Monday, September 22, 2014

Eggplant "Bacon" or "Jerky" (#RecipeRedux)

When people find out that I have to adhere to a meat-free, low fat diet, they almost always ask me the same question - but don't you wish you could eat bacon? I honestly have to tell them no - I have nothing against it, but really, the highlight of my few Sunday brunches out was always the crispy home fries and the bottomless Tropicana OJ that my mom would never buy us. I also never really ate bacon in anything, even as "bits" on my salads or stirred into pasta - if I was going to eat it, it was going to be with something sweet (like maple syrup) and it had better be crispy.

While I don't crave bacon flavours like some people out there, I have to admit I do enjoy having a savoury, portable snack on hand for long car rides or when I'm stuck late at school. With a dehydrator (and a plethora of produce) at my disposal now, I wanted to see if I could make a sweet and salty "jerky" out of our delicious heirloom eggplants. I wound up cobbling together three other recipes, plus my own taste preferences, to come up with this snack. It's flavour-rich enough that you don't have to eat many on their own to be satisfied, plus they make excellent mix-ins for roasted breakfast potatoes and onions or topping a zesty Caesar salad.

Eggplant "Bacon"

Eggplant "Bacon"
Makes ~25 grams, NI is per gram with stevia
160g eggplant, sliced into ¼” strips and halved (to make “skinny” bacon)
2 tbsp tamari
3 tbsp water
½ tbsp garlic powder
½ tsp maple extract (optional)
2 tbsp vinegar
1-2 tbsp Stevia in the Raw (or brown sugar) - use the higher amount for "breakfast" bacon
½ tsp smoked paprika
2 ½ tsp black pepper
Dash liquid smoke
salt, to taste

Method #1
  1. Place eggplant strips into a shallow dish.
  2. Combine tamari, water, garlic powder, maple extract (if using), vinegar, stevia, paprika, pepper and liquid smoke. Pour over the eggplant.
  3. Stir gently to coat slices evenly, cover and refrigerate overnight.
  4. Dehydrate at 140 degrees F for approximately 8 – 16 hours, or until the slices are crisp.
Method #2 
  1. Preheat your oven to 200F. Line cookie sheets with parchment or SilPat. 
  2. Place the eggplant strips on the sheets in an even layer and place in the oven.
  3. Turn and baste with marinade over each hour.
  4. How long you cook the bacon will depend on how chewy you want the end result 3 ½ - 4 hours is typical.
Method #3
  1. Preheat the oven to 250°F and place greased cooling racks on 2-3 rimmed baking sheets.
  2. Arrange eggplant in a single layer on the racks. 
  3. Bake about 1 hour and 30 minutes, or until eggplant is dry and golden brown.
  4. Let cool completely before serving. (Eggplant will crisp upon cooling.) 
  5. Store loosely covered at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 7.2
Total Fat: 0.0 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 47.3 mg
Total Carbs: 1.4 g
Dietary Fiber: 0.4 g
Protein: 0.5 g

1. Dehydrating method:
2. Low oven method:
3. Slightly higher oven method:

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