YUM. This is my new favourite sandwich. It’s inspired by a hole in the wall sandwich place on Second Avenue in the East Village — I can’t remember its name, but it was a couple of blocks from the flat Jackie & I shared back in 2007, and it was the first place where I ever saw fried tofu used as a sandwich ingredient.
I guess it had just never occurred to me to eat tofu cold. I do like how a) the Americans will put pretty much anything in a sandwich, and b) they are super imaginative with vegetarian and vegan food in a way that just doesn’t happen over here in the UK.
The of the biggest issues with vegetarian food is the lack of texture, so anything that adds bite and chew to the daily diet is a good thing, and that’s where this sandwich really delivers — alongside the massive punch of umami from the tomatoes. Mmmmm.….
It does require a little advance thinking, but nothing too onerous. Slow roasting tomatoes in a warm oven is the best way to turn cheap, tasteless fluff balls from the supermarket into rich, concentrated delicious-ness. All you need to do is buy the cheap, cheap cherry tomatoes — I used Sainsbury’s Value ones, give them a rinse and tip them into a roasting tin with plenty of olive oil and a good sprinkle of Maldon Salt. I didn’t use any this time, but fresh herbs would be wonderful too. Thyme, oregano in particular. (I really wouldn’t bother with dried. Better without)
Then simply roast in the oven at about 140C for about 40–60 minutes. I’ve found timing really varies depending on the size and ripeness of the tomatoes. What you want is the tomatoes cooked to the point of caramelised collapse — but not burnt. I always cook too many tomatoes. Pop them in a sterilised (put through a dishwasher cycle) jam jar in the fridge and they will keep for a week.
Then all you have to do is assemble your sandwich. You’ll need a baguette because the depth of crumb soaks up all the wonderful tomato-ey juices. I spooned some of the tomato oil over the bread, before filling it with slices of golden fried tofu (do get the pre-fried stuff not the wobbly white raw beancurd), alfalfa sprouts for crunch, but crispy lettuce would work too, mayonnaise and, of course, the luscious tomatoes, which you can spread like jam. A splash of chilli in the form of Tabasco, or Sriracha wouldn’t go amiss either.
Then eat. This is definitely a two napkin sandwich.