It took a while for me to realize I liked tofu. Now, mind you, I was thirteen years old when I went I cut out meat, and this was back in the early nineties, when vegetarians were still considered pretty exotic. At this time I had heard about tofu, but had no clue what it was, what to do with it or even what it looked like. Someone told me to go out, buy a block, and blend it into a milkshake. Well, that turned out to be awful. Someone else told me to crumble it into spaghetti sauce. Better, but it seemed like a useless ingredient that didn’t really add anything to the dish. After that I gave up on the old soy curds for a while to pursue other interests such as veggie burgers and the like.
It wasn’t until college that I cautiously approached it again, trying it in a couple of veggie stir fry type dishes. Not bad. It wasn’t until my college roommate (a fellow vegetarian) prepared it with a garlicky, cilantro peanut sauce that I fell in love. The problem was never tofu, it was me! I made the mistake of many a novice cook and thought I could simply throw it into any old recipe. Bad idea. What I needed was (1) to learn the specific techniques required to make tofu delicious, and (2) some tofu specific recipes. Now, I should mention that once you’ve mastered item (1), item (2) becomes less essential, and you will get to a point where you know just what to do in order to substitute tofu into your old meat based recipes, or better yet, develop brand new recipes for your newfound favorite veggie protein source. If you haven’t gotten item (1) down just yet, here’s a link to a great post on Herbivoracious that will help you perfect your tofu preparation skills:
As for item (2), I’m giving you a recipe to get started.
Now, the sandwich is awesome, but don’t feel limited to using this tofu in just these sandwiches. Balsamic tofu is one of my favorite, quick, weeknight throw-it-together quick items that works in lots of meals. You can try another sandwich variation, throw it on top of a salad, over pasta, or alongside some veggies for additional protein. It’s easy and delicious. I really like Trader Joe’s high protein super firm tofu for this. It’s really firm for tofu and holds up well when stacked between pieces of crusty bread.
Balsamic Tofu Sandwiches with Sundried Tomato
1 lb. extra firm tofu
1-2 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
Drain tofu, wrap in paper towels, and weigh down, maybe with a heavy cookbook or cutting board with some cans placed on top. You can skip this step if using the Trader Joe’s super firm variety (it doesn’t seem to hold much water). Slice into about 1/4 inch thick slabs. If you’d like to go for extra crispy, soak in salt water using the process from Herbivoracious, linked above.
Pat tofu dry and coat skillet with oil. Place over medium heat and add tofu slices. Cook slices on each side until nicely golden brown. Add balsamic vinegar to skillet, and simmer with tofu for about a minute on each side. Vinegar should reduce nicely and form a sticky coating on tofu. Remove from skillet and place on paper towels to drain.
1 bulb of roasted garlic (recipe for that here)
2 tbsp. sundried tomatoes, packed in oil and drained
1/4 cup veganaise (or mayonnaise, if you prefer)
Process everything in food processor until most of tomatoes are blended, and just a few chunks remain.
For the sandwiches:
4 long rolls or one baguette, cut into four pieces (I used ciabatta)
additional sundried tomatoes
any other veggies you’d like to add.
Once you have your tofu and mayo ready, assemble everything on your bread and munch away.