Once upon a time, I had a website before this one. To be fully honest, I had several websites. My parents even let me purchase a domain in middle school; it was called PlanetNica.net. This was before MySpace even, back when “blogs” were mostly just LiveJournal accounts on which you would divulge serious drama about your circle of friends that no one else on the Internet knew or cared to know. Some of us even used our pet’s pages on the OG Neopets server to create Hermione Granger Fan Club websites. (We were all that obsessive over something at age 11, right?)
I taught myself HTML and CSS. I learned code to design layouts and abused the Adobe free trial system to create Photoshop graphics. I painstakingly cut out silhouettes of celebrities like Mandy Moore and Avril Lavigne for others to use on their website layouts. It was both a simpler and more complicated time.
By the time I was in high school, free blogs with layout templates (hello, WordPress!) and widgets were more widely available. My first food blog, Mama VeeGee’s Vegan Kitsch*n, was a glorious repository of some of my experiments in the early days of my veganism. It was fun interacting with all the other like-minded folks in the early days of their blogs. It is during this time, The Early 00’s, that an annual online blogging convention began to celebrate the delicious and storied culture of sensational vegan food called Vegan MoFo.
As VeganMoFo.com states, the annual, month-long blogging event was started by vegan cookbook pioneer Isa Chandra Moskowitz of the Post Punk Kitchen and Vegan with a Vengeance fame in 2007. It started during the month of November to coincide with NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), the annual celebration which takes place during the same time of year for writers of any kind to churn out a novel in 30 days.
In my first foray into vegan food writing, I cherished taking part in Vegan MoFo. After all, I had a hell of a lot more free time at 17 than I do at 27, as well as a lot less self-awareness (and the weight of paying the bills) to cripple my creative pursuits. These experiments were part of how I taught myself to cook.
If you follow me on Instagram, you may (or may not, more likely – damn the algorithms) have seen my recent post about reigniting my passion for writing, research, and experimentation. I’m in another season of career transition, and as such will only be in my new office part time. The other part of my time will hopefully be much more dedicated to this.
While I could give myself a hard kick in the yoga pants for not realizing sooner that August is the month of Vegan MoFo for 2019, I’m thrilled to be jumping in at halftime. The theme for this week is Seasons, and the prompt for Wednesday of this week is picnics!
I love a picnic. The typical fare are some of my favorite foods – namely, sandwiches and chips. For adults, it is also an excellent excuse to drink canned wine. For Seattlites, a picnic is a particular kind of indulgence. Seeing the summer sun, daring to pack a lunch, and planning to eat it outside while daylight still has time to burn the back of your neck is a serious endeavor. During spring and summer, local hotspots like Gasworks Park and Golden Gardens are littered with humans tall and tiny lounging on that one beach towel that is stained with mud not because of picnics long past but because the only use it sees the rest of the year is cleaning off the caked-on dirt of your dog’s paws after doing its business in the ever-present rain.
Any food you can eat on a paper plate might be considered picnic food, but for me, I can’t imagine bothering with any other main course than something filling you can mash between two hunks of bread. I have also been especially hankering for a fresh and cold, high-protein main to eat on these summer days. Thus, after a little bit of toying with ideas to fit this theme, I devised the perfect simple meal to rise to the challenge – a Spanakopita Sandwich!
Tangy and hearty, olive-haters need not apply to this dish. Extra virgin olive oil and salty olive brine give the marinade that Grecian flare, while sliced olives are just a no-brainer addition. Lemon juice, vinegar, and miso also contribute to provide a cheese-like complexity.
While the bread on this sandwich certainly does not need to be toasted if you cannot bring yourself to add any more heat to your house by turning on the stove, it is a delicious option. Toss your leftover “feta” in a salad or serve up in a veggie wrap, and you will not be disappointed!
1 12- or 14-oz. block of tofu, pressed (either with a special tofu press or simply wrapped in a clean kitchen towel with a heavy stack of books or cast iron pan placed on top)
3 T olive oil
1 T yellow or mellow miso
2 T apple cider vinegar
2 T lemon juice
2 T olive brine
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped (it’s going in the blender, anyway)
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried basil
pinch of salt
4 thick slices of bread (I used a whole wheat loaf from Trader Joe’s)
2 handfuls (about 1 1/2 to 2 cups) fresh spinach
1/4 c sliced olives, preferably kalamata
1/2 c cooked chickpeas (rinsed, if from a can)
2 T nutritional yeast (optional)
Extra olive oil or olive oil cooking spray (optional)
- Get the tofu pressed while you start gathering ingredients, at least 10-15 minutes.
- Make the tofu marinade by blending the rest of the Feta ingredients together in a blender, or whisked well with a fork.
- Remove the pressed tofu from its trappings and slice into roughly 1/2″ sized cubes.
- Toss the tofu in the marinade in a container, a glass bowl covered in plastic wrap, or a gallon-sized Ziploc bag. Chill in the fridge for at least an hour, or preferably overnight, for the flavors to develop.
- Once tofu has had ample time to soak up the marinade, its time to assemble the other ingredients. Place spinach, olives, chickpeas, and nutritional yeast (if using) in a food processor and pulse so that the ingredients are well combined, but the filling is still chunky and has not started resembling a paste. (However, if it does become paste-y, you could also add a little lemon and tahini and you’ve got yourself a delicious hummus!) You can also mash these ingredients together in a mixing bowl with a fork until there are no whole chickpeas left.
- Add half of the tofu feta to the food processor or bowl. Give the mixture another good 2-3 pulses just to combine.
- Heat a non-stick pan to medium-high. Assemble a generous portion of your filling onto two slices of bread and top with the other two slices (you know, like a sandwich).
- Spray or lightly brush olive oil onto the top sides of each sandwich. Once your pan is sizzle-ready (toss a little water on the pan to see if it sizzles), lay the oiled sides down and press into the pan with the spatula. Grill 2-3 minutes, or until browned. Oil down the naked side and flip.