Jun 202014

OK so maybe I’m not quite Jiro (yet), but I did finally learn how to make sushi! Sushi making has been on the “things I want to learn how to do” list for quite some time, so I decided to sign Jeff and me up for a class with Sushi by Simon. Not only was the class hands on and super fun (the drink tickets didn’t hurt either), but I also walked away feeling confident that good sushi is something I can do at home. Andddd so can you! (PS pardon the low lighting photos in this post).
There are only a few special tools/ingredients you need for sushi making. The first is a sushi mat, which are very cheap and easy to find. We were told to cover it in plastic wrap to save the trouble of picking out rice from in between the grates later–great call. Second is not required, but encouraged–a rice cooker. Perfectly cooked and seasoned rice is the key to sushi success, so it might be worth buying a small one, although you can get away with stove top rice if need be. Third, and almost as important and amazing fresh ingredients and sushi grade fish. Most super markets probably won’t have sushi grade fish, so you may want to find a specialty market in your are. Be sure to ask your fish counter for sushi grade fish and tell them your sushi making plans–they will cut it differently than if you were going to sear a tuna steak. In addition to the tuna and salmon, we also used avocado, cucumber, pickled daikon (it’s a type of radish that looks kind of like a white carrot), masago (the orange fish eggs), and black sesame seeds.
Now check out this rolling technique. I need you all to know that this is literally the first time I have seen Jeff cook in our six years together (no, easy mac does not count). I’ve got to say I was pretty impressed.
A brief overview on rolling techniques here but you’ve really just got to try it out yourself. For standard maki (seaweed on the outside), line your HALF piece of seaweed long ways along the bottom edge of the mat (closest to you). Spread a layer of rice (using wetted fingers so it doesn’t stick to much) on the bottom 3/4 of the sheet of seaweed. You leave about 1 inch along the top with no rice to help in the rolling process. You then lay your ingredients long ways in the middle of the rice. As tough as it will be, don’t put too much in there or you will have a rolling disaster. Then put your thumbs under the mat and your other fingers on top of the ingredients to hold them in place. Roll the mat up, over, and down over the ingredients, creating a little rectangular box and applying some pressure to make sure it is tight. Then do it again to finish the roll. Here’s the first one we made–a simple cucumber roll which was great to get the technique down.
For inside out rolls (rice on outside) the process is similar. Start by putting the same amount of rice on the seaweed and put on anything else you want on the outside like sesame seeds/masago. Then flip the sheet so the seaweed is on top and the riceless portion is at the bottom of your mat closest to you. Put your ingredients on this riceless portion and then roll the same way as before. Serve it along with soy sauce, pickled ginger, wasabi, and, if you must, spicy mayo. A little etiquette I didn’t know about sushi condiments. You’re not really supposed to mix your wasabi into your soy, but rather just put a little bit right on the roll. Ginger isn’t supposed to be eaten with the sushi but between pieces as a palate cleanser. Last, spicy mayo is just something Americans made up (duh), and it’s essentially mayo + srirarcha. Sounds like a lot of rules, but I say if you’re making sushi at home, screw it and do what you want!
Nutritional highlights: Making sushi at home can be super healthy because you have control over the ingredients. You can use mostly veggies and healthy fish–no shrimp tempura here! You can also use a thin layer of rice rather than a ton, and substitute brown rice for standard white rice. The fish used are high in protein and omega 3 fatty acids (especially the salmon). Sushi is gluten free (as long as you use tamari rather than soy sauce) and can easily be made vegetarian/vegan by omitting the fish and loading up on veggies. Feel free to get creative and use a variety of raw and cooked ingredients and see what you can come up with!
And here’s the required awkward selfie from sushi class. And guess who made which hand roll?

