Category: Sandwich

Vietnamese Tofu Sandwich

July 9, 2009


Whenever I return from vacation, especially if we have been back East visiting the Baltimore clan, I feel the need to eat really healthy and clean.  This past trip was a little better than others because we were staying in a house.  This meant I was able to cook a few meals and eat some healthy food.  One night I made Grilled Vegetable Quesadillas and another I made a Niçoise Salad.  By contrast, one night we ate at a crab shack where my choices were limited to the side dishes part of the menu.  When I asked the waitress if I could have just a baked potato instead of “cheesy smashed potatoes” she said, “I’m not sure if I have ever seen a whole potato back there.”  True story.

I ate a lot of salad but I also ate a lot of french fries off my boys’ plates.  I also fully enjoyed happy hour.  In other words, by this week I was definitely feeling the need for some tofu.  When I’m feeling that need, I turn to Asian food.


I made these sandwiches last spring for my clients.  I remember having an “oh wow” moment with my first bite.  That is always a good sign.  I’m happy to report I had an “oh double wow” moment with last night’s first bite. A “why don’t I make this every week?” moment.  If you like these flavors, you will love this sandwich.

A few notes on the recipe.  By all means, make the pickles in advance.  I made them the day before but the recipe states you can keep them for several weeks in the refrigerator.  You will want to dry your tofu very well before pan-frying it, otherwise it will splatter something fierce when it hits the oil.  I dry each piece individually with a paper towel.  The tofu mixture can be made several hours in advance and sit out at room temperature – I think the flavor improves if you do so.


One Year Ago: Raspberry Cream Cookies

Tai’s Vietnamese Tofu Sandwich
Adapted from Everyday Greens
Makes 4 sandwiches

Carrot-Daikon Radish Pickles (recipe follows)
1 package extra firm tofu, 12-16 ounces
Vegetable oil for frying (DT: I used peanut oil)
Salt and pepper
2 shallots, thinly sliced
1/2 tbsp. minced garlic
1/2 tbsp. minced fresh ginger
2 cups flavorful chopped canned tomatoes, with their juice
2 tbsp. Tamari or other soy sauce
1/2 tsp. sugar
Pinch of cayenne pepper
4 soft French rolls (DT: I used small ciabatta)
12 to 16 cilantro sprigs

Make the Carrot-Daikon Radish pickles.

Cut the tofu into 1/2-inch-thick slices, cut each slice into quarters, and each quarter into two triangles.  Pour enough oil into a large non-stick skillet to thoroughly coat the bottom and heat just until below the point of smoking, when the first wisp of vapor appears.  Fry the tofu until golden and crisp, about 3 minutes per side.  Drain the tofu on paper towels, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and set aside.

Heat 1 tbsp. of the tofu frying oil in a skillet, add the shallots, 1/4 tsp. salt, and a pinch of pepper, and cook over medium heat for 2 minutes.  Sir in the garlic and ginger, adding a little water if needed to keep everything from  sticking to the apn.  Add the tomatoes, tamari, sugar, and the cayenne and cook until the tomatoes thicken, about 15 minutes.  Add the tofu and simmer for about 5 minutes.

Cut the rolls in half and scoop out the centers.  Spoon the filling into the bottom halves of the rolls, making sure to include all of the sauce.  Scatter 1/4 cup of the pickles and a few sprigs of cilantro over the filling.  Place the top on each sandwich, press it down to hole the filling in place, and slice in half on the diagonal.


Carrot-Daikon Radish Pickles
Makes 1 quart

2 large carrots, thinly sliced
1/2 large daikon radish, peeled, quartered, and thinly sliced
1/2 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 jalapeno chili, seeded, and finely chopped
1/2 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup water
2 tbsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. salt

Place the carrots, daikon, onions, and chili in a bowl.  Combine the remaining ingredients in a small saucepan, bring to a boil, and pour over the carrot mixture.  Set aside for at least an hour to pickle, or transfer to an airtight container, and refrigerate.

Another Sandwich

May 11, 2009


Since I had some questions about the carrot sandwich from Saturday’s feast on Bainbridge Island, I figured I would share that recipe before I treat you to the quinoa salad (and yes, quinoa can be a treat).

