Super Succulent Vegan Panini

Last August when my sweet niece, Sharon, and her family visited, we spent one day over on Hornby Island. Hornby is more commercial than Denman (as far as Gulf Islands go anyway), and one of its institutions is a delightful enterprise known as The Cardboard House Bakery. Now, this place is much more than a simple bakery: they make THE most delicious food–paninis, pizzas, sandwiches–you’ve ever tasted.

Now, I won’t line up for anything, but I’ll line up for a Carboard Bakery Panini because that’s the only way to get your hands on one. Seriously, in the summer, the line up is often so long that it winds back into the adjoining store (a great little hippy store reminiscent of Gastown in the 1970s).

Anyway, last summer we dutifully lined up to order and, without even glancing at the blackboard that listed the nature of the daily panini, I ordered it.

Only later did I realize that the panini-of-the-day was…tofu.

Now, it’s taken me decades to learn to love tofu, and I do love it (when properly prepared), but planks of tofu on a sandwich did not fill me with anticipation.

Once you order at the Cardboard House Bakery, you can wander out into the lovely orchard adjoining the bakery and sit at one of the many picnic tables. Eventually, someone will emerge from the bakery with a tray and yell your name across the orchard.

When our sandwiches arrived, they were enormous–filled with all kinds of grilled vegetables, as well as several slabs of marinated, grilled tofu. Still, I imagined that I’d be offended by the texture and would be plucking out the tofu lickety split.

How wrong I was! That sandwich was so damn good it’s been haunting me for three months.

Yesterday, I decided to attempt my own version of it.

Vegan Panini with Grilled Tofu

First, I pulled out a hunk of my no-knead white dough, rolled it out into a focaccia-style loaf, and baked it. I’d incorporated a few handfuls of the Bragg’s herb mixture into the dough, so it was especially fragrant.

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Next, I pressed, sliced, and marinated a package of extra-firm tofu for thirty minutes or so. I used this Thug Kitchen ginger-sesame marinade.

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And here it is on the grill–you want to make sure it’s firm and nicely grilled….

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Next, I chopped some onions, red pepper, and mushrooms and sauteed them with a drizzle of my universal marinade–I always have a jar of this in the fridge, so it’s not like I had to make two separate marinades for one damn sandwich!

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I also sliced some cabbage very thinly–just to add a bit of crunch to the finished product…

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Next is the assembly: I cut the focaccia in half and then sliced it through and slathered both sides with a recently discovered dressing created by the folks at Clean Food, Dirty Girl. The dressing is called Tahini Crack….or “T-Crack” for short, and it is my new jam: super quick to make and super delicious slathered on anything.

I then piled on the slabs of grilled tofu and topped it with the sauteed vegetables and raw chopped cabbage:

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I sealed it up and placed it in the grill, which I’d sprayed very lightly with oil.

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It was a bit tricky because the top kept sliding around and stuff kept spilling out, but you have to be a bit patient and kind of check and adjust it frequently because everything inside the sandwich is pretty slippery.

I grilled each sandwich for about five minutes. It should be nice and flat and have quite profound grill marks when it’s done:

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Aaaand here’s the finished product!

qjt-s9tcq3gn0fuvqrqkjnwdlc7mj3xe4zhkz4nzq2kym2gtbtjyzdwgwum8gae7rqxwzgbjlgw971-h728-noNow that enormous plate above was James’s meal–I could not eat that much if you paid me! In James’s defense, he eats only a bowl of cereal in the morning and nothing else until dinner.

James always makes the potatoes, but when I sent a picture of this meal to my niece, Annie, she asked me to include the recipe for the potatoes, so that’s what I’m doing! These “fries” are oven baked and, as James is preparing them, I always yell out, “Not too much oil, please!!” so yesterday, he actually brought me into the kitchen as he was preparing them and made me watch as he poured one scant capful of olive oil on the entire enormous bowl of vegetables. So now I believe him. It is remarkable, however, that such a small amount of oil can do the trick with these delicious little morsels!

Here’s the recipe–for Annie!

Oven-Fried Potatoes and Brussels Sprouts (or whatever vegetable you want to throw in there!)

  • 1 lb. potatoes, peeled and chopped into one-inch chunks
  • 1 cup Brussels sprouts, halved
  • 1/2 a white onion, sliced
  • 1 TBS olive oil
  • 1 tsp dried red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • freshly ground pepper

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and toss to ensure that all the vegetables are nicely coated with oil and spices. Spread out on a parchment-paper-lined baking pan and bake at 450 for about an hour. Flip them at the half hour point.

And it’s been pouring down rain for weeks now on our little island, and James has been singing “Listen to the Rhythm of the Falling Rain” all morning, so the song of the day is, of course…

It is, however, very cozy tucked up in front of the wood stove as I write this in my PJs…

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…in our funky little cabin…

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LEFTOVER UPDATE!!

For lunch today, I cooked up a batch of forbidden rice, grilled some Brussels sprouts, and warmed up yesterday’s marinated, grilled tofu and served it drizzled with the T-Crack sauce from last evening. A sprinkling of black and white sesame seeds finished it off.

IT. WAS. SO. FREAKIN’. GOOD.

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