Yotam Ottolenghi's Black Pepper Tofu is one of the most flattering recipes I've come across for the soy product. Browned tofu cubes are drenched in an inky, irresistible sauce. It is spicy and surprising. Another typical preparation for me is cooking the tofu with perfumey ginger and garlic sizzling in butter.
Tofu and Brown Rice Salad, inspired by the Sprouted Kitchen blog, takes tofu in a completely different direction. This salad brims with color and texture and is rounded out with a savory yet light dressing.
Cooking the tofu in coconut oil imparts a hint of sweet, tropical flavor. In a pinch, you could brown the tofu in olive oil.
I fell hard for this crunchy salad. After making it several times, I swapped in peas for cucumber, pistachios for cashews and lemon for lime. I serve it all on baby arugula to stretch the salad and add even more nutrients. I recommend grating the carrots on the coarsest surface of a box grater. I was surprised by how much I preferred the coarser bits to their anemic pregrated counterparts.
Freshly grated ginger in the dressing brightens it up, but you can forge ahead without ginger if you don't have any. If you don't like cilantro, use Italian parsley.
Adding brown rice makes the salad that much more hearty. I like to make a big batch of brown rice at the start of the week. Then I'm just a bit of browning, chopping and tossing away from diving into this salad for dinner. And then again for lunch.
Ileana Morales Valentine lives in St. Petersburg with her husband. For more of their kitchen stories, visit her blog, ALittleSaffron.com. Say hello at email@example.com.
Tofu and Brown Rice Salad
For the salad:
14 ounces extra-firm tofu
1 heaping tablespoon coconut oil
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
Big pinch of coarse salt
Big pinch of freshly ground black pepper
2 large carrots, coarsely grated
1 cup cooked and cooled brown rice
1 cup (fresh or frozen) peas, blanched
1 red or orange bell pepper, seeded and diced
3 green onions, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
½ cup roasted shelled pistachios or almonds (roughly chop almonds, if using)
¼ cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro
Baby arugula or kale, for serving
Sliced ripe avocado, for serving
For the dressing:
1 garlic clove, minced
¼ teaspoon freshly grated ginger
1 tablespoon honey
2 teaspoons Sriracha sauce
1 teaspoon soy sauce
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Pinch of sea salt
Pinch of freshly ground black pepper
Drain the tofu and wrap in paper towels. Weigh tofu down with a cookbook or skillet to help squeeze out excess liquid. (You can prep ingredients or the dressing while tofu is drying out.) Once tofu has dried out and soaked paper towels, which will take several minutes, cut the block into small cubes.
Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add coconut and sesame oils to the skillet and, when hot, add tofu. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until tofu cubes are golden brown all over, about 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.
In a large bowl, add the carrots, rice, peas, bell pepper, onions, sesame seeds and nuts. Add most of the cilantro, saving some for garnish. Add cooled tofu. Toss to combine ingredients.
Make the dressing: Add all the ingredients to a small jar and seal with a tight-fitting lid. Shake jar vigorously to emulsify the ingredients. Pour dressing over the salad, using a large spoon to toss and coat the salad. To serve, place a handful of arugula in a wide, shallow bowl and top with tofu salad. Garnish with fresh cilantro and a few slices of avocado, if using.
The salad will keep for a couple of days in the fridge. Feel free to double the recipe for more leftovers.
Source: Recipe adapted from Sara Forte, SproutedKitchen.com