Review: Vegan Sandwiches Save the Day

It is very rare that a cookbook comes along that elicits the kind of excitement and bold punch of flavor that Vegan Sandwiches Save the Day by Celine Steen and Tamasin Noyes has done.  For the longest time I read as blogger after blogger photographed gorgeous sandwiches and penned rave reviews, while I watched on with my mouth watering.  Vegan Sandwiches Save the Day moved higher and higher on my Christmas wish list.  And I waited eagerly for the time when I’d be making puff pastry pot pie sandwiches, tofu pomegranate pockets, and sauerkraut & tempeh-filled bierocks.  Then as luck would have it, I won a copy in a giveaway hosted by Olives for Dinner, and my wait time was cut short.

As soon as I flipped through all of the stunning recipes with loads of pictures, I felt an excited stirring in my stomach.  I wanted to make everything… now.  I never would have guessed that a book on something as basic as the sandwich could deliver so much flavor and creativity.  With 101 sandwiches from breakfast through dessert, these sandwiches are far from ordinary.  Here’s what I’ve made so far…

The first recipe I tried was the Chickpea Shawarma.  I would consider this recipe to be Indian/Mediterranean fusion, because the chickpeas are spiced with curry powder in addition to apple cider vinegar, fresh lemon juice, non-dairy yogurt, garlic, and onion powder.  (Hot curry powder from Penzey’s Spices is my favorite.)  The chickpeas are baked in the sauce until it’s mostly absorbed and then served in a pita or tortilla with lettuce and tomatoes.  (The smell of curry permeating the air made the house smell fantastic.)  It’s then topped with a creamy tahini and non-dairy yogurt dressing.

The recipe makes a lot of dressing, more than I thought I could use in a week…  But I was wrong, because the next day I generously offered to finish off the remaining chickpeas, only to have my husband ask if we could make more so that he could have some too.  So for breakfast, there we were having a full batch of chickpea shawarma all over again with more tahini sauce.  Then a few days later we were craving it anew, and I was only too happy to have the tahini sauce on hand, and with that, we finished it off.  So if you plan on making the shawarma once, you might want to halve the recipe, but then again, you might not!  I also want to add that David is generally not into sauces, especially ones made with yogurt, and he thought the sauce was the best part.  The cool, sour tang complements the spicy heat of the curried chickpeas.

Next I made the Carnitas Sandwiches.  The carnitas in this sandwich are made with jackfruit.  (Jackfruit always intrigues me, whether it’s in tacos, Nepali cuisine, or vegan crab cakes.)  The carnitas require some pre-planning, because the jackfruit cooks in a mixture of orange juice, tamari, hot sauce, and spices for an hour on the stove.  (Water is also added to cover the jackfruit, and I think I added a bit too much.  The directions say to cover the jackfruit by a couple of inches, but my shredded jackfruit just kept floating.  Next time I’ll err on the side of less rather than more, so that the flavor isn’t diffused.)

After an hour of cooking, the jackfruit marinates in the cooking liquid overnight.  Then it’s browned in a pan with shallots and garlic.  Next time I plan on browning the jackfruit in batches, because my pan was too overcrowded with the chilled jackfruit to brown properly.

The sandwich is topped with guacamole (or avocado in my case) and chili crème made with silken tofu, lime juice, and spices.  The sandwich was very tasty with a mixture of spicy hot and cool.

Finally, I harnessed my inner Elvis with Peanut Butter Banana Bacon Sandwiches.  The absolute standout in this sandwich is the chickpea bacon, made by broiling chickpeas in maple syrup, apple cider vinegar, smoked paprika, smoked sea salt, liquid smoke, and spices.  The chickpeas become smoky, sticky sweet and totally addictive.  I used less liquid smoke than the recipe indicated (I used ½ teaspoon), because my preferred brand of liquid smoke (Wright’s) is concentrated.  The chickpea bacon, peanut butter, and bananas made for an unusual twist on one of my favorite breakfasts.

Even when I’m not making this sandwich, I know that the chickpea bacon is going to be a recipe I turn to again and again for chef salads, BLT’s, and to put on potato soup or baked potato skins.  I had a hard time staying out of them in the refrigerator, because they taste so good on their own, by the handful.  I’ve already made the chickpea bacon a second time, and this time I made a double batch so that I can put them on everything with abandon.

Expect to see more on my blog about my cooking expeditions through Vegan Sandwiches Save the Day.  It’s an instant classic.

Disclosure: Links to Amazon are connected to the Amazon Affiliate program. When you buy products through my site, I make a few cents.

FÜD in Kansas City, Missouri

At the risk of becoming ridiculous, I’m about to write my third post about FÜD (check out the first two posts here and here), an all-vegan restaurant in Kansas City. Whenever I eat there what amazes me is that Kansas City has lucked out so completely, because FÜD could do gangbusters in Silverlake or Santa Monica. A gem like this in the Midwest? Fantastic.

FÜD has a good mixture of both cooked and raw food, juices, mouthwatering shakes, and an explosion of interesting jackfruit-based entrees. Their creative cuisine is fun and experimental, and it matches their cool, casual vibe. The walls are painted in bright colors with striped wallpaper and tall ceilings. They do a lot with their small space, which is bright and cheerful. When the menu arrives, I’m struck instantly with two thoughts. The first is that I want to try everything on the menu – start to finish. The second is the complete contradiction of that, because I want to gravitate to my favorites and enjoy them all over again. These are delicious problems, my friends, because everything I’ve had at FÜD has been great.

First we hit FÜD for an early lunch. We whetted our appetites with their starter-sized nachos. We’ve learned from the past that their regular nachos are easily enough to satisfy four nacho-loving friends, and so we went with this (still very generously sized) smaller portion. The beautifully plated nachos had me scrambling to get a scoop that included everything in one bite – crunchy purple cabbage, rich goji cheddar, guacamole, lemony sour cream, and fresh pico de gallo. (The larger size also comes with jackfruit-based or grain-based topping.)

For the main meal, I ordered the Tex Mex Chk’n Wrap. I love the unusual spices for this jackfruit-based wrap. They are mild and warming, perhaps more Thanksgiving in tone than Tex Mex might suggest. The jackfruit has a mild, savory quality that doesn’t overwhelm the other flavors of cashew cheddar, peppers, onions, corn, pico de gallo, guacamole, and lemony sour cream. The whole thing marries beautifully in flavor with a mixture of textures – crunchy corn and creamy sauces on a pillowy tortilla.

David ordered his favorite, their Jack Phish tacos with a side salad. In this taco jackfruit is marinated with Mexican spices and then stuffed in a corn shell with cashew cheddar cheese, cashew sour cream, guacamole, and pico de gallo. The shell gives a satisfying crunch to this savory-meets-creamy dish. Each mouthful is a burst of flavor.

FÜD is closed on Sundays (and Mondays too by the way), and since we needed a second go at their menu, we eagerly returned that night for dinner. They don’t have their liquor license, and so you can’t order a glass of wine with dinner. However, they do allow you to bring in your own bottle of wine with no corkage fee, which you can open and pour yourself. (They provide glasses and a wine bottle opener.) Since it was a continuing celebration of my birthday, we made good use of that.

We started dinner with an appetizer of tofu nuggets. The little squares of fried nuggets come with their own house dipping sauce. You can choose which kind of tofu you’d like (all from local tofu-makers, Central Soy Foods, which I’ve written about here). They have plain, hickory-smoked*, or hot fiesta. We opted for the hot fiesta, which had flecks of peppers and spices in each bite.

For dinner, I couldn’t resist revisiting their reuben sandwich. I tried it last year and really liked it, but this time… It was absolutely amazing. It’s definitely bumping one of the competitors off of my top-five list. This sandwich was perfect with seasoned, tangy jackfruit, rich cashew sauces, and a layer of salty, crisp sauerkraut. The sandwich was then grilled, which kept it one compact, crisp unit, only to be cracked open with creamy cashew cheese. It was the kind of sandwich which quiets all conversation. Can’t. Think. About. Anything. But. This. Reuben.

David ordered one of their specials, which included jackfruit on a bed of braised kale with zucchini, bell peppers and onions, and doused in a spicy sauce on a tortilla. I think he told me something about the wrap but I couldn’t hear it underneath the sounds of my mmm’s.

At this rate, FÜD is becoming one of my very favorite restaurants, not just in Kansas City or the Midwest but period. Their decadent comfort food is a real treat and something unique indeed.

*I’m a fiend for smoky flavors, and so I bought a package of Central Soy Foods’ hickory smoked tofu on the way out of town at Green Acres Market. I so wish their tofu was available outside of Kansas & Missouri. The smoked tofu is firm and flavorful on its own, right out of the package, and sliced into salads or sandwiches. (I imagine it would make for a fantastic tofu salad sandwich, crumbled and tossed with Vegenaise horseradish sauce, celery, and onion.) The outer edges of the tofu get more of the hickory flavor, and so I baked it in my easy lemon baked tofu marinade for additional oomph.

Füd on Urbanspoon