Crunchy Golden Tofu Chopped Salad

Sesame tofu salad

I first put this salad together after a day at work spent craving a stir fry and a salad simultaneously. I adore tofu when it takes on a burnished golden colour and becomes satisfyingly crunchy when you bite into it; in this salad they take on a crouton-like role just by their very tactile nature (in fact, you can cut the cooked tofu into small cubes if you want to.) You could easily add lots of other vegetables or leafy greens to this particular mix – I’ve used grated carrots or beets, grape tomatoes, kale, romaine lettuce, butter lettuce, and lightly steamed broccoli all with great success. This salad makes enough for 2-4 people, but I like to make it for dinner reserving half of the dressing and the avocado to take as a bright pick me up lunch for the next day. In this same line of thinking, I will sometimes cook a whole block of tofu and keep half of it in the fridge for sandwiches, soups, and snacking; when prepared this way it becomes nutty and chewy and altogether addictive. The dressing keeps well in the fridge for up to a week if you have leftovers and makes a sweet-spicy-toasted sesame-flavoured dipping sauce for rice noodle salad rolls.

crunchy golden tofu chopped salad:

1/2 block of extra firm tofu, drained of excess liquid

1 Tbsp. of canola oil

4 cups of spinach

1 cup of sugar snap peas, sliced on the diagonal

1 sweet red pepper, thinly sliced into strips

1 cup of cucumber, sliced into half moons

2 stalks of celery, thinly sliced

3 scallions, cut on the diagonal

1/2 of an avocado, diced or cut lengthwise

A generous handful of cilantro, roughly torn

3 Tbsp. of toasted sesame seeds

soy ginger salad dressing:

About 1 inch off of a knob of fresh ginger, peeled and cut into a few large pieces

1 garlic clove, peeled and cut in half

2 Tbsp. rice vinegar

2 Tbsp. low sodium soy sauce

1 tsp. dark toasted sesame oil

1 Tbsp. sweet garlic chili sauce (I use Thai Kitchen brand)

1. In a large heavy bottomed skillet heat the canola oil over medium high heat while you prepare the tofu (you want to make sure that the pan is REALLY hot so that the tofu doesn’t stick.) Slice the tofu into 4 or 5 slices that are about 1 cm in width and place in the hot oil. Cook each side until a deep golden colour, this usually takes about 4-5 minutes per side but check periodically to gauge the amount of time needed. Once the tofu is cooked transfer to a paper towel lined plate to cool.

2. Combine all of the salad dressing ingredients in a blender and blitz until completely smooth and emulsified.

3. In a large bowl toss together the salad ingredients including the sesame seeds, cilantro, and dressing. Cut the tofu into thin strips and either serve as part of the completed salad or on top as a substantial garnish.

When I need to feel blissed out, which is a lot of the time lately, I turn to Lemon Jelly’s Lost Horizons for some good old downtempo beautiful relaxation. Chopping vegetables into tiny pieces becomes something akin to finding a minute zen moment amidst the grandiosity and rush of the rest of my day.

Lemon Jelly – Space Walk

Tofu with Chili SunButter Sauce

No-peanut sauce

Regrettably, I am very allergic to peanuts and all things containing them. This means that I have never known the (supposed) joys of peanut butter, peanut butter cookies, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and any kind of Asian peanut sauce with noodles. Being slightly more enamoured with dinner over dessert I have found the latter to be the most disappointing and as I can’t even remain in a room containing peanuts for very long I am left to stare at these spicy sweet dishes on the pages of cookbooks and magazines. I’ve had a jar of SunButter, “faux” peanut butter made with sunflower seeds, in my fridge leftover from sensitive house guests a few months back and I’d been ignoring it until last week when I rediscovered a particularly enticing recipe from the cookbook Great Vegetarian Food released by the Australian Women’s Weekly in Australia. Excitedly, I prepared the recipe using SunButter instead of real peanut butter and with a few minor adjustments (such as omitting the sugar as SunButter is already sweetened) I was able to prepare and eat my first bowl of imitation spicy peanut sauce with noodles and tofu. Ian assured me that the taste was “really close” to the real thing and since I’ll never be able to eat the real thing this is completely authentic in taste for me and anyone else unable to eat peanuts or nuts in general.

tofu with chili sunbutter sauce:

