Kale and Cabbage Salad with Coconut Bacon

I adapted this recipe from Vegan Yum Yum’s BLT Salad. If you haven’t checked out this blog, and the accompanying cookbook (one of the most beautiful cookbooks I have ever seen – I love a cookbook with good photos), I highly recommend you do.  I didn’t change the main idea of the salad all that much: I switched out the spinach for cabbage, added green onion and yellow zucchini, didn’t cook the tomatoes, and messed with the dressing proportions, but it’s still a kale based salad with a creamy dressing and fake bacon.  The most significant change I made was that instead of using tempeh bacon, I made my own coconut bacon.

Yes, coconut bacon. I was first introduced to the idea of coconut bacon at a lovely vegan restaurant in Montreal called Aux Vivres, where I had a very very delicious coconut bacon-LT sandwich.  I searched around the internet, and found several recipes, most of which called for dried unsweetened coconut shavings, a mysterious ingredient called liquid smoke, some water, some soy or tamari, and something sweet (often maple syrup, probably because it’s vegan-friendly).  My grocery store only had sweetened coconut, so I bought a fresh one instead, which substantially added to the labour and time involved, but turned out pretty delicious.

Oh yeah, liquid smoke. So I looked into this, and apparently its a very common ingredient in anything smoke flavoured (barbecue sauces and the like). It’s located beside the barbecue sauce in the grocery store, is fairly inexpensive, and is apparently literally made  by dissolving smoke in water.  My store had two brands, so I bought the one with less ingredients (usually a safe choice).  It also had both hickory and mesquite flavour, and I decided hickory sounded more ‘bacon-y.’ Coconut bacon, especially in salads and sandwiches, is surprisingly bacon-like.  The salty smoke flavour from the liquid smoke and soy mixed with the meaty consistency and rich/fatty taste of coconut seems to do the trick somehow.  It still tastes somewhat like coconut, so it’s not an exact approximation, but it is very very tasty.

Ingredients

Coconut Bacon:

  • 1 coconut (or about 2 and  half cups of dried shredded coconut)
  • 1 tablespoons of liquid smoke
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup or agave nectar or honey (I had none of these and used table syrup, which is less than ideal, but worked fine. You could probably use simple syrup too, and maybe throw in some maple extract to make it sort of maple-y, cause that would probably contribute to bacon-y flavour.)
  • 1 tablespoon of water

Salad:

  • 1 bunch lacinato kale, deveined and sliced thinly (lacinato kale is long and thin with flax waxy leaves, unlike standard kale which is tougher and ruffled, and not delicate enough to be eaten raw)
  • 1 yellow zucchini, diced
  • 1/8 of a large head of cabbage, shredded
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 2 tomatoes, diced

Dressing:

  • 1/4 cup mayonaise
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons mustard (I used grainy dijon)
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice (Vegan Yum Yum’s recipe called for lemon, but I had lime, and quite liked it)
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • black pepper to taste

Method

Coconut Bacon:

Somehow get your coconut open and drain the water. (There are videos on youtube that make this seem very easy, but I couldn’t make the ‘simple’ method work, so I hit the coconut with a hammer near the three indentations until it broke and spilled coconut water all over my floor.) If you have a coconut scraper/shredder (which I do not) than you can easily scrape out perfect flakes of coconut.  Otherwise, put your broken pieces of coconut in a preheated 350 F oven for 15-20 minutes.  This helps the flesh dry a little and pull away from the shell, making it much easier to pry off with a knife.  Use a vegetable peeler to get the brown skin of the coconut pieces. Probably the easiest way to get these into small thin pieces would be to grate the coconut in a food processor, but I wanted my pieces bigger than that, so I sliced the pieces of coconut thinly (and painstakingly)! Place coconut in a bowl and toss with liquid smoke, soy, water and syrup.  Let stand a few minutes. Spread on a baking sheet and place in 350F oven until crispy, about a half hour. Make sure to check on it carefully so it doesn’t burn and stir the coconut around on the pan often, at least 3 times. Put aside and let cool. It will get crispier as it cools.

Salad:

Remove large center vein from kale and slice crosswise very thinly. Mix together dressing ingredients and toss in large bowl with kale. Because kale is so hearty, it usually needs to be cooked to be eaten.  Lacinato kale is much more delicate, and so, when it is sliced thin, it can be eaten after marinating in the dressing for a little while. This is why it is important to let the kale sit in the dressing while you make the rest of the salad.  Dice the zucchini and tomatoes, chop green onions and shred the cabbage. Add to bowl of kale. Add 3/4 of coconut bacon. Toss until well combined and dressing is evenly distributed. Serve in bowls topped with remaining bacon.

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