Tofu Is Not Fake Meat

Tofu is not fake meat. In earlier generations, tofu was often an ingredient *in* fake meat – but even that isn’t so true any more, leaving tofu to just be itself, a soybean based product available for our kitchen use. If you want fake meat, you’ve got other options:

And etc. If you want tofu, I suggest making one of two tofu-forward sandwiches that I personally enjoyed chowing down on during the days of running Cafe Anna. Here’s how:

The Bread.

Okay, the bread is a bit of a problem here because I made a Ginger-Carrot bread that would be awfully difficult to replicate. What happened was I’d made a pureed ginger-carrot soup and decided it tasted best with all the solids strained out, then I took that ground up, spiced, cooked carrot and I used it to make bread. I swear I will figure out a way to do this that doesn’t start with making soup and I will post the recipe at some point. Recommended Substitutes: Oatmeal Bread, Anadama Bread, or the Polenta Bread by Patchwork Bakery (if you happen to live in a place where it’s sold – ie Montpelier). Use a thick, soft bread, neither a crusty, airy bread nor a thin sliced healthy bread.

First Tofu Fillings:

Ingredients: 14 oz firm tofu (will be frozen then thawed, so start this a day before), sugar, soy sauce, black pepper, scallions, mayonnaise, butter (softened), fresh basil and cilantro (optional – add thin sliced jalapenos to make it spicier). 

This sandwich uses tofu with a peppery soy-caramel braise and lots of fresh herbs. Start with this recipe for tofu, with the soy sauce option (instead of fish sauce) and minus the onion. Only make the tofu component of of this sandwich recipe, not the rest (the rest is also tasty, but it’s a different sandwich).

Once the tofu is cooked check the pepper levels – you want this quite peppery and fresh ground pepper is really best here if you have that option. Once the tofu has cooled, put it in a bowl and mash it with a fork. Mince 4-6 scallions and mix those in along with just enough mayonnaise to hold the whole thing together.

On your bread, pile tofu filling on one side. Butter the other piece of bread somewhat generously and pile with lots of fresh basil and cilantro (and fresh jalapeno if you want that kick). Put together and you have your sandwich. 

Second Tofu Fillings:

A note on this recipe: It takes a long time. It’s a good project for an evening at the beginning of the week to use in sandwich making in following days. Even though I made it in summer, it would be particularly good in autumn, it’s filling and a bit on the sultry side and involves roasting things. 

Ingredients: Firm tofu (as with the above, you’ll be freezing then thawing this tofu so start it at least the day before), soft tofu (yes two tofus), Bragg’s liquid aminos (or tamari sauce, or failing that soy sauce), assorted grilling vegetables, poblano peppers, miso and a fairly long list of dried herbs from this recipe. 

This sandwich has a whole lot of flavor going on. It begins with this vegan tofu dip from The Kitchn – don’t add quite as much wine as they say (I used half as much). In the world of dips, this one is kind of a pain to make (aren’t they supposed to be super quick recipes?) but if you think of it as an integral part of a fancy lunch dish (ie this sandwich) it’s not so bad. 

The tofu component is made by slicing 14oz of extra firm tofu into rectangles, about a quarter inch thick, freezing the tofu solid, then thawing in a colander so extra water can drain out. Once the tofu is thawed, take a large flat saucepan and add a quarter inch of vegetable oil. While you wait for the oil to heat, sprinkle the tofu with Bragg’s amino acids (an odd duck health food that adds umami to vegetarian foods – yum) or tamari or soy sauce (note tamari and soy are stronger than Bragg’s, so make it a light sprinkle if you use these). Add the tofu to the saucepan, keeping it at a vigorous yet low sizzle and flipping when one side is well browned. Brown the other side. This whole cooking enterprise will take around 10 – 15 minutes. Remove the tofu onto a plate lined with paper towels. 

Roast your vegetables. I used onions, eggplants, summer squash, sweet potatoes, and carrots for the simple reason that I had those vegetables around. It’s not an exact science, although I’d recommend having at least one sweet vegetable in there (like the potatoes or carrots). The one consistent thing you want is for these veggies to be sliced to lay flat – so, for example, discs of potatoes, not wedges. If you need a recipe for general vegetable roasting, here is one from The Kitchn (again, don’t cut your veggies in cubes like they do, cut them flat). Be sure to roast until the veggies start to get charred around the edges.  

Finally, poblano peppers. You’ll want to seed these and lay them out flat. You can roast them with the other veggies or if you are running out of oven space and feeling impatient, put a thick bottomed (cast iron would be great) skillet on the stovetop, get it hot, and dry roast the peppers on there. Start skin side down and roast until it’s blackened, then flip and keep cooking until they’re soft all the way through. Once they’ve cooled, slice them into thin strips. If you want something hotter, you could use spicier roasted peppers or thin slice fresh jalapenos.  

Assemble your sandwich by putting a layer of the tofu-miso spread on each slice of bread, then on one side stack the tofu, roasted vegetables, and poblanos. Close and enjoy. 

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