2 Tbsp. canola oil

1 package of extra firm tofu, drained and cubed

1 red pepper, cut into thin strips

1 small head of broccoli, cut into small pieces

1 small bunch of asparagus, cut into 1-inch long chunks

3 cups of spinach, washed and dried

3 cloves of garlic, minced

3 red Thai chilis, minced

2 tsp. sambal oelek

1/4 cup of SunButter or other peanut butter substitute (if unsweetened add 2 tsp. of sugar to the sauce)

1 Tbsp. rice wine

1 Tbsp. hoisin sauce

1 Tbsp. soy sauce

1 Tbsp. mild sweet chili sauce

3/4 cup of water

1/3 cup of roasted pepitas

4 scallions, chopped

Generous handful of chopped cilantro

Lime wedges

Soba noodles, rice noodles or whole wheat spaghettini, cooked according to package directions

1. Combine the sambael oelek, SunButter, rice wine, hoisin sauce, soy sauce, mild chili sauce and water in a blender, blitz until smooth and set aside.

2. Heat a heavy skillet over medium-high heat until very hot. Dry fry the tofu by placing in the skillet with no oil and cooking for a few minutes on each side until brown, this will give a wonderful chewy texture to the tofu. Remove with tongs to a nearby plate and set aside.

3. Heat the canola oil in the same skillet and add the minced garlic and Thai chilis, cook for about 30 seconds or until fragrant. Add the vegetables and stir-fry until crisp tender adding the spinach in the last minute of cooking.

4. Stir in the SunButter sauce and briefly heat through, the sauce will bubble and thicken quickly as soon as it is exposed to heat. Take the skillet off of the heat and add the noodles of your choice, scallions, roasted pepitas and cilantro. Serve with additional cilantro scattered on top and a lime wedge alongside an almost freezing bottle of Chinese beer.

I love music that sounds lazy. By that I mean music that sounds lazy not in effort but in mood, it’s so much easier to become and then remain relaxed when your soundtrack extrapolates on this sentiment. BrightBlack Morning Light is the answer my lazy music prayers, it’s smooth and dark and feels half-asleep moody continuously as each albums steadily plays as I cook, eat and just lie on my couch in the slowly receding almost-summer dusk.

BrightBlack Morning Light – Everybody Daylight

Tofu and Egg Scramble

I’ll admit, I’ve never been able to make a really impressive tofu scramble despite several efforts and recipes that (I feel) should have produced something delicious and flavourful. I’ve been to restaurants and had lovely tofu scrambles for brunch, the best ones almost always own the tofu scramble as its own separate identity without even attempting to taste like traditional scrambled eggs. This tofu and scrambled eggs dish is my favourite breakfast for dinner meal and was born by virtue of necessity; one night I didn’t have enough eggs for both Ian and I but I did have some medium-firm tofu lurking in the back of my fridge. Never being an avid scrambled eggs fan I now prefer this happy marriage of proteins to either form on its own (at least for this particular recipe.) I almost always make this with salsa and cilantro in mind, but try it with dill, capers, cream cheese and smoked salmon or garam masala, red chillies, grated lime zest and chutney. In other words, think of the tofu and eggs as a soft and custardy canvas on which to place your favourite vegetables, condiments, cheeses, etc. I like to serve this tofu and egg scramble with wholegrain toast slathered in salted butter from Prince Edward Island and a tart Granny Smith apple cut into segments, packed in its own little bowl, alongside a hot cup of tea (rosehip is my favourite to sip alongside this meal) or an ice cold glass of orange juice.

tofu and egg scramble:

(for two servings)

1 Tbsp. vegetable oil

1/3  cup thinly sliced zucchini

1/3 cup finely diced sweet pepper

1/3 cup finely diced red onion

6 grape or cherry tomatoes, quartered

1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely minced

3 large eggs, lightly beaten

1/2 cup of crumbled medium-firm tofu that has been first been drained of any excess water*

1/2 tsp. turmeric (this is mainly to mimic the colour of vibrant sunny egg yolks, the recipe will in no way fail if you haven’t any turmeric lying around your spice cupboard)

1 tsp. chili powder

Kosher salt to taste

Diced cucumber to garnish

Cilantro, haphazardly torn, for garnish

As much salsa as you like to top the scramble, I used a bean and corn salsa for this particular entry

*from the extremely useful WikiHow page on tofu preparation: “The best way to make the texture of tofu more appetizing is to press it for 1-2 hours before cooking or marinating it. