Saturday, June 27, 2009

The Accidental Lunch Salad

Thursday, mid-morning, I discovered a package of firm tofu hidden in my refrigerator drawer with Thursday's date firmly stamped on the top. Just the push I needed to drag out my Moosewood Restaurant Daily Special cookbook to see what marinade I might use to bake it into something before its untimely demise while buried in the depths of my ice box...

I decided to make the tofu, and while it was in it's 375 degree oven for 35 minutes, I knew that I had to come up with some kind of Asian-inspired salad for lunch. I originally thought I'd like a Japanese restaurant type orange and carrot dressing, but then opted for a salad dressing found in Cook's Illustrated's The Best Light Recipe, only I added cilantro.

If you are looking for a nice light summer lunch or supper (even though you do have to turn on your oven to bake the tofu...) give this a try.

The Accidental Lunch Salad

For the salad:

  • lettuce (romaine or butter lettuce would be good choices)
  • shredded carrot
  • red bell peppers, sliced into thin strips
  • avocado, cubed
  • green onions, sliced
  • sliced or slivered almonds (or peanuts or even pine nuts would probably be good)
  • tomatoes (I would have used, but the one on my counter wasn't quite ripe)
  • bean spouts (I would have used, but had none on hand)

Assemble the salad as you would a salad, adding as much of each veg as you like.

For the salad dressing:

  • 1/3 cup rice vinegar
  • 3 T. hoisin sauce
  • 1 1/2 T. soy sauce (shoyu or tamari)
  • 1 T. fresh grated ginger
  • I drizzled a tad of olive oil, just for a little body, but you can totally omit.
  • as much cilantro minced up as you like

Mix all ingredients in a small jar. For a tiny salad, you can make half the dressing, but why not make the whole thing and let it hang out in the fridge? Then you may be inspired to eat another Accidental Lunch Salad.

For the baked tofu:

  • 12 -15 oz package of extra firm tofu, drained and pressed between 2 plates for 20 minutes or longer.
  • 1 T. plus 2 t. soy sauce
  • 1 T. water
  • 1 T. dark (toasted) sesame oil
  • 1 t. tomato paste (optional)
  • 1 t. rice vinegar
  • 1 t. honey or sugar
  • some kind of spice - the recipe called for 1/2 t. ground anise, but I put in a couple good shakes of aleppo pepper and a pinch of red pepper flakes.

Preheat oven to 375. Cut tofu into slabs about 1/2 inch thick and arrange in a single layer in a baking dish. Combine all sauce ingredients and cover the tofu slices, turning over a few times to coat them. (There isn't a whole lot of sauce, but it bakes in nicely, and the tofu gets seared in the oven.) Bake about 35 minutes, turning the tofu slices every 10 minutes. It should have a taut, seared appearance, and sauce should be mostly evaporated.

I was luckily able to share my salad when R1 stopped in and was able to have lunch. I'm sure that between the two of us this Accidental Salad is going to evolve for the months to come. If you have any good updates, let me know!

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