I found this recipe in the neglected and rarely used sandwich section of my cooking notebooks.  In case you are new here, my cooking notebooks house all the magazine recipes that I have cut and pasted since the early 90’s.  If there was a fire in our house, I would save my family first, then my guitar, then my notebooks.  Any cookbook can be replaced but my four notebooks can not.  The sandwich sections of my notebook houses only about 15 recipes, many of which I have never tried.

In general, I have a problem with sandwiches.  We eat lunch out a lot and I find that, when there is a vegetarian sandwich available on a menu, it is something so blah and boring that I only order it if there is absolutely nothing else for me to eat.  Or, on the other end of the spectrum, it has 12 kinds of roasted vegetables, and 12 kinds of gooey condiments all smooshed together on oily foccacia.  Why would I want to eat something with so many different flavors and textures that I can’t distinguish any of them?  And why would I want to eat a Big Mac’s calorie equivalent and pretend it’s healthy?

In the perfect imaginary restaurant I would open – the one where I would show up for work at 10am and leave for home at 3pm- we would only serve lunch but it would be the best lunch in the city.  We would have nourishing soups, refreshing and interesting salads, and complex sandwiches that would always come with a delicious side.  (Another thing I hate about sandwiches in restaurants is that it’s all you get – I want more flavors in my lunch.)  This sandwich, and the one from the previous post, would be on the menu.

Originally this recipe called for goat cheese but I was already using goat cheese on the other sandwich and I also wanted to have a vegan option.  Because the spices in the carrots are of the North African variety, I figured hummus would work just fine and it did.  In fact, I think it probably worked better than goat cheese would, although you could certainly use that if you wanted.  Also, the original recipe is for 6 sandwiches on regular bread.  If you choose to make it on a ciabatta bread as I did,  you will most likely have leftover carrots and leftover tapenade which, in my book, is never a bad thing.  I would spread the tapenade on crostini (maybe with some soft goat cheese underneath) and serve with a spinach salad starring the leftover carrots.


You will need an adjustable blade slicer of some sort to slice the carrots because you want them about 1/16th of an inch thick.  Years ago, I bought a fancy mandoline and I was so terrified of it that I only used it once.  When I heard that a friend was going to buy one for her husband’s birthday, I offered to trade them mine for their cheap plastic one that has a ceramic blade.  It’s actually less safe than the other one (there is no finger guard) but much easier to use.  If you don’t have one,  you could just use your knife and slice them as thinly as possible, then allow them a longer swim in the boiling water.


One year ago: THE Lemon Tart

Moroccan Carrot and Hummus Sandwiches with Green Olive Tapenade
Inspired by Gourmet Magazine
Serves 6

I used store-bought hummus for this recipe and just slathered it on the bread – I’m not sure exactly how much I used – do it to your taste.  Also, if you are looking to streamline this recipe, you could use store-bought tapenade.

For carrots
2 tbsp. sugar
1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
2 tsp. sweet paprika
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. cayenne
1 tsp. salt
1/4 cup olive oil
1 1/2 lb. carrots

For tapenade
1 1/4 cups green olives (6-7 oz.) such as Cerignola or picholine, pitted
1/4 cup flat leaf parsley
1 tsp. finely grated lemon zest
1 1/2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp. black pepper
Olive oil

For sandwiches
1 ciabatta loaf, halved cross-wise

Prepare carrots:
Whisk together the sugar, lemon juice, spices, salt and oil in a large bowl until the sugar is dissolved.  Halve the carrots on a long diagonal, then, starting from diagonal ends, cut into 1/16-inch thick slices using slicer.  Cook carrots ina 4 to 5 quart pot of boiling salted water until cresp-tender, about 45 seconds.  Drain well in a colander and immediately toss with dressing.  Cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally, then marinate, covered and chilled, at least 4 hours.  (Carrots can marinate for up to 2 days.)

Make tapenade and assemble sandwich:
Pulse olives with capers, parsley, zest, lemon juice, and pepper in a food processor until coarsely chopped, then scrape down side of bowl with a rubber spatula.  Pulsing motor, add oil in a slow steam and continue to pulse until mixture is finely chopped (do not pulse to a paste).  (Tapenade can be made up to 1 week in advance.  Cover and refrigerate.)

Spread tapenade on one side of the ciabatta.  Spread hummus on other side.  Lay carrots thickly on bottom slice then sandwich with top.  Using a sharp serrated knife, carefully cut the sandwich into 6 slices.

Happy Blog-versary to Me

May 10, 2009


Lots of photos today and lots to say.  Why?  Because it’s my blog-ver-sary!  So, no that doesn’t rhyme, but it’s close!

They say when you have children, the years go by quickly but the days can seem long.  I feel that way about this blog.  It is truly hard for me to believe that I sat down a year ago and started this journey.  I’ve really enjoyed all of it and am already excited about the coming year.  Thank you for being here to read what I write.  Thank you for trusting me and my recipes and for letting me know when things look good and when they turn out well.

By coincidence, I got to celebrate by catering a lunch for a group of lovely women who were honoring themselves as mothers.  My friend Jen hosted a “mother-asana” at her studio on Bainbridge Island.  It was a day of yoga, meditation, and thinking about who we are as women, not just moms.


Jen’s studio is on her property and it is as lovely as she is.  I had so hoped to take part in the asana part of the afternoon, but alas, my brother was hospitalized this morning with appendicitis.  It didn’t feel quite right to me to be enjoying a yoga class while he was in so much pain.  I did get to enjoy a quiet ferry ride over in the morning, some solitary cooking time in Jen’s kitchen, and then sharing lunch with the other moms.  I also got to visit my brother who was still in a lot of pain but seemingly on the mend.

In all the cooking I have done for other people, I have rarely made lunch so this was a nice challenge.  I did a few lunches for a former client who is a lawyer and, no offense to the lawyers out there, but I’d rather cook for blissed out yoga women.  (Although I do have to brag that I got to bring lunch to Chris Cornell – he is a client of my former client.)

I figured that everyone would be hungry but because there would be another yoga practice in the afternoon, I didn’t want to make anything to heavy.  I knew sandwiches were a must but, because making 20 individual sandwiches seemed kind of impractical, I made 3 large ciabatta ones which I sliced into portions.


This one had hummus, green olive tapenade, and carrots that had been marinated in lemon juice and a host of spices.  I also made one with egg salad, but I think the favorite was this one.


This sandwich is one I’ve made over and over and I’m not really a sandwich person.  It’s very simple but the flavors are perfect together.  Homemade roasted bell peppers, soft goat cheese, basil, and red onion make for a special treat.

Also on the menu, a favorite pasta salad and a new quinoa salad which I will share with you in the next couple of days.  There was a big green salad with asparagus, green beans, avocado, and grapes – all dressed with a mustard-y vinaigrette with lots of basil.  And, of course, a big platter of fruit.


After all that healthy stuff, people definitely needed a treat.  I made these oh-so-very-blogged-about cookies a while ago and hadn’t made them since so I figured it was time.  They were gone in a matter of minutes.

But back to the sandwich.  This is a wonderful thing to have in your cooking arsenal.  It can feed 6 easily and you can always double it if you have more mouths to feed.  It looks pretty, the flavors are fresh, and it comes together easily.  You can roast the peppers days in advance to make it even easier to assemble.  Next time I make it, I am going to scoop out some of the ciabatta’s top innards.  I thought it was a little too bread-y.


One year ago: Meet Me

Roasted Pepper and Goat Cheese Sandwiches

Adapted from Barefoot Contessa at Home
Serves 4-6

Here is the funny thing.  I forgot about part of this recipe when I made it today.  I just put the roasted peppers on the sandwich without the capers and other flavorings.  It was still delicious but I recommend you take the extra steps described below.

4 large red or yellow bell peppers (or a mixture)
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp. drained capers
1 large ciabatta bread, halved horizontally
1 (11-ounce) log soft goat cheese (such as Montrachet)
8-10 large basil leaves
3 thin slices red onion

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.

Place the whole peppers on a sheet pan and place in the oven for 20-30 minutes, until skins are completely wrinkled and the peppers are charred, turning them twice during roasting.  Remove the pan from the oven and immediately cover it tightly with aluminum foil.  Set aside for 30 minutes, or until the peppers are cool enough to handle.

Meanwhile, combine the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic, salt, and pepper in a small bowl.  Set aside.

Remove the skin from the bell pepper, then slice in half and remove the seeds, and the stem and discard.  Slice the peppers into thin strips and place in the bowl with the olive oil mixture.  Stir in the capers.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for a few hours to allow the flavors to blend.

To assemble the sandwiches, spread the bottom half of the loaf with the goat cheese.  Add a layer of peppers and then a layer of basil leaves.  Separate the onions into rings and spread out on top.  Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper.  Top with the top half of the ciabatta and cut into individual servings.

A Sunday Lunch

August 10, 2008

My youngest brother Michael just moved back to Seattle a week or so ago. He hasn’t really lived here since he graduated high school. Although we are eight years apart, we have always been close. When we were really young it was because I was kind of a second mother to him, and now that we are adults, it’s really just because we like each other and have a fair amount in common. I have really missed having him close by, especially once I started having kids and he only got to see them once a year.

One of Michael’s favorite things to do on Earth is ride bikes and that is one thing we do not have in common. My three month tour of France basically forever ruined my urge to ever get on anything with two wheels again. My husband, however, is a biking nut and I think he is really excited to have a buddy to ride with and someone who can challenge him. Randy did a crazy ride called RAMROD a couple of weeks ago and RAMROD stands for Ride Around Mt. Rainier in One Day. If you are not from around here, Mt. Rainier is the tallest mountain in the lower 48 states and this ride was about 160 miles and 10,000 feet vertical climb. In one day. Randy told me many times that he was worried that he wasn’t going to be able to finish. He called me after he did finish to let me know that he came in fifth. And he started half an hour late. Michael can’t wait to join him next year.

Another of Michael’s favorite things to do on Earth is eat. In spite of his extreme carnivore-ness, he is a very enthusiastic audience for the vegetarian food that I make. His friends once got him a bacon-of-the-month package for his birthday, but he insists that if he were eating my food, he could be a vegetarian. Awwww. So, needless to say, he is fun to cook for. I decided to make lunch for the guys today – something I don’t normally do. I do a lot of dinner cooking, so breakfast and lunch tend to be simple around here (or eaten out). But since we had no plans this weekend, I was getting the urge to get in the kitchen anyway.

I must have the cut the recipe for this sandwich out 15 years ago or so, and have never made it. I am actually not a huge sandwich person. In my experience, vegetarian sandwiches are ho-hum at best and oily greasy messes at worst. I also always get to the end of a sandwich and think, “That’s it?” I guess they just don’t satisfy me. This baby is another story all together. This is a meal. I used the recipe as a starting off point and made a few changes, one of which being to add hard-boiled egg slices. I figured the guys would want a little extra protein after a long ride. The best part about this sandwich is that it can be made a day ahead – it’s actually even better since the flavors of the filling have time to seep into the bread. Yum. This would be a great dinner on a night that you just can’t face the stove or the oven. I served it with a summer squash soup with small shell pasta and tons of herbs, but a salad would be lovely as well.

Olive and Jarlsberg Sandwich
Adapted from
Gourmet Magazine
Serves 4 (very hungry) – 6 (slightly less hungry)

You could substitute a different kind of cheese here (I would use something mild as the other flavors are very assertive.) You can also swap out some of the parlsey with a different herb – basil would be delicious. If you eat fish, I would imagine that a drained can or two of tuna would great great mixed in with the olive mixture.

an 8 inch round loaf of peasant bread
cup drained pimento-stuffed green olives, chopped fine
cup drained Kalamata olives, pitted and chopped fine
1/2 cups grated Jarlsberg cheese (about 6 oz.)
6 oz. jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained and chopped fine

1 cup drained bottled roasted red peppers, chopped fine

2 cups packed fresh parsley leaves, minced

1 tbsp. drained capers, chopped fine

olive oil


4 hard boiled eggs, thinly sliced

Cut the top quarter off the loaf horizontally with a serrated knife and remove the soft crumb from the top and bottom sections, leaving a 1 1/2 inch thick shell. In a bowl, stir together the olives, cheese, artichoke hearts, peppers, parsley, and capers. Stir in just enough olive oil to moisten it, not make it greasy. Add salt and pepper as needed to taste, keeping in mind that the olives and capers are very salty.

Spread a thin layer of hummus (or more if you love hummus) all over the inside of the bowl and lid. Spoon half the olive mixture into the bread shell and top with a layer of hard-boiled eggs. Spoon in the remaining mixture and top with the remaining eggs.

Put the lid on the bread bowl and press down to compact. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and then foil. If you want, you can place a heavy pot on top to compact it even further. Chill it for at least one hour and up to 24. Cut with a serrated knife.

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