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Our first approach to sandwiches is to begin loading them up with vegetables. But not today. Both of these tofu sandwiches showcase pesto and tomatoes, so it's no surprise they're both hearty and delicious. Both are  suitable for beginning cooks, but the Tuscan Tofu Sandwich is faster to prepare, especially if you have the pesto already made. The Tofu-Pecan Meatball Subs require more time, but people go insane over them. Take them to any cookout this summer, and watch them disappear. Really.

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There's a lot to love on The Tomato Head menu, but we just had to veganize an old favorite using our basil pesto (TH's vegan pesto is not at all a classic basil pesto) and a simple, tender, delicately flavored braised tofu that works great on sandwiches. A real winner of a lunch, and dead simple to make. Best served, naturally, on Flour Head buns. 

Tuscan Tofu Sandwiches (a la Tomato Head)

Print the recipes 

yields 8 sandwiches 

1 lb extra firm tofu (Twin Oaks brand recommended) 

1/2 cup water

1 no-salt-added vegetable bouillon cube

8 sandwich buns

1 recipe Classic Vegan Pesto Genovese

8 sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil (about 1/2 cup), julienned

scant 3 TBSP Legumaise or other vegan mayo (optional)

Cut the tofu in half with your knife parallel to the cutting board so that you have two squares stacked on top of each other. Separate, wrap them side-by-side in a clean kitchen towel that won't leave fibers in the tofu (not terry cloth), and place a heavy object on top. Press for 20 minutes.

Take each square of tofu and cut each on both diagonals so you have a total of 8 thick triangles.

In a large, shallow skillet, combine the water and bouillon cube over high heat. Dissolve the cube and bring the broth to a boil. Add the tofu in one layer, reduce to a simmer over medium to medium-low heat, and cook, undisturbed, for 5 minutes. Flip the tofu and cook an additional 5 minutes. By this time, most of the liquid will be gone. Remove the tofu from the pan and set aside until cool enough to eat. 

While the tofu cooks, heat the oven's broiler, cut the buns in half, and toast the cut side of the buns until gently toasted.

To assemble, spread about 1 tsp of legumaise on the cut side of the bottom of the bun, if using. Place a triangle of tofu on top, and top with one julienned tomato. Spread a generous tablespoon of pesto on the cut side of the top bun and sandwich together.

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We owe an enormous debt to the tofu-pecan meatloaf from The Vegan Slow Cooker for this recipe (though we had to adjust the tofu recommendations, which we've had to do with several recipes in that book). The flavor is satisfyingly savory and a little nutty with an unbelievable texture. The meatballs are totally fun, and these subs are phenomenal, because pesto, but don't forget to hang onto this recipe to make wildly popular vegan burger patties. Plus, you can make them in a slow cooker, which means no oven necessary. See? Perfect for summer.

A note on tofu: All we've ever used for this recipe is unpressed Twin Oaks extra firm. We normally recommend it, because it's a great product, but the texture of these meatballs/burgers is so spot-on that we just can't vouch for the performance of other brands of tofu in its place for this recipe. If you can't get to Three Rivers to get Twin Oaks, which has a much lower water content than other tofu we've bought, try pressing a different brand of extra-firm tofu for 20 minutes, and then weigh your tofu for the recipe.

Tofu-Pecan Meatball Subs

see [Note] on yield , meatballs adapted from The Vegan Slow Cooker

For the meatballs

1 cup water

1 cup TVP (textured vegetable protein) 

1 lb Twin Oaks brand extra-firm tofu

1/2 cup pecans

3 sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, chopped

2 TBSP low-sodium tamari

1/2 tsp liquid smoke

1 cup oat bran

1/4 cup nutritional yeast

1 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp fine sea or kosher salt

1 tsp dried basil

1 tsp dried oregano

1 tsp dried marjoram

For the tomatoes

1 TBSP olive oil

1 clove garlic, minced

1 28-oz can diced tomatoes, preferably fire-roasted

To assemble

12 sandwich buns [or about 6 hoagie rolls]

1 recipe Classic Vegan Pesto Genovese 

Boil the cup of water in a small sauce pan, remove from heat, stir in the TVP, and let sit 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, roughly crumble the tofu into the bowl of a food processor fitted with the S blade. Add the pecans, sun-dried tomatoes, tamari, and liquid smoke. Process well, until uniform with no large chunks of pecans. 

In a large mixing bowl, combine the oat bran, nutritional yeast, garlic powder, salt, basil, oregano, and marjoram. Stir to combine, add the tofu-pecan mixture, and stir (hands are easiest). Add the TVP and mix until incorporated. 

Note on yield: for smaller sandwich buns, form the mixture into about 40 ping-pong ball-sized meatballs for a 12-sandwich yield, with 3 meatballs per bun. (We cut these in half for a party, for a total of 24 smaller servings.) [For larger hoagie rolls, form the mixture into golf ball-sized meatballs. Yields a generous 2 dozen.]

When all meatballs are formed, place them in a lightly oiled slow cooker and cook on low for 4-5 hours [5-6 for golf-ball size]. Or bake in a 350-degree oven for 25-30 minutes, until warmed through and lightly golden. 

For the sauce, heat the oil over medium heat, add the garlic and cook for a minute, until fragrant, then add the can of tomatoes with their juices. Reduce heat and simmer until thickened, about 15 minutes.  Add the meatballs to the sauce and stir gently to coat. Keep warm.

Cut the buns and, watching carefully, toast the cut sides until golden brown under a broiler to keep the buns from getting soggy. Add 3 meatballs with sauce, spread a scant TBSP of pesto on the top of each bun and sandwich together.

With well toasted buns, these travel well wrapped in foil. They can be reheated in the foil in a hot oven for 15-20 minutes, if needed.



Finally, we'll be back next week with a fresher recipe (because seriously, summer produce is on), but the subs were one of two things we took to our first party of the summer a couple weeks ago. Part two of the party fare will be up week after next, but we'll leave you with a preview:

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