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Tofu And Tomato Sandwich With Pesto

Folks who think they don't like tofu probably haven't tried the marinated and baked varieties now common at most grocers.

Unlike traditional tofu, which is packed in water, has little or no flavor, these tofus typically are vacuum packed, pressed to remove excess water, and seasoned and sometimes baked.

The result is a firm, chewy texture and a savory flavor. They are excellent for sauteing, grilling or even cut into slices and added to sandwiches similar to deli meat (the smoked version makes a great tofu, lettuce and tomato sandwich).

It's also possible to transform traditional water-packed tofu into a meatier variety. Start with a firm or extra-firm variety. Place the block on several sheets of paper towels in the bottom of a shallow dish.

Place a paper towel on top of the tofu, then gently press to remove any initial liquid. Remove the top towels and place two layers of fresh paper towels on top. Place a plate on top of the tofu, then put a weight (such as a can of beans) on top. Let the tofu press in this manner at room temperature for at least 20 minutes, then discard the wet paper towels.

Sliced or cubed traditional tofu also can be baked or roasted to improve the consistency. Bake the tofu on a lightly oiled baking sheet at 400 F until golden brown, about 30 to 40 minutes.

Start to finish: 15 minutes

Servings: 5

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons pesto

22-inch baguette, halved lengthwise

14-ounce package smoked or baked tofu, thinly sliced crosswise

2 medium tomatoes, cut into 1/4-inch slices

8 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

Directions:

Spread the pesto over the cut side of one half of the bread. Top with tofu slices. Place a layer of tomato slices over the tofu, then drizzle with the balsamic vinegar and top with the other half of the baguette. Slice into individual servings.

Nutrition information per serving (values are rounded to the nearest whole number): 344 calories; 94 calories from fat; 11 g fat (2 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 2 mg cholesterol; 40 g carbohydrate; 21 g protein; 2 g fiber; 749 mg sodium.

Marinated and baked tofu, now available readily at the grocer, has made the vegetarian staple more welcome in mainstream diets. - AP