Jun 082014

It finally feels like summer is here and more and more fresh veggies are starting to appear in the farmers markets. To celebrate the start of summer, I wanted to make a super healthy and vegetable focused meal. I’ve stuffed a lot of vegetables before…bell peppers with southwestern turkey-quinoa filling, baby peppers with ricotta, peas, and pancetta, and mushrooms with sundried tomato, corn, and goat cheese. But never before had I stuffed a zucchini. Well this might have been the first but it will certainly not be the last.
I think ratatouille (and I’m talking about the food, not the animated mouse) is highly underrated. As the vegetables cook down with plenty of garlic, ratatouille gets a little bit sweet and is just pretty magical. In this recipe, while the scooped out zucchinis roast, you make the ratatouille and quinoa on the stove. Stuff the pre-cooked zucchinis with the quinoa-rata mixture and top with fresh goat cheese and panko break crumbs. I seriously can’t emphasize enough how ridiculously good these were.
Nutritional highlights: This recipe would make a great side dish or a vegetarian main course. The majority of the ingredients are vegetables like eggplant, zucchini, peppers, and onions, and I truly believe that even those who aren’t huge vegetable fans would love it in ratatouille form. By mixing in some quinoa the protein and fiber content goes way up. The goat cheese can be left off if you want to keep it vegan, but the small amount of cheese adds calcium and protein, and an amazing tart-creaminess to bring the whole dish together.
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Zucchini Boats with Ratatouille, Quinoa, and Goat Cheese
makes 4-6 zucchini boats (serves 4 as a side, 2 as a main)
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What’s in it:
2 large or 3 small zucchinis
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 eggplant, chopped
1/2 large onion, finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 cup cooked quinoa (from about 1/4 cup dry)
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons whole wheat panko bread crumbs
2 oz goat cheese
salt and pepper to taste
optional: 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 cup fresh basil, (half chopped and half left as whole leaves)

How to make it:
1. Preheat the oven to 450.
2. Prepare all your ingredients. Cut the zucchinis in half lengthwise and scoop out the inside with a spoon (but save it for your ratatouille!). Mince the garlic, chop the onion, eggplant, red pepper, and zucchini filling.
3. Spray zucchini with olive oil spray and season with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven cut side up for about 13-15 minutes or until slightly tender and beginning to brown.
4. Meanwhile cook quinoa according to directions and make the ratatouille. Heat 2 teaspoons olive oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat and add the chopped onion and minced garlic. Cook for about 2 minutes until softened. Add 1 more teaspoon olive oil and add the chopped eggplant, red pepper, zucchini, and red pepper flakes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook, stirring occasionally for about 10-12 minutes or until vegetables have softened. Stir in the red wine vinegar and the chopped basil and cook for 1 minute.
5. Add the 1 cup cooked quinoa into the ratatouille and stir to combine.
6. Stuff as much quinoa-ratatouille filling as possible into each of the zucchinis. Top with the crumbled goat cheese and a sprinkling of panko. Bake for 8 minutes until the breadcrumbs are toasted and the cheese begins to brown.
7. Top with fresh basil leaves and enjoy!
If this doesn’t look like summer, than I don’t know what does.

May 272014

If you’re a regular tush cook reader (hi, mom), you have probably noticed that I don’t make a whole lot of Indian food. It’s not that I have anything against it, but more that I find it a bit daunting. With other types of food, I feel like I understand the flavors enough to whip something up without a recipe, but I just don’t know where to begin with Indian spices. So why, you might wonder, was I inspired to make this dish? Well, a month ago my fiance left for India (am I that much of a bridezilla already?). Really it’s just for work, and thankfully he’s back in just a few days, but I still wanted to make something to feel a little closer to him while he’s halfway across the world. Without the food poisoning.
One thing that I do love about Indian food is that most of it is vegetarian. Another big plus is that most of it is spicy and has bold flavors. This recipe was all of those things and more–loaded with veggies, just spicy enough, and incredibly comforting. The kind of comforting you need when your fiance leaves for a month!
Nutritional Highlights: This recipe is both healthy and filling. It’s vegan and gluten free too! The lentils provide protein and fiber, and the greens (spinach or kale) and cauliflower give tons of vitamins. Garlic and onions are associated with heart health and ginger a happy GI tract (which I’m sure comes in handy when you’re traveling in India). There’s not a single unhealthy thing about this dish…well, aside from the quantity of naan I dipped in it while eating it.
Coconut Red Lentil Dal with Roasted Cauliflower
serves 4-6
adapted from Gourmet
What’s in it:

