November 4, 2011

The Tofu Sandwich You Never Knew You Loved

Discovering a tofu sandwich is like that moment in middle school when you discover that there are some vegetables that are actually quite delicious. For me it was discovering that I really like caesar salad. For so long I had assumed, as most children do, that a green food is a gross food. And so for most of my childhood I steered well clear of green foods unless they came in the form of gushers, fruit roll-ups or lollipops. But finally, pressured by my younger sister who had decided she liked caesar salad, I took a forkful and decided it was quite good.

You might be thinking that a love of caesar salad didn't exactly make me a true vegetable lover. And it's true, caesar salad is as much about the croutons and the parmesan cheese and the mayonnaise-based dressing as it is about the romaine lettuce (let's be honest creamy caesar dressing is just better than the non-creamy stuff). But we learn a couple of important things from this. First, that despite what anyone says, a caesar salad is a beautiful thing that even a picky eater can come to appreciate. Second, that mayonaise makes things more delicious.

Which is why you'll be relieved to know that this tofu sandwich is not without mayonaise.

But unlike a caesar salad, the mayonaise does not hide the star of this dish. The tofu makes a perfect centerpiece for a sandwich - it's meaty, creamy, and flavorful (it's marinated first in red wine vinegar, soy sauce, garlic and ginger). It's goes great with crunchy vegetables like cucumber, red onion and arugula, which lend the sandwich a lively bite. And the mayonaise, well it just tops it off.

This sandwich comes to me via my roommate Damiano, whose mom made it for his family growing up. (And I thought caesar salad was progressive!)

So give this sandwich a try. It just might be the best thing you've never had.

Recipe below.

Tofu Sandwich
Makes 4 Sandwiches 

The marinated tofu in this sandwich is great on its own or in other dishes as well.

-1 large package firm tofu, sliced into 16 pieces
-4 tablespoons soy sauce, plus more for topping
-2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
-1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
-2 cloves garlic, minced
-1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
-vegetable oil for frying
-1/2 red onion, sliced
-1/2 cucumber, sliced
-large handful arugula
-1/2 cup mayonaise
-1 tablespoon sriracha, optional
-8 slices whole grain sandwich bread, toasted
-salt and pepper

1. To marinate tofu: Place tofu in a large tupperware container. In a small bowl, mix the soy sauce, red wine vinegar, sesame oil, garlic, ginger and salt and pepper. Pour mixture over the tofu to coat, cover container with a lid, and refrigerate for at least half an hour (can be stored overnight).

2. To cook tofu: Prepare a plate covered with a paper towel. Heat a large skillet on medium heat. Add a few tablespoons vegetable oil, and place the tofu in a single layer and cook 2-3 minutes per side until browned. Remove to the paper towel. Work in batches until all tofu is cooked.

3. To assemble sandwich: Lay 4 slices of the bread on a surface. Divide the mayonaise evenly between the sandwiches and spread. If using sriracha, spread on with the mayonaise. Divide the cooked tofu evenly among each sandwich. Top with cucumber, red onion and arugula. Drizzle with more soy sauce and season with salt and pepper. Top with the other slices of bread, cut in half, and serve at once.