A note on roasting the peppers – you could do this in the oven, but I actually do it right on the burner of my stove. I prefer to use gas for this, since it’s a little easier to roast the pepper evenly, but alas, my stove is electric. It still does the trick. Place the peppers directly on the burner coil if using electric, or on the burner grate if using gas. Roast the peppers until they’re charred evenly, then place them in a paper bag or zippable plastic bag. Close the bag (seal it, if it has a zipper) and put the bag aside. The trapped steam will continue to soften the peppers, and will also loosen the charred skin so that it can be removed later. Creepy. Oh, and remember to roast the red peppers as well as four of the five jalapenos. If you’re feeding children, or my mom, or anyone who isn’t a fan of spicy food, you may want to scale back on the peppers. I think this pesto’s pretty mild, but you may feel differently. You’re a real renegade, you are.
The next step should be to get the tofu “pressing”. I don’t actually own a tofu press, although maybe I should. I probably should. For this dish, we actually want a bit of the tofu’s moisture – it gives the sandwich a pleasant creaminess – but it’s not ideal to just pull it right out of the water in which it’s stored and start cooking with it. The tofu should be cut in slices, about a third of an inch thick. What I do is put down a layer of paper towels, on top of which I lay the slices of tofu. I add a few more paper towels on top, and give the whole thing at least half an hour to sit. During that time the paper towels will wick away the moisture like a candle wick… wicks away candle wax. Moving on. While all that hot, capillary action is going down, you can find something with which to occupy yourself. Read a book, play a video game, stare listlessly into the cavernous depths of the void inside of you… I don’t know, and I don’t particularly care. I’m not your supervisor.
Making the pesto is the next step. This should be a familiar process if you’ve made pesto before, and is a simple one even if you haven’t. Place the jalapenos, kale, nutritional yeast, sunflower seeds, and garlic in the canister of your food processor. In case you’re wondering, the nutritional yeast is a dry, flaky yeast product. In this recipe, and quite a few others, it acts as a cheese substitute. Pulse until all ingredients are chopped up, then leave the machine running and add the oil. It’ll be easier to do this if you pour in a steady stream of oil rather than just adding it in one shot.The raw kale won’t result in a pesto that is quite as smooth as, for example, a basil pesto, but the end result should still be spreadable. Taste the pesto. Season with salt and pepper, to taste, and pulse to distribute the seasoning. Bear in mind that the garlic and jalapeno flavors will mellow as the pesto sits, so try to give it at least another half hour before constructing the sandwiches.
The last step before assembly is the tofu, which is really straight-forward. We’ll be pan-frying the tofu. Cast iron skillets are nice for this, and I personally prefer to use an extremely shallow pan. This makes it easier to flip the tofu as it cooks.
We’re going to coat the slices of tofu in corn-starch before frying them. All you need to do is shake some cornstarch out onto a plate, then press the tofu into the cornstarch. We don’t want a really thick layer of starch – just enough to coat the tofu slices. You can prepare all of these at once, before you start frying. Don’t worry if the starch seems to disappear – it’s just soaking up some of the remaining water, but it shouldn’t make much difference. The starch will help prevent the tofu from sticking to the pan. More importantly, however, it should fry up into a light, thin crust, while allowing the center of the tofu to remain somewhat creamy.
Heat a couple of tablespoons of vegetable oil in the cast iron skillet, over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot, you can begin frying the tofu. You’re looking for a light to golden brown finish on both sides. If you need to add a bit of oil as you go, feel free.
Now, the time has come for sandwich construction. Slice your roll, then put down a layer of the fried tofu. Top that with a thick layer of the pesto, and a hefty amount of the chopped green olives.
Lastly, you just need to add half of a roasted pepper, put the top on, and consume.
A dry, white wine would probably be nice with this. I served it with a double IPA – the hoppy citrus flavors go well with the jalapeno – but you could serve it with a pale ale, a pilsener, or any decent lager. *slaps the macrobrew out of your hand* I said decent!
I didn’t specify how much tofu to use. That’s going to depend on what kind of roll you use and how many sandwiches you want. I probably used around ten ounces of tofu, which I buy in “restaurant size” containers from an Asian grocery. The amount of tofu shown in the first photo made four sandwiches on the kaiser rolls I was using. The pesto will keep in the fridge, so it’s hardly a tragedy if there’s some left at the end of the day. On the other hand, don’t be surprised if you find yourself inexorably drawn back to the kitchen to prepare some more tofu – one sandwich is likely to leave you with pangs of yearning deep within your soul. Okay, maybe not, but it is a nice sandwich.