1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon finely chopped peeled fresh ginger
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon salt
1 jalapeño or serrano chile, finely chopped, including seeds (Note: if I made this again I would up it to 2 jalapenos)
2 cups low sodium vegetable broth
1 1/2 cups dried red lentils (10 oz)
1 (13- to 14-oz) can unsweetened coconut milk
1 14 oz can no salt added diced tomatoes
3 cups packed dark green leafy greens, like kale or spinach, roughly chopped
1 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro sprigs
Juice from 1-2 limes
Roasted cauliflower (see recipe below)
Optional Accompaniments: brown rice or whole wheat naan

How to make it:

1. Cover red lentils with water and allow to sit for about 30 minutes while you prepare the other ingredients. Strain before use.
2. In a large pot, heat 1 T oil and cook onion, stirring occasionally, until edges are golden, about 6 minutes. Add ginger and garlic and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add cumin, coriander, turmeric, salt, and chile and cook, stirring, 1 minute.
3. Stir in vegetable broth, drained lentils, diced tomatoes and coconut milk, then simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, 15 minutes. Stir in the kale and simmer, covered, until tender, about 5 minutes.
4. Squeeze in juice from one lime and taste. Season with additional salt or add more lime juice as desired.
5. Serve with roasted cauliflower and cilantro sprigs scattered on top. Enjoy!

For the Roasted Cauliflower:

Preheat oven to 450. Cut 1 small head cauliflower into floretes (or about 3 cups prepared floretes). Drizzle floretes with 1 T olive oil and season with salt and pepper (feel free to add any other spices as well). Roast for about 20 minutes or until tender and brown.

May 182014

There are 2 important things you should get out of this post. 1) This tahini sauce is epic. I could put it on everything I eat from now until forever and be very happy. 2) Spiralizers are amazing. If you’ve never seen or used one, it’s this awesome device that basically turns any vegetable into noodles. I borrowed a friends for this recipe (thanks Jen!) but just so everyone knows, my birthday is August 24th and I will accept all gifts in the form of spiralizers. Thanks.
You can basically put anything you want into this delicious bowl. I used soy-baked tofu, avocado, edamame, scallions, roasted sweet potato, and eggplant, and put it all over a big bowl of spiralized veggies (zucchini, cucumber, and carrots). After adding the magical tahini sauce and a little sriracha, this was literally one of the best meals I’ve had in a while. I know I tend to exaggerate, but I’m being serious. Seriously. It does take a little time to prepare all the components, but it’s well worth it!
Nutritional Highlights: Where to begin. This is a vegan, gluten-free meal that is super filling and satisfying. There is tons of protein from the edamame and tofu. It’s also essentially vegetables on top of vegetables on top of vegetable, which means plenty of vitamins and fiber. The beauty of this meal is that you can add any mixture of veggies that you like. You can serve this as a choose your own adventure kind of meal–put out all the toppings and let each person build their own bowl…not only is it healthy but it’s fun!
Vegetable “Noodle” Bowl with Tahini Sauce
adapted from Inspiralized
serves 4

What’s in it:

2 carrots, washed
1 cucumber, washed
1-2 zucchinis, washed

Toppings (choose your favorites):
1 block of extra firm tofu (+2 T soy sauce/tamari and 1 tsp sesame seeds)
2 Tablespoons black or white sesame seeds
1-2 ripe avocados, cut into cubes
1 cup shelled edamame, cooked (I buy the already cooked frozen kind and just let it thaw or zap it)
1/2 cup chopped scallions
1 large sweet potato, cubed
1 eggplant, cubed
Other options: broccoli, shitake mushrooms, or any others you like!
Optional: sriracha or hot sauce for serving

For the tahini dressing:
1/2 cup tahini
1 Tablespoon ginger, grated
2 garlic cloves, grated or finely minced
4 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce (or tamari if you’re GF)
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 teaspoons mirin or honey
2 tablespoons water (more or less as needed)


1. In the morning or the day before you’re planning to make the dish, wrap the block of tofu in several paper towels and place on a dish with a heavy pan on top. Leave it in the fridge like this all day to drain out the liquid.
2. When you’re ready to start cooking, preheat the oven to 425.
3. Cut the tofu into cubes and toss with a 2 tablespoons of soy sauce (or tamari) and a teaspoon of sesame seeds. Allow the tofu to sit for 15 minutes if you have time. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray and lay down the tofu chunks.
4. Cut the other vegetables you plan on roasting into small cubes (sweet potato and eggplant in my version), toss with a little olive oil or sesame oil, season with salt and spread on a prepared baking sheet.
5. Roast the vegetables and tofu in the oven for about 30 minutes, tossing halfway through, or until vegetables are tender and brown and tofu is crispy. Note: I like to keep my vegetables separate on the baking sheet so if some are done before others I can remove that portion.
6. While those are cooking, spiralize your vegetables and combine them all in a bowl. Note: If you don’t have a spiralizer, you can still make this dish, just serve over grated vegetable slaw or even some brown rice or quinoa.
7. Make the tahini dressing by whisking together all the ingredients. Add the water last and use as much as needed to create your desired thickness.
8. Toss the spiralized veggies with half of the tahini sauce. Transfer the rest of the sauce to a small dish so people can add more to their bowls as desired.
9. Set up your noodle bowl bar. In small bowls, put out tahini sauce, chopped scallions, sesame seeds, roasted tofu, roasted eggplant, roasted sweet potato, edamame, and cubed avocado. Build your bowl by starting with “noodles” adding toppings as desired, and additional sauce and sesame seeds. Enjoy!
I could eat this every day. The end.

May 042014

Mexican food is probably my all time favorite genre of food. I know it is a bold statement, but Mexican food has so much going for it. First of all, avocados can be involved in just about every dish, and this is a great thing. Plus, there’s always a great mix of bold flavors, colors, textures, and ideally an aggressive kick. Obviously, with Cinco de Mayo approaching, I was not going to miss an opportunity to make something fiesta-worthy. After wandering the isles of whole foods with absolutely no game plan, somehow I ended up making these absurdly delicious spicy baked plantain chips with tropical fruit and avocado salsa.
The plantain chips were very simple, seasoned with olive oil, chili powder, garlic powder, and salt. The salsa was also simple and fresh–a mix of avocado, mango, strawberries, serrano chile, red onion, cilantro, and a squeeze of lime juice. This is the perfect appetizer for your Cinco de Mayo party. Or really any of the days of Mayo. Or Junio or Julio o Agosto. You get it.
I had never worked with plantains before, but you should know that even though they look like a green banana, they are really more like a potato in flavor and texture. They have a slight sweetness but are very starchy, which is why they make an excellent and super crunchy chip. They don’t peel as easily as a banana, but if you just run a knife down one side through just the skin, you can peel it off relatively easily.
Nutritional Highlights: This app is definitely a big health improvement from your regular chips and guac. Instead of fried tortilla chips, these are baked with only a little bit of oil. Plantains are high in fiber, vitamin B, A, and C, and potassium. The salsa is also super healthy–with tons of vitamins and antioxidants from mango and salsa, and healthy fat from the avocado. Your favorite guac and salsa at a mexican restaurant may be loaded with salt and leave you bloated and thirsty, but I didn’t even have to add any salt to this salsa, since it was so flavorful on it’s own! Added bonus–this recipe is gluten free and vegan!
Spicy Baked Plantain Chips with Tropical Fruit and Avocado Salsa
For the chips:
2 green plantains
2 T olive oil
1 T chili powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

For the salsa:
1/2 large mango, chopped
6 strawberries, chopped
1/2 avocado, cubed (or the whole avocado if it’s small)
1 small serrano chile, seeds removed and finely chopped
2 T finely chopped red onion
2 T finely chopped cilantro
Juice from 1/2 lime (or more to taste)

How to make it:
1. Preheat the oven to 400. Using a paring knife, cut a slit down one side of the plantain, just through the skin. Use your fingers to peel off the skin. Slice as thinly as possible on a diagonal, or use a mandolin to make thin chips.
2. Toss the sliced plantains with olive oil and spices. Spray a baking sheet with oil spray and spread the plantains in a single layer. Spray a little additional oil spray on top to help them get crispy and transfer to the oven. Bake for 15 minutes, turning the chips after 8 minutes and watching carefully toward the end as they can easily burn. Once they are browned and crispy, you are good to go!
3. While the chips are baking, make the salsa by simply combining all the ingredients. You can also make this in advance and refrigerate.
4. Let the chips cool and serve along with the salsa. Enjoy!

Note: these are best eaten right away but can be saved a day or two (although they will lose some of their crispiness).
Feliz Cinco de Mayo, and enjoy this beautiful spring weather :)

Apr 262014

Oh hey, Spring! So nice to see you again. I wasn’t even sure you’d ever come back after that miserable winter, but alas, here you are. So I thought I’d celebrate your return with a dish that screams spring–Roasted Rainbow Carrots with Arugula-Walnut Pesto. PS, never leave me again.
Roasted carrots are one of my recent obsessions. Even just on their own with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper, they are amazing. To be completely honest, this rainbow mixture I got doesn’t really taste any different, but it sure looks cool and rustic, right? So hip.
I could have just stopped there, but the return of spring deserves something special. I decided to up the dish with a fresh arugula and walnut pesto to add a savory bite to the sweet carrots. It was a super quick pesto, made with arugula, toasted walnuts, garlic, lemon, olive oil, and parmesan. The combination was pretty flawless.
And just when you think a dish can’t get any better, put a poached egg on top. It almost never fails. Runny yolks are magical. This is great if you want the carrots/pesto to stand on their own as a meal rather than a side dish.
Nutritional Highlights: It’s hard to beat carrots in terms of nutrition. They give you about 200% of your daily vitamin A needs (via beta carotene), plus fiber, biotin, and and vitamin K to name a few. Carrots may help maintain eye health, and may prevent against cancer and heart disease. Also, if you buy organic carrots, you don’t even have to peel them, just wash and scrub off any stringy parts, which is awesome for the lazy chef like I am these days. Argugula is the other big nutritional star here. It is super low cal like most greens, but has a delicious peppery flavor and is packed with phytochemicals and folate. Walnuts in the pesto add healthy fat and a delicious nutty flavor.
Roasted Rainbow Carrots with Arugula-Walnut Pesto

For the Roasted Carrots:
2 pounds organic rainbow carrots (or the regular orange guys)
2 Tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

For the Pesto:
3 cups packed arugula leaves
4 large cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 cup lightly toasted walnuts, a few reserved for garnish
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest, plus a little extra for garnish
1/3 cup grated parmesan
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup water
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Preheat the oven to 450.
2. Wash and scrub carrots but no need to peel if they are organic. Dry them off and lay out onto a baking sheet. Drizzle with 2T olive oil and rub so all the carrots are coated. Sprinkle with sea salt and pepper.
3. Roast for about 20-30 minutes, depending on how thick your carrots are, until slightly soft and browned.
4. While carrots are roasting, make your pesto. Combine the first 6 ingredients and pulse to combine. Drizzle in the olive oil and water, adding a litte extra if you think it is too thick. Taste and season with salt and pepper to taste.
5. When carrots have finished roasting, lay them on on a serving dish and top with a scoop of the pesto across the center. Garnish with additional toasted walnuts and a sprinkle of lemon zest. Enjoy this amazing side and the return of Spring (finally!!).

**You’ll probably have extra pesto. I assure you this is a great thing. You can spread it on toast, top fish or chicken with it, toss pasta in it, or eat it with a spoon. Trust me, you’ll find a way to use it!

Apr 072014

Even though I’m not getting married for a little while (aka 14 months), obviously I am already starting to dream about honeymoon destinations. One of the top contenders right now is Southeast Asia–something like Thailand or Vietnam. Then, of course, I got distracted from the honeymoon planning, and started thinking about Thai and Vietanamese food (this is typical, as most trains of thought end in food for me). So I decided on a whim yesterday to make a veggie version of an amazing Vietnamese Sandwich- Banh Mi. If you’ve never tried it or even heard of it before, you’re welcome.
I love this sandwich for a few reasons. One, it’s a sandwich, what’s not to love? Two, it has the best mix of flavors and textures–spicy jalapeno, herbal cilantro, crisp pickled veggies, refreshing cucumber, and a creamy (and hopefully spicy) sauce. OK I went a little overboard on the adjectives there, but this sandwich deserves it. Although the sandwich most typically is made with pork, I use a lemongrass marinated tofu. Like any recipe that has several components, it does take a little bit of time, organization, and multitasking to make it happen.
Nutritional Highlights: This recipe is totally vegan but I would be shocked if meat eaters didn’t love it too. Tofu is a great source of protein and calcium and is a tasty way to make a meatless sandwich feel hearty. The toppings here are super healthy- cucumber, pickled carrots/onions/radish, cilantro, and jalapeno are the ones I used. Two of the healthiest swaps I made here are instead of using mayo, I made a quick avocado-sriracha sauce which was so much tastier. As for bread, go with a multigrain baguette or bread, or even make it a banh mi bowl if you’re not into the bread.
Still looks pretty good, huh?
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Lemongrass Tofu Banh Mi with Avocado-Sriracha “Mayo” and lotsa toppings
adapted from Cooking Light
makes 4 sandwiches
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What’s in it…
For the tofu:

  • 1 (14-ounce) package water-packed extra-firm tofu, drained
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemongrass (1 stalk with outer layer peeled off and finely minced)
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons lower-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil

For the pickled veggies:

  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cups matchstick-cut carrot
  • 1 cups matchstick-cut peeled daikon radish (these look like big white carrots if you are like me and have never seen one!)
  • optional: 1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion –  this is not traditionally in banh mi but I had one in the fridge so why not

For the avocado-sriracha “mayo”

  • 1 very ripe avocado
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Juice from 1 lime
  • 2 tablespoons sriracha (or more)


  • 1 thinly sliced english cucumber
  • 2 thinly sliced jalapenos
  • 1/2 cup cilantro leaves
  • Multigrain Baguette, toasted (or a bed of lettuce if you’re going the salad route)

How to make it…
1. Preheat oven to 425. Cut tofu crosswise into 8 thin slices. Arrange tofu on several layers of paper towels. Cover with additional paper towels; top with a cast-iron skillet or other heavy pan. Let stand 15 minutes. Remove tofu from paper towels.

2. Combine lemongrass, water, soy sauce, garlic, and 1 teaspoon sesame oil in a 13 x 9-inch glass or ceramic baking dish. Arrange tofu slices in a single layer in soy mixture. Let stand for 15 minutes or longer, turning once.

3. While tofu marinates, make the pickle.  Combine vinegar, water, salt, and sugar in a medium bowl, stirring until sugar and salt dissolve. Add carrot, radish, and red onion; toss well. Let stand for 30 minutes or more, stirring occasionally. Drain excess liquid. You can make these a day in advance if you’d like.

4. Spray a small baking sheet well with oil spray (be sure to do this or tofu may stick). Lay tofu in even layer–don’t worry if some of the marinade/lemongrass is left in your marinading dish. Roast tofu for about 30 minutes, turning after 15 minutes. Tofu should be brown and crisp–if you think they need a little more browning, you can turn on your broiler for a few minutes to finish it off.

5. While tofu is roasting and pickles are pickling, prepare the avocado-sriracha “mayo” by mashing the avocado well and mixing all the ingredients.

6. Get your bread and toppings ready by toasting bread, slicing cucumber, jalapeno, and picking off cilantro leaves.

7.  Now make the magic happen–slather baguette with avocado-sriracha mayo, top with cucumber slices, roasted lemongrass tofu, pickled veggies, and a few jalapeno slices and cilantro leaves.  Enjoy!

Meet my new favorite sandwich.