I've learned a lot from being vegan, but one of the biggest changes in the way I cook has been the expansion of my spice cabinet. There are so many spices out there that I had been ignoring or using just once in a blue moon: cumin, turmeric, coriander, paprika, and so many more. But one of the biggest game-changers was smoked paprika. I'm not sure which recipe I originally drove me to pick some up, but since that day, I've never looked back. It goes in cauliflower tacos, vegetable paella, stuffed mushrooms, heck, I think I could go in anything and be amazing. And now it is the cornerstone of a vegan "BLT".
If I'm being completely honest, this wasn't my idea. My mom and her coworker apparently had an entire conversation about the best potential vegan substitutes for the "B" in a BLT, and this was his idea. Afterward, my mom mentioned it to me, I tried it, and now I can't keep this deliciousness a secret any longer. It must set free into the world of vegan gastronomic wonders, and hopefully it will force some more of you to go buy some smoked paprika (do it).
This is an easy sandwich that can be scaled up depending on how many people you're trying to feed. The recipe calls for oyster mushrooms specifically because they can resist the usual mushroom tendency to become soggy and (for lack of a better word) mushy. But this requires a hot pan to cook off excess liquid and crisp the outside. In our bacon-loving world, I know it sounds blasphemous to suggest replacing bacon, but trust me, it works. Don't expect a crispy-as-bacon texture, but the smokiness of the paprika and the savory mushrooms will ensure you don't miss it.
Allow me to introduce the star of today's meal, the oyster mushroom:
- Good crusty bread, sliced
- Fresh Tomatoes, sliced
- Lettuce or other greens (I used kale)
- 1 heaping cup of Oyster Mushrooms (per person), removed from base & coarsely chopped
- Vegan Mayo (I like Earth Balance Original)
- Smoked Paprika
- Salt & Pepper
- Rinse greens and lay out to dry.
- Lay out sliced tomatoes on cutting board or paper towels to drain some liquid.
- Heat a skillet on medium-high. Add a teaspoon of oil or vegetable broth.
- Add mushrooms & season heavily with smoked paprika, salt & pepper.
- Cook for 3 minutes or until slightly crisped on the outside, stirring often to prevent burning. You're looking for a firmer texture to the mushrooms, and no liquid left in the pan. Remove from heat and set aside.
- Toast Bread.
- Spread toast with mayo & layer mushrooms, tomatoes, & lettuce.
- The key to avoiding soggy, saucy mushrooms is a very hot pan. If you see a lot of liquid still in the pan after two minutes, increase the heat to boil it off.
- Don't be stingy with the seasonings, some will be left in the pan, so over-season in the beginning.
- If you put the tomatoes in the middle of the sandwich (between mushrooms & lettuce), you're less likely to end up with soggy bread before your last bite.
- Mushrooms always cook down significantly, so depending on the size sandwich you're going for, feel free to increase the volume of mushrooms before you begin.