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Tender tofu, intensely salty strips of eggplant, and rich avocado all come together on sourdough to make a deeply satisfying vegan breakfast sandwich. Before sandwiching, you'll top the whole thing with freshly cracked black pepper for heat and lemon zest for brightness. Irresistible. You'll likely find yourself eating it for lunch and dinner, too—it's way less fussy than the recipe might make it look.

The eggplant comes from this totally great Vegetarian Times recipe from a few years back, in which thin eggplant slices stand in for cured ham. Around here, it's a go-to for anything that could use a blast of salt and paprika.

There are a few reasons this eggplant is so adored around here. Tempeh can be difficult to slice thinly and needs a long-ish marinade to really soak up flavor. (It also works best fried, which is kinda gross in a kitchen without ventilation. Like the MSV kitchen.) Coconut bacon is beyond convenient, thanks to industrially produced dried coconut flakes, but it does taste of coconut. Which is fine, until it's not.

Eggplant, on the other hand, is notoriously thirsty, which means it takes on a bunch of flavor in only minutes. And knowing your end result needn't be super-chewy or crispy (i.e. not calling it "bacon") means there's way less pressure to nail a specific texture. Letting the eggplant be eggplant and, well, seasoning the hell out of it is all you need. Especially when paired, as here, with tofu, which already gives you good texture. Oh, and while the link calls for grilling, don't worry, the oven does just fine.

So dig in, already.

The "Hello, Sunshine" Sandwich

Print the recipe

yields four large sandwiches

For the eggplant, adapted from Vegetarian Times:

1 medium eggplant (about 1 lb), trimmed and peeled

1/4 cup olive oil

2 TBSP reduced-sodium tamari

2 TBSP apple cider vinegar

2 TBSP grade B maple syrup or brown sugar

2 tsp smoked paprika

1 1/2 tsp ground cumin

2 tsp fine sea or kosher salt

For the tofu:

14 oz extra-firm tofu, drained

2 TBSP nutritional yeast

1/2 tsp fine sea or kosher salt

To serve:

8 sourdough slices, toasted

sliced avocado

freshly cracked black pepper

zest of 1 large lemon (about 1 tsp)

Whisk together all eggplant marinade ingredients in a mixing bowl and set aside. Use a vegetable peeler to slice the eggplant into long strips. When you hit the seedy center, rotate the eggplant. Continue all the way around. (Reserve the center for another use.) Add eggplant to the mixing bowl and toss thoroughly—tongs work very well for this. Let marinate 10 minutes, tossing every few minutes to ensure even coating.

Heat oven to 400. Line a baking sheet with parchment.

Meanwhile, prepare the tofu. Heat a large nonstick griddle (or skillet) over medium heat. With the tofu in landscape position (long end toward you), cut it into 8 even slices. When the griddle is hot, carefully add the tofu in a single layer, without touching. Whisk together the nutritional yeast and 1/2 tsp salt, sprinkle over the tofu, and let cook, undisturbed, 5-6 minutes. Flip the tofu and cook another 4-5 minutes, until golden brown. (If you use a skillet, you may need to work in two batches.)

Lay the eggplant strips onto the prepared baking sheet one at a time in a single layer—hands work well for this. Bake 10 minutes, flip with the tongs, and bake another 5-7 minutes, until the surface has dried out a bit and the edges are browning.

To assemble, lay a toasted slice of sourdough, untoasted side up, and layer on two slices of tofu, a few eggplant strips, and avocado. Add freshly cracked black pepper, to taste, and sprinkle on 1/4 tsp of lemon zest. Sandwich and serve.