I began writing this post yesterday and then decided to postpone it after just a few paragraphs. In the wake of the tragedy in Boston, food writing — no matter how close it is to my heart — just seemed…trivial. On the somewhat bright side, humans constantly amaze me: for every cruel and villainous asshole in this world, there are a dozen more folks who are loving, generous and truly admirable. I love that.
So now it’s Tuesday, and I suppose it’s still worth running down a brief weekend recap, even if it is a day late. Until Monday, the week was getting off to a wonderfully peaceful start, complete with sleeping in and napping in the sunshine. (If you’ve seen the pics from our shoot with Cristin, you can imagine how deliciously sunny our couch gets round about 1pm. Pure. Bliss.)
Other weekend highlights:
- Indulging in a long-overdue platter of mizithra at the Old Spaghetti Factory. Plain white pasta noodles, too much nutty browned butter and heaps of salty mizithra cheese. If you’ve written off the OSF for one reason or another, do yourself a favor and order the mizithra just one time. Just once. Because if you dislike this dish, I’m 76% sure you dislike living the delicious life, in which case it sucks to be you.
- Suffering through an hour of Original Butt. I almost made it through the “seat work” portion without dropping my leg. The same cannot be said for my cursing at the TV. I was swearing before it even started.
- Grabbing a cozy supper with friends at a new (to us) creole restaurant on the Peninsula, CreoLa. (Thanks to Food Gal for reminding me this gem exists!) Good hush puppies, good soft shell crab, surprisingly good — and light — pecan pie (pee-cahn piiiiiiie) cheesecake. Yup, that exists.
- Spreeing through Target unsupervised. AKA Extreme Living on the Edge. YES to tissuey, neon everyday tanks and tees, contrast-trimmed cardis and patent wedge sandals. I can’t get enough.
- Selling a couple of pieces of furniture that we’ve been sitting on for a looooooooooooong time. I mean, I don’t want to jinx it, but with those babies cleared out, we might one day be able to park both cars in the garage (hashtagfirstworldprob if ever I’ve heard one).
- Watching lots of Initial D. It’s more or less The Fast & Furious Tokyo Drift in anime series form. Chris. Is. Addicted. In hindsight, I don’t know if this was a highlight or a low…light? If you’re at ALL familiar with what I’m talking about, please comment.
- Booking our hotel for NYC. You know the Best Rate Guarantee that almost every hotel website claims to possess? Dooooood, take advantage of it. We booked through our hotel’s website knowing there was a promotion for the same hotel running on another site and ended up getting the lower price and our first night free. I know how much work this sounds like/how incredibly cheap I seem right now, but damn if I wasn’t doing the frugal dance all over the living room in celebration of our 33% savings. Ooogachaka.
- Upgrading my 3-year-old Nike Free Runs to these neonish dudes. I’m now 300% more visible as I jog slowly by.
- Checking out our newest shipment from Tobin James! I love regularly forgetting that we’re part of a wine club. It’s like boozy Christmas twice a year. (And if I’ve not mentioned before, Tobin James has some of the best reds we’ve ever sampled. Ever.)
- Joining Bloglovin’! Are you thinking “it’s about time?” If so, sorry. If you’re wondering what the heck I’m talking about, Bloglovin’ is an awesome way to follow the blogs you read and learn about new blogs all in one place. If you’re sadface that Google Reader is calling it quits, take Bloglovin’ for a spin. When I remember, I’ll try to add a link to the bottom of posts so it’s easy to follow along later if you don’t want to sign up now.
Are you feeling up to speed yet? Great, we’re, like, so on the same page.
So let’s talk banh mi.
I am super in love with banh mi. When I used to visit San Francisco from Cal Poly, I’d have my cousin pick me up two or three sandwiches from our favorite spot in the Sunset to take home. I don’t know if it’s the crusty bread, the pickled veggies, the punchy herbs, the slathering of mayo or the (usually) porky nom noms that I like most, but the flavor of a well-assembled banh mi is unmistakably craveable.
Having said all of that, it seems a little ridonkulous to suggest a meatless banh mi, but I’m going to have to back this one up with a vengeance.
Even if you don’t think you like tofu, give it a try. The way it’s prepared here, it’s dense, toothsome and literally saturated with flavor. It’s great over rice, in stir-fries, pastas, salads, wraps — and loads more economical than buying those funky little shrunken bricks of the packaged baked stuff. Add in all the other creamy-herby-pickle-icious banh mi accessories listed below and it truly doesn’t get much better.
Baked Tofu Banh Mi with Basil Lime Aioli
by Emily Stoffel
Cooking time: 30 mins prep & assembly + overnight marinating | Serves 4 as a meal (or 8-10 as apps)
Note: This is going to seem like a lot of work, but read it through once and bear with me. If you prep your fixins one day ahead, it’s really just lickety-split assembly. I promise. Cook time above is for ALL components, minus overnight pickling/chilling. I like to pickle/marinate everything one day in advance and then bake off the tofu right before sandwich assembly. Also exciting: if made with vegenaise, this is one tasty vegan meal!
- 1 large fresh, crusty French baguette
- 1/4 – 1/2 cup basil lime aioli (see recipe below)
- 9-12 slices baked marinated tofu (see recipe below)
- pickled carrots (see recipe below)
- sweet n’ salty cucumbers (see recipe below)
- mellowed red onion (see recipe below)
- handful of fresh cilantro leaves, stems removed
- large handful french fried onions, such as French’s or Trader Joe’s
Split baguette in half. Liberally spread both halves with aioli to taste. Layer bottom half generously with baked tofu, piles of carrots, slices of cucumber (pat dry with a paper towel), mellowed onions, cilantro and fried onions. Top with top half. Cut into quarters if serving as a meal or into 12-15 mini sandwiches if serving as an app.
Baked Marinated Tofu (bake 1 day ahead or right before serving)
- 1 brick (14-16 oz) firm tofu, halved and then sliced into 24 total thin slabs
- 1/4 cup lite soy sauce
- 1 T pure sesame oil
- 1 T rice wine vinegar
- 1 tsp agave syrup
- 1/2 scallion, finely chopped
Combine all ingredients in a zip top bag and marinate 4-24 hours. Preheat oven to 350F. Drain tofu slices from marinade and arrange on a lightly oiled rimmed baking sheet (I used a Silpat liner). Bake for 40-50 minutes until slightly shrunken and browned in places, turning ocassionally.
Basil Lime Aoili (can be made 1 day ahead or immediately before serving)
- 1 cup mayo or vegan mayo
- 40 leaves fresh basil
- juice of 1 lime
Combine all items in a food processor or small blender. Store tightly sealed in the refrigerator until ready to use.
Pickled Carrots (assemble 1 day before serving)
- 3 carrots, peeled into thin strips using a vegetable peeler
- 2 T rice vinegar
- 3 T sugar
Combine all ingredients and “marinate” in the fridge for 12-24 hours.
Sweet n’ Salty Cucumbers (assemble 1 day before serving)
- 1 English cucumber, thinly sliced at an angle
- 6 tsp sugar
- 1 tsp sea salt
Combine all ingredients and “marinate” in the fridge for 12-24 hours.
Mellowed Red Onions (assemble 1 day before serving)
- 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced with rings separated
- juice of 2 limes
Combine all ingredients and “marinate” in the fridge for 12-24 hours. Onions will become bright fuchsia!