Sunday, February 14, 2010

February Reuben Round-Up

"Healthy vegan fast food"? Apparently Nature's Express, founded by an oncologist in Yuma, Arizona, is expanding across the U.S., including a location recently opened on my hometown drag of Solano Ave in Berkeley, CA. Existing locations in Rancho Mirage and Yuma boast reubens on the menu, so something worth keeping an eye on.

This veggie mom brings us a Vegan Reuben Salad recipe--yes, I think it's worth scrolling down to the bottom past all the pics of her rugrats. (She understands the importance of a pickle on the side).

We have more to come on L.A.'s vegan reuben wars, but apparently folks go crazy for them in NYC, too--or one in particular. The news that Park Slope eatery Organic Heights is re-opening as Sun in Bloom had writers at SuperVegan fretting about the fate of their well-loved tempeh reuben.

Speaking of tempeh reubens, here's another recipe for you to try.

Here's another recipe, unlike anything I've seen before (involving TVP and an everything bagel!)

Even though Quarry Girl has moved on from the reuben reviews after declaring Locali a clear favorite (and various Yelp users agree), others are still discovering new L.A. vegan joint, Elderberries.

A blogger in Dallas gives us a recipe for a portobello mushroom reuben, a unique turn I appreciate and would like to try, but B. is not a big fan of the mushroom cap as meat replacement. I appreciate the recipe, but not the fact that I am apparently "some guy in Portland" (female, thanks) could anyone find the idea of a tempeh reuben disgusting? I mean, tempeh wrote the M.F.-ing book on vegan reubens! Maybe he should try this recipe--yes, another tempeh reuben recipe, but can you ever get enough?

Well, I guess portobello reubens aren't as unique as I thought, because here's a recipe for another one. I'll just assume that because the authors claim to be vegan, they mean fake when they reference Swiss cheese. Sundried tomatoes sound like a nice addition, too!

Okay, forget portobellos, did you know there's a recipe that doesn't just put avocado on a reuben, but is pretty much just avocado? A little rich for my blood, but probably tasty.

If you are poking around the DC-area, here is a PPK forum post on vegan options in Falls Church, VA, including Mike's Deli, which guessed it.

If you are looking for other restaurant options in the South, The Wild Cow has a much-praised vegan or vegetarian reuben. My favorite thing about the website though, is the section, "What's tofu?"

And apparently other restaurants are trying their own take on the Field Roast reuben--like The Swan Dive in Louisville, Kentucky, reviewed in this local rag. With the microbrews on tap and the vegan options, almost sounds like it should be in Portland. But the news keeps coming from Kentucky. Apparently, this new joint, Veg-O-Rama, also has a reuben to offer.

Last but not least, for you Oregon residents, our new favorite, Viva Vegetarian Grill in Eugene, has a Facebook page, so go become a fan!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Recipe: Baked Tofu Reuben

After B.'s mother served us a delicious dinner that involved baked tofu with braised peppers and tomatoes, B. discovered a new appreciation for the soy food and requested we make another attempt at tofu reubens. I combined our tested and true approach of the marinate and bake method with this reuben recipe by Vegan Dad. Basically, instead of pan-frying and simmering tofu, I sliced it ultra-thin and used a slightly altered version of Vegan Dad's "corned tofu" seasoning mixture as a marinade. I also added apple juice to the marinade since we've had such luck with it in the past.

Slice a block of firm tofu (about a fourth of a block of tofu per person) thinly, into rectangles about a quarter inch thick. The orientation and size doesn't matter too much. If desired, press tofu with a heavy weight while you make the marinade.


1/4 cup frozen apple juice concentrate
1 1/4 cup water
4 tsp seasoned salt
4 tsp paprika
4 whole cloves
1 tsp allspice
2 tsp dried mustard
1 tsp garlic powder

Bring to a boil on the stove-top and then cover and turn off. Meanwhile, make the dressing: equal parts minced pickle, vegan mayo, ketchup and mustard (we did about a quarter cup each, not worrying about having extra). Chill spread until ready to eat.

Arrange the tofu slices in a single layer in a Pyrex baking dish. Pour the warm marinade over the tofu and set aside to marinate (refrigerating is probably not necessary--we didn't have room so we stuck it in the wintry-cold garage), for at least 3 hours.

Bake tofu for 45 at 375 (this was an experiment, all our marinade had evaporated after 45 minutes---I would have done it longer). About 15 minutes before serving, slice and caramelize half an onion. Add sauerkraut to the pan and warm through. Prepare the bread by sprinkling about two tablespoons of Italian Blend Daiya cheese on one piece of bread per sandwich, and toast in a toaster oven on medium. Toast other half of bread and spread with dressing. Layer tofu, sauerkraut and onion on top of cheesy bread, add the other piece of bread and grill briefly. Slice in half and serve with a petite dill pickle.

As a change of pace, we used Alvarado Street Bakery sprouted rye (a nice, healthy vegan option found in most grocery stores these days), and some standard jarred kraut. Mostly this was an excuse to try out Daiya cheese--I had heard varying things about it, but one theme was that it's better the more melted it is, hence the open-face toasting to get it good and melty.

As for the review, the sandwich was good, one of the better tofu reubens I've had, though the tofu could have marinated and baked longer. We should have increased the marinade. It's always better to have too much rather than too little. As it was, after 45 minutes the marinade had evaporated. While the tofu had a lot of flavor (and actually, I thought was a little too salty), we would have liked it even chewier and more saturated. We were also a little overly hesitant with the Daiya--I could taste the light layer of shredded cheese but not quite enough to really evaluate its contribution. We'll probably try this recipe again. B.'s parents, open-minded omnivores, claimed to enjoy it.


We used up the Daiya cheese for pizza night, but wanted to give the tofu another try, especially since we had extra Reuben sauce. We used about 1/3 of a cube of tofu (previously frozen) and the following marinade (basically just increasing the water and apple juice concentrate):


1 cup frozen apple juice concentrate
2 cups water
4 tsp seasoned salt
4 tsp paprika
4 whole cloves
1 tsp allspice
1 tsp dried mustard
1 pressed garlic clove

Like before, I brought the marinade to a boil and then let it sit for about 5 minutes before pouring it over the tofu, which I had sliced thinly and arranged in a single layer on a Pyrex baking dish. I did this all at about 5 pm the night before we planned to eat the reubens for lunch, letting the tofu marinate for about 19 hours. I only baked it for about an hour at 350. B. was really interested in getting a chewy texture on the tofu, so we finished it off by pan-frying it in some olive oil right before we put the sandwiches together. The steps were:

1. Remove tofu from oven
2. Caramelize onion (about a third of an onion for two people) and set aside
3. Pan fry tofu slices in olive oil until browned
4. Deglaze pan with some sauerkraut juice; add desired amount of sauerkraut to pan with onions and warm through
5. Meanwhile, toast bread and spread with Reuben sauce
6. Construct sandwiches and enjoy!

This worked out pretty well. The tofu and kraut-onion mixture were warm enough to give the sandwich a good temp despite the fact that the toasted bread had time to cool down. B. liked the approach of marinating and baking and then pan-frying, and thought that slicing the tofu a bit thicker would give it a good variation of textures--chewy on the outside, soft on the inside. The tofu was chewier and more flavorful than the first attempt, due to a very long marinating period and extra apple juice. I also think the fact that the tofu had been frozen and then thawed before marinating made it a bit chewier as well. Over all, a pretty good sandwich.