It’s almost been three years since I had my first caprese sandwich, which was also the first time I remember enjoying the taste of uncooked cheese. I didn’t used to understand what was so appealing about cold cheese slices in a sandwich, and I would only eat cheese if it were on pizza or spiked with red 40 and yellow 20 and shaken onto Doritos. Embarrassing, I know. These days, I have more respect for the natural stuff and can proudly claim that I haven’t eaten a Dorito in roughly two years.
While I love fresh mozzarella on virtually any sandwich, I am still adjusting to the idea of muenster, swiss, or provolone on an ungrilled ‘wich. For now, I am content to enjoy Dubliner, Port Salut, fresh chevre, brie, and various fun cheeses I find at Whole Foods on my crackers or baguettes (with honey, nuts, and/or dried fruit).
Of course, one of the appeals of mozzarella is that it is flexible. Its milky taste and fatty texture gives our taste buds and our brain instant satisfaction (we’re evolved to seek out sugary and fatty foods), but it is mild enough so that it rarely gets in the way of whatever else you’re eating it with.
Ever since I started to appreciate cheese, however, it’s become a kind of guilty pleasure; it’s so easy to polish off an entire block in one sitting. There’s even a Lean Cuisine commercial about it. The tofu caprese sandwich featured in this post was kind of an accident. I had half a carton of organic medium-firm tofu sitting in my fridge that was approaching its expiration date and I couldn’t think of any quick recipes that seemed appealing to me. I also had quite a bit of pesto still sitting in the fridge and was desperate to use it. Thus an idea was born.
I discovered that medium-firm tofu has a similar knife-response to mozzarella’s, and also shares the fatty cheese’s mild taste that makes it absorb its surrounding flavors into its own. Out of curiosity, I layered slices of tomato and avocado onto some crusty bread that I bought earlier from Amy’s Bread at Chelsea Market. Then I cut a slice of tofu and slathered the other piece of bread with pesto. I was surprised that it tasted so good! The avocado added the butteriness to the sandwich that mozzarella naturally provides, but tofu doesn’t, and while the texture wasn’t verbatim to that of a real caprese, it delivered as a healthier version.
So, don’t knock tofu for being the odd Asian dork of the food playground. Befriend it! Use it! In the long run, it might help you live a little longer to taste another day. Besides–look at this little sandwich–it smiles at you!