Tag Archives: tomato

Anatomy of a Sandwich: Tomato and Balsamic Tofu


A simple idea can often be undone by its own simplicity. You figure, it seems so obvious, why isn’t it just assumed that this already works? And then you think, well, duh, cause of course it doesn’t work, and everyone already knows that.

When I was at the terrific Osteria 2350, I enjoyed a sandwich fairly common to Italian cafes and delis alike: The tomato and mozzarella with roasted red peppers and balsamic vinegar. This sandwich knows no one cuisine, because although its roots are clearly in Italian staples, its appeal is widespread and its basic form – a warm and possibly grilled cheese sandwich with added ingredients – is a well worn food item among any number of cultural heritages.

Osteria’s version was very delicious, so delicious that I had to lament the fact that, for my vegan partner, there is no accessible way for him to enjoy this sandwich. The tomato, red pepper, and vinegar portions, yes. The cheese? No. Vegan cheese can be tasty, but it has its limits, and there is not a vegan cheese on the planet that can imitate faux mozzarella.

Except that, as I considered the giant pillows of fresh mozzarella stuffed into the sandwich, I found that it bore a striking similarity to something most, if not all, vegans heartily enjoy: Tofu. Specifically extra-firm, uncooked tofu. Both are white and soft. Both have neutral, almost watery-fresh flavors. Tofu can’t melt like mozzarella, but in this sandwich, the mozzarella stayed perfectly solid, so melting wasn’t an issue.

So, I’ve had this dish in mind for a while. After a short stop into Lotus Foods on Saturday, I decided it was high time that I tried out my theory.

Success? Well, you be the judge. But would I write about it if it were a total failure?

A few tips for this very easy recipe:
– A pound of tofu should yield four sandwiches worth, unless you really want to get heavy on each sandwich.
– Soak the tofu in balsamic vinegar for extra flavor
– Press your tofu, but don’t get rid of all the moisture. A little dampness inside helps to mimic the mozzarella.
– Use good crusty bread for this. Jackie, my friend and most fantastic cooking partner, brought over some homemade sandwich bread that worked fantastic. Make sure to use thick slices and toast for extra support.
– We slightly cooked our tomato slices, but if you want to leave them firm and crispy, go right ahead.

Tomato and Balsamic Tofu Sandwich

Ingredients
– 1 pound of firm tofu, sliced widthwise into four big slabs
– 2 small tomatoes, sliced
– 1 red bell pepper, sliced into small strips
– Salt and pepper (to taste)
– Balsamic vinegar – we weren’t precise on the measurements, so use your judgment. About a 1/4 cup overall should be fine.
– Eight slices of thick, crusty bread, toasted
– 3 tbs olive oil or grapeseed oil (use more as needed)
– Fresh spinach (as desired)
– Vegan mayo (optional)

– Heat the oil in a pan, then add the red pepper slices. Saute until soft, adding salt and pepper as desired. Add the tomatoes, cooking for about a minute. Remove from the peppers and tomatoes from heat, but keep the pan hot.

– Put a slab of tofu in the pan. Add balsamic vinegar, cook for a minute, then flip, adding more vinegar. Once slab has soaked up some of the flavor – a touch-and-taste test works – remove from heat. Repeat with each slab.

– Assemble your sandwich. Toast the bread, then layer tofu, tomato, red peppers, and spinach. Add vegan mayo if using. Enjoy!

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Anatomy of a Sandwich: TLT


The majority of the restaurant reviews you read on this site come from dining out mid-week, and there’s a good reason for that. I’m often not very energetic when it comes to my weeknight cooking. With most people, the inverse is true: the bulk of their kitchen time is during the week and they use their weekends to go out and have fun and dine around town. Not me. I like to have good quality weekend time with my kitchen.

But not on weeknights. On weeknights, I want to be either 1) napping, 2) getting up from a nap, 3) writing, 4) accomplishing the various post-work tasks I normally have to see to, 5) going to the gym (that’s right, pumping iron, alright!), 6)….. you get the picture. I don’t really want to cook. I eat leftovers. I eat cereal. Sometimes I eat peanut butter and honey on toast and call it a meal. Sad, but true.

My laziness gives way to a decent recipe about every six months. Tuesday was one such night, when, needing to use up the leftover tofu from the weekend’s Southern feast, I decided to make a sandwich.

If you’re not a huge fan of tofu, let me advise two strategies to help you get over your concerns:
1) Extra Firm, Extra Pressed: Buy extra firm tofu, drain it, then press it until most of the excess moisture is out. You can gently press on it with your hands (like a sponge), or you can set up some kind of contraption to do the work for you. I balance a cutting board so that a side drains into the sink, then put the tofu on there. I cover it in paper towels, put a plate on top, and then add a few cans or bags of beans. Thirty minutes and the tofu has gone from wet and crumbly to… well, drier and crumbly. But the results really show in the cooking.

2) Don’t just fry it, coat it and fry it: Frying tofu can be awesome without any extra ingredients aside from oil and a few seasonings. But if you’re squeamish about the possible squish, coat tofu slices like you would chicken fillets. It takes to a breading really, really well, and it can often times smooth the transition into eating it.

Lazy Loafing, Ever Loving TomatoLettuceTofu Sandwich

Ingredients
– Three slices of extra firm tofu, about 1/3 inch thick. (Can vary depending on taste.)
– 1/4 cup of all-purpose flour
– 1/2 tsp of baking powder
– 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
– 1/2 tsp poultry seasoning
– 1 tbsp nutritional yeast
– Salt and pepper (to taste)
– Oil
– Two slices of tomato
– A couple of lettuce slices
– Vegan mayo (c’mon, you gotta have mayo or a mayo-like substance on a sandwich like this)
– Two pieces of bread, toasted
– Oil to fry tofu

– Mix the flour, baking powder, and seasonings in a large shallow bowl. Coat each piece of tofu in the mixture. Fry the slices until golden on both sides.

– Assemble your sandwich. Apply vegan mayo to one or both sides of toast, layer with tofu, lettuce, and tomato.