Calabrian chile oil is everywhere right now, enjoying a deserved vogue on American bistro menus and in our kitchens. The brand Tutto Calabria make around 60 different products, from simple dried chiles to complex spreads and sauces, jars of ’nduja, and peppers stuffed with Quartirolo cheese. The family-owned, multigenerational brand is based in the commune of Marcellinara, just outside the city of Catanzaro, in a narrow strip of Calabrian land bordered by the Tyrrhenian and Ionian seas.
For this recipe, we’re using Tutto Calabria’s chile and minced vegetable spread Miscela Esplosiva to build two key ingredients for a spicy vegan Italian hoagie: quick-fried, thinly sliced tofu and picante red mayo.
- Heat up the little olive oil and Calabrian chile condiment in a nonstick pan until it reaches the golden pre-splatter point.
- Quickly sear off your tofu slices in the spicy oil, for about 30 seconds total, without flipping. Set aside each seared slice of tofu on the paper towels, conserving the spicy oil.
- Mix that good spicy pan oil with the mayo and mix into an angry-looking savory spread.
- Build yourself a great big sandwich. Get good bread from a local bakery-ciabatta would be good here, or a Philly-style Amoroso roll if you can get it. (They sell them at Walmart!) Slather both sides of the bread with the spicy mayo, topped with multiple slices of your spicy tofu. Stack the sandwich full of delicious Italian deli sandwich stuff: most definitely some finely shredded lettuce with olive oil, salt, pepper, and red wine vinegar; definitely a bunch of finely chopped pickled carrots; maybe a big handful of pitted black olives if that's your jam, or chopped-up cherry peppers, or greenish-yellow pizza-shop pickled pepperoncini, or hell, even some sun-dried tomatoes in case you still have a jar in your fridge from 1998.
- Last and most important step: Let it sit! Do not eat this sandwich immediately. Let it sit for at least 20 minutes so the spicy mayo can mingle, and the veggies can harmonize with the crispy creamy tofu, and the oil and red wine vinegar on the lettuce can seep into every bite. Better yet, wrap this up in a piece of butcher paper and let the whole thing slightly compress together, then unwrap and enjoy.
Jordan Michelman is a James Beard Award-winning journalist and author based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in The Los Angeles Times, T Magazine, Portland Monthly, Eater, Noble Rot, and Sprudge, the international coffee and wine publication he co-founded in 2009. His debut book, The New Rules of Coffee was released in 2018 with Ten Speed Press. jordanmichelman.com