There are certain foods that I will probably always love because they were childhood staples, like: hot dogs, sloppy joes, and fudgsicles. Probably quite a few other things too, but I just listed the first three that came to mind. Now we really didn't eat sloppy joes all that often at home. It was more of a school cafeteria food for me.
These are a baked vegetarian version. I know, I'm really breaking all the sloppy-joe-rules here, aren't I? But this is how I like it. Plus, this version features one of my favorite party tricks for making a bunch of slider-sized sandwiches at once. These are seriously easy (and fast) to throw together.
8 oz. tempeh
1 bell pepper
1 small onion (I used a shallot because I had some on hand)
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1-2 tablespoons water
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon cumin
salt + pepper
12 Hawaiian sweet rolls (or other small rolls you prefer)
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon sesame seeds (optional)
Finely chop the onion and bell pepper. Use a cheese grater to grate the tempeh so it resembles ground beef (sort of, similar size anyway).
Sauté the onion in a little olive oil over medium/low heat until it begins to caramelize (turn light brown and smell sweet). Toss in the bell pepper and continue to cook until it begins to soften.
While all that cooks, in a small mixing bowl combine the ketchup, tomato paste, cayenne, cumin, and a generous sprinkle of salt + pepper. Stir to combine. Thin the mixture so it flows easily, but is still quite thick, with some water.
Now in the pot with the onions and peppers, add the grated tempeh and the ketchup mixture. Stir so everything gets coated in the sauce well.
Remove the rolls from the package and slice through the centers (you can do this while all the rolls are still connected). On an oven sheet place the bottom half of the rolls. Spread the sloppy joe batter in an even layer. Place the top half of the rolls on top.
Melt a little butter in a small bowl. Whisk in the brown sugar. Use a kitchen brush to spread this over the tops of the rolls. Top with sesame seeds if using. Bake at 350°F for 10-12 minutes.
Credits // Author and Photography: Emma Chapman. Photos edited with A Beautiful Mess actions.