things that I have to order if I go to a vegan restaurant and they have them on the menu. The first is a reuben. That tangy sauerkraut on top of seitan, tempeh, or tofu slathered in dressing and sandwiched between two slices of rye gets me every single time. The other is a barbecue or soul bowl. The flavors always play so nice together with the sweet and smoky barbecue sauce combining with creamy vegan mac & cheese or potato salad, slow cooked greens, and then a side of black eyed peas, Soy Curls, or sticky seitan. Maybe I was a Southerner in another life. All I know is that I don’t need to look any further at the menu. My choice is clear.
The last time that I got just such a bowl, I wondered afterwards why I never make that kind of thing at home. Sure, I make garlicky collard greens or kale almost daily, but the other things don’t get much action. The main reason is that for a meal with so many elements, it’s the kind of thing I’d make for dinner. However, David isn’t into barbecue sauce or mac and cheese. It’s like that Flight of the Conchords song “I’m Not Crying” that’s all about a break-up. Brett sings, “I’m making a lasagna… for one.” There are some things that people just don’t make all for themselves.
But this week while having a cup of chamomile before bed, my mind started wandering to mac and cheese. I couldn’t think of anything else, and as soon as I could get in front of the stove the next day I pulled out Isa’s Mac & Shews recipe from the Post Punk Kitchen blog. I’ve had that one on my radar for the longest time. I mean, the secret ingredient for its umami undertones is sauerkraut! Could anything be more up my alley? It took some dividing, but I made a quarter of the recipe – enough to last for 3 soul bowls (or in this case plates).
(As an aside here: If you’re an iPhone user, did you know that Siri can tell you things like, “What’s a quarter of 1/3 cup?” It’s so useful when dividing a recipe by a significant amount! Not only does she tell you that it’s literally 0.0833 cups, which is admittedly less useful, the phone also gives a full conversion scale with what the amount is in fluid ounces or tablespoons and teaspoons. Answer: 4 teaspoons.)
I made just 2 small tweaks to the recipe. I added a little more of the optional nutritional yeast flakes, because I love nutritional yeast. And after I made the sauce and shells, I didn’t take the final step of baking it. Instead I ladled the cheesy mac onto my plate and topped it with a handful of Phoney Baloney’s coconut bacon. I’m sure it’s saucier that way without the additional baking time, but that really worked out for me because it melded with the greens on the plate, making something like creamed collards. For the collards, I made my usual garlicky sautéed collard greens for my first couple of bowls and then just sautéed kale with garlic the last time around (pictured here).
Then it was time for the barbecued tofu. Like I said, David isn’t into barbecue sauce, and so I always have a hard time finishing a bottle before I see it in the refrigerator and start wondering, “Now… just how long has this been in here?”
So instead I’ve been making a 30 Second Barbecue Sauce… for One. It’s made from just 6 ingredients that are always in my kitchen and that you likely already have on hand too – ketchup, apple cider vinegar, stone-ground mustard, liquid smoke, and a pinch of salt. (The kind of ketchup in my refrigerator now is Woodstock Organic Ketchup. Keep in mind that brands vary in terms of sweetness. For my tastes, this barbecue sauce is plenty sweet, but if you prefer a sweeter sauce, I bet a bit of brown sugar would do the trick.)
I’ve made barbecue sauce from scratch several times (including Apricot Barbecue Sauce). But for something quick and delicious when you need BBQ sauce now or don’t want to commit yourself to a full bottle, this is a great way to go.
I brought a lightly oiled grill pan to a medium-high heat and grilled two 1/2 inch slices of super firm tofu. After one side easily released from the grill pan, letting me know it was ready, I flipped it and slathered on some barbecue sauce. When the other side had some good grill marks, I flipped the tofu again, slathered on more sauce, and it was ready to serve with extra sauce for dipping. On warm summer days, of course, this could be done on the outdoor grill instead. (If you’re using an indoor cast iron grill pan, you’ll want to make sure you clean it right away since the acidic tomato sauce isn’t good for the coating.)
This bowl so put me in my happy place. With barbecued tofu, sauerkraut, collard greens, garlic, cashews, coconut bacon, and nutritional yeast, it’s like all of my favorite foods having a party… for one.
I’m curious, what dish do you have to order when you see it on the menu at a vegan restaurant?
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