Eating In: Beans and Barley Inspired Balsamic Tofu Sandwich

Beans and Barley is a wonderful deli/café/grocer at the heart of Milwaukee’s East Side, and a place I happily frequented back in the day. There’s not a Milwaukeean that doesn’t love this place and it’s not hard to see why. Their mouth-watering offerings, available at the hot bar or at the restaurant, including scrambled tofu for breakfast, artichoke parmesan dip, housemade kombucha, and burritos dripping with cheese, and are enough to keep the hungry soul coming back for more. As an added bonus, day-old hot bar meals are available for student-wallet-friendly options, and visiting the hot bar at the end of the day will get you 50% off your purchase.

One of my favourite meals at the café is the balsamic tofu sandwich, with balsamic marinated tofu (obviously), spinach, red onion, pepperoncini, and Veganaise served on a stirato roll. I’m a former vegetarian, but to avoid the recent pain that plagues my stomach after eating meat, I’ve been choosing vegetarian protein sources, and was inspired to re-create a great classic with a bit of a twist.

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For the balsamic tofu:

  • UNICURD plain Tau Kua tofu
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Olive oil
  • Rice vinegar
  • 2 garlic cloves, flattened and sliced
  • Basil leaves

Cut the tofu in half into two square pieces. For the tofu marinade, I mixed about two tablespoons of olive oil and added balsamic vinegar until there was enough to marinade the tofu evenly, continually adding as necessary. I also added 2 tablespoons of rice vinegar and sliced garlic into the mix; sprinkle in some basil leaves. I let this marinade for 4 hours, although it wouldn’t hurt to let it marinade for longer. To prepare, I used an air fryer at 200°C for 8 minutes (lightly pat the tofu dry before air frying). Cook time depends on tofu thickness, but be sure to flip the tofu at the halfway point. Alternately, pan fry the tofu until it browns and (for tau kwa tofu) the outside is a bit crisp.

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Instead of Veganaise, an avocado spread:

  • 1/4 of an avocado
  • 1 tsp of apple cider vinaigrette found here

Mix the vinaigrette with the avocado. Hopefully your avocado is more ripe than mine, in which case, smush up the avocado to create a spread. For less ripe avocados, just cut into thin slices and mix in the vinaigrette.

For the rest of the sandwich fixin’s, here’s what I used:

  • 2 slices of beefsteak tomato
  • 2 pieces of lettuce
  • 1/4 red onion, sliced thinly
  • Alfalfa and broccoli sprouts (more is always better in my book!)
  • 4-5 thinly sliced cucumber
  • Baguette (ciabatta would have been delicious, but the baguette was the closest thing I could find)

Lightly toast le baguette! Arrangement idea: from baguette bottom, lettuce, tofu, tomatoes, onions, cucumber, avocado, sprouts. Of course, if the avocado spread was actually a spread, it would probably be better on the top side of the baguette.

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I over-explained a lot of things, but we’ve come to an end here. Yay! Serve with a side of carrots and as always, enjoy.

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If you try this, let me know how it goes! What are some of your favourite “eating out” recipes you’ve re-created at home?

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