A healthy eating specialist at WFM Columbus Circle and WFM Union Square in NYC, Kelly Dupuis believes in eating foods without labels (an ear of corn, a ripe tomato). As a proponent of plant-based diets, she eschews packaged substitutes offering a quick fix. For Kelly, it's all about cooking from scratch. In her weekly column, Comfort Food - Refreshed, Kelly doesn't just adapt her favorite comfort foods to her plant-strong lifestyle, she reimagines them in original recipes with a wink to the past.
This week: Kelly offers up a sweet potato and tofu sandwich with French and Vietnamese influences running through its veins.
So...sandwiches! Quite simply, a sandwich is something between two pieces of bread that you eat. (Well, we’ve got open-faced sandwiches now, which are the great sammie gamechanger, but I digress.) A sandwich can be as simple as hummus in a pita with some Mediterranean touches (you know, something like this). A sandwich can be delicious whole wheat toast around roasted red peppers and grilled onions, and smeared with pesto. A sandwich can be a veggie burger of which there are many quality brands in your grocer’s freezer and many a recipe for these hearty handfuls online. Here’s one with some Southwestern flavor. So, while it is generally a simple affair, the sandwich should be respected and then devoured. Anything less than that is not paying proper tribute.
Strong feelings coming from me, yes. But it’s important for me to have strong feelings about what many consider a mundane meal choice. It’s important for me to reinvent and elevate the sandwich as best I can. This week’s Smoky Sweet Potato and Tofu Sandwich with Avocado is inspired by a certain Vietnamese and French influenced sandwich known as the banh mi that I once enjoyed at a special sandwich place called Num Pang near Union Square in NYC. The banh mi that I chose at Num Pang was their Salt and Pepper Japanese Yam Banh Mi. Now, for those of you who don't know, a banh mi is a baguette-based sandwich often stuffed with savory slow-cooked or charbroiled meats, a layer of pâté, fresh and crunchy pickled carrots and daikon radish, fresh cilantro, and thinly sliced jalapeno. But Num Pang does a great job at pleasing their veggie-loving guests, offering up sandwiches like Portobello Banh Mi and the Salt and Pepper Japanese Yam Banh Mi that I so love. The yam (or sweet potato) aspect and the smoky, salty, peppery flavors of Num Pang’s sandwich are what gets me going here this week.
Because you all know my deal with sweet potatoes: I love them. From Rustic Vegetable Soup to Chocolate Sweet Potato Pudding, I find a place for these beta carotene-packed beauties wherever I can. So much fiber, so much flavor, such creamy, tender texture -- the sweet potato really cannot be beat. So, for my sandwich, I thinly slice sweet potatoes and toss them with tons of smoky spices and soy sauce, along with some thinly sliced tofu. I then bake the taters and tofu off until tender and golden with a bit of chew. To construct the sandwich, I spread creamy, cool, luscious avocado on the baguette (to mimic the mayo they slather on at Num Pang), and I layer on the sweet potatoes and tofu. And then I toss on some sharp, peppery arugula, a leafy green with a freshness that cannot be beat to mimic the cilantro aspect, but add more nutrition. I then press down on the bread to let the flavors meld, serve the sandwich alongside pickles (you can put them inside the sandwich, if you like), and devour at will.
This hearty guy takes a little while to prepare, but once you’ve cooked off the tofu and sweet potatoes, it’s a snap to put together. And while I have nothing against tuna fish, ham and cheese, or even peanut butter and jelly, this sandwich beats the stereotype that sandwiches are destined for the mundane. This one is a little banh mi and a little Kelly Jane Dupuis. It’s about taking fresh ingredients and spending some time with them. It’s a meal of a sandwich. And when it’s all said and done, it’s just plain satisfying.
Smoky Sweet Potato and Tofu Sandwich with Avocado
1 large whole wheat or multigrain baguette, cut down the center lengthwise and then in four sections
3 tablespoons smoked paprika (bittersweet or mild kind)
3 tablespoons low sodium tamari (low sodium soy sauce)
2 teaspoons onion powder
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons sea salt
2 teaspoons fresh ground black pepper
Juice of 2 limes
15 ounces extra firm or firm tofu, drained and sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 1/2 pound sweet potatoes, 1/4 inch thick sliced
2 ripe haas avocados, peeled, pitted and mashed
1 cup baby arugula (or baby spinach or baby kale)
In the NYC area? Stop by for cooking advice!
If you're not in the area, send me a direct message or add your comments or questions below.
Like this post? See Kelly's topic from last week: Peanut-Lime Brown Rice Noodles with Kale and Cabbage.
Kelly Dupuis is a healthy eating specialist at WFM Columbus Circle and WFM Union Square who delights in transforming comfort classics into deliciously satisfying and fun plant-based dishes.