Meet Alex Caspero
Alex Caspero is a Registered Dietitian, Plant-Based Chef and Yoga Instructor. She aims to cut through the nutrition noise by providing real-life, nourishing tips for body and mind. Learn more about Alex.
Step into my time machine, I’m taking us back to 1999 when panini’s were the thing. At least the big thing in small-town Virginia. I had never heard of a panini before and all of a sudden, they were everywhere. Our local grocery store (RIP Ukrop’s) started selling them and soon enough, every sandwich shop was offering their grilled version.
I’m pretty sure I begged my mom for a caprese panini at least once a week back then. Hot buttered bread, gooey mozzerella cheese, tomatoes and fresh basil leaves all pressed together to create a sandwich that could be eaten without straining your jaw- what’s not to love?
I want us to go back there. To that time when we still loved panini’s (before Panara Bread ruined the idea for all of us). This sandwich doesn’t have the typical panini fillings but that’s a good thing. Step aside hunks of sad eggplant, we’ve got grilled mushrooms, caramelized zucchini and fresh lemon tofu. (❤️) Who needs cheese when you have my homemade lemon-basil mayo? It sticks to the bread and filling perfectly and — dare I say I prefer it over slices of mozzerella?
This might be the time I need to convince you to make this tofu because… it’s the best. You might have seen me make it on Plant-Based Juniors last week and the fact is, it’s one of my favorite ways to eat tofu right now.
Mainly because it’s so easy. Slice the tofu, marinade in olive oil, lemon juice and a little salt and bake. It’s summertime! We don’t have time to fuss too long in the kitchen.
If you want really, really flavorful tofu then bake it directly into the olive oil. It’s like poached tofu and it’s insanely delicious. Or, remove the tofu after marinating and bake.
Then, you layer that onto good bread (bread is key to a panini- I like sourdough for this) along with grilled vegetables (zucchini and mushroom are my choice, but anything works) and a good slathering of lemon mayo. My favorite dairy-free mayos include Chosen Foods, Just Mayo and Vegenaise.
Because we all gave away our panini machine’s circa 2005, you don’t need one for this. Place the sandwich on a greased grill pan, the top with a heavy pan- like a cast iron. The weight of the cast-iron pan will press the sandwich on one side, then flip and repeat. You can give away your panini pan but you cannot give away your grill pan.
That’s it! Slice, eat. It’s so good. (Also I would not blame you if you felt inspired to eat this alongside your favorite 90’s hits. It feels right to honor this sandwich that way.)
Vegan Italian Panini! This panini is SO good, the best sandwich for summer! Grilled mushrooms, zucchini with lemon tofu and lemon-basil mayo.
You may end up with more tofu and vegetables than you need, depending on how loaded you make these and how large your bread is. That’s OK! Leftovers are good.