While cooking, listen to this: Diplomat's Son - Vampire Weekend
Whole Foods has unreal prepared foods. It should be known that this post is the opposite of sponsored - we spend so much money there (silly millenials!). But seriously, they make killer food . One of my absolute favorite things used to be their take on a torta, a Mexican sandwich that's kind of like a choose-your-own-adventure book, but edible. Their torta was vegetarian, with cheese, veggies and a killer chipotle sauce. I say it used to be one of my favorite things on the menu because they no longer sell it at their sandwich counter. Trés tragique, I know.
Anyway, it fell upon me to re-create the sandwich of my dreams, so I decided to do some research on this hefty sandwich. I am a food nerd, through and through.
Serious Eats has an amazing guide to Mexican sandwiches, which you should totally read in its entirety. I'll paraphrase the torta's contested history here, though, with the help of this great blog post. Like many delicious foods with a harrowing past, one telling states that the torta's roots are alleged to be in French colonialism. Mexican bakers started to make bread inspired by the French, which was introduced in Puebla but really flourished in Mexico City, where people infused their tortas with their favorite cultural flavors.
Nowadays, you can stuff pretty much anything you want into a torta! Isn't life great? Bolilos, a soft Mexican bread roll, are typically used, but unless you live near a great Mexican bakery they can be hard to find. While out and about because he "volunteered" to get us bagels (read: we loudly stated "don't bagels sounds SO good right now, babe?" repeatedly), my boyfriend grabbed some rolls simply called "American bread," which is confusing but ended up working well. One of the beautiful things about tortas is that you can really do anything you want with any ingredients you have, so if you can't find something, you can replace it. A good torta formula, though, includes fresh veggies, roasted and/or pickled veggies, cheese and spice. Meat is commonly used, but we're a vegetarian blog so we eschew that in favor of more cheese.
I will repeat this until I am old and gray: I HATE mayo. I don't care how many tasty things are put into it, or how little is added to a meal - if there is mayo in something I automatically convulse. It's a reflex. A mayo reflex. A popular torta add-in is chipotle mayo - I'm down with the chipotle peppers but so not down with the mayo, so it was Dana at Minimalist Baker to the rescue. We used her vegan chipotle aioli in lieu of chipotle mayo and it worked out super well. I'm sure you can buy chipotle mayo, or at least plain mayo and then stir in some peppers or whatever, but honestly her recipe takes no time at all and is UNREAL. We had a lot of leftovers so I made some sweet potato chips to dip in it and brought it when hanging out with some friends. We practically licked the bowl clean. Sure, we were also tipsy, and on the floor, but aren't those all the markers of a great Saturday afternoon?
Anyway, I digress, yet again. This torta is a vibrant, easy sandwich that you can customize with your favorite add-ins. Down below is the recipe for our favorite way to make a torta, but I encourage you to deviate and make it your own. Be like Mexico: kick colonialists in the ass and make a great sandwich in the glow of your win. Or just make the sandwich. But glow always.
Love and meows, Rina
TAILOR-MADE MEXICAN TORTA
Yield: 2 tortas
Active Cook Time: 15m | Inactive Cook Time: around 1h | Total Cook Time: 1h 15m
Category: Main, Sandwiches, Mexican
Source: vegan chipotle mayo from Minimalist Baker
Special Equipment: high-speed blender/food processor
¾ cup raw cashews
½ cup milk of choice (you can also use water, but it will be less creamy)
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
¼ teaspoon sea salt
1 Tablespoon maple syrup/agave/honey/sweetener of choice
2-3 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
1 teaspoon of adobo sauce
1-2 Tablespoons neutral oil, optional (for creaminess)
2 medium onions, sliced in half-moons
1-2 Tablespoons neutral oil
2 crispy on the outside, soft on the inside rolls (like a mini ciabatta or bakery bun)
1 tomato, sliced
1 avocado, sliced
Literally anything else you want!
Soak the cashews: in a large bowl, or in the bowl of the blender/processor you're going to use, add the cashews and cover with boiling-hot water. Let rest for 1 hour, then drain thoroughly.
Caramelize the onions: place a large saute pan over low heat. Add the oil, and when it's hot add the half-moon onions. Stir to coat the onions in the oil, and then LEAVE THEM ALONE. A stirred onion never caramelizes, or whatever. Check on them every once in a while, but leave them to caramelize low and slow.
Prepare the chipotle mayo: in the bowl of your blender/processor, add the cashews, milk of choice/water, lemon juice, maple syrup, chipotle pepper, adobo sauce and oil, if using. Blend on high until smooth and creamy, scraping down the sides if necessary. If it's too thick, add a bit more milk/water, and adjust to suit your taste.
Assemble the torta: spread the chipotle mayo onto one side (or both, if you want your torta extra spicy) of your roll. Layer on the caramelized onions, tomato, avocado, cheddar, and anything else you may be using. Go to town.
To keep: the chipotle mayo and caramelized onions can be made in advance and kept in a covered bowl/container in the fridge. Everything else should be prepared right before you want to have your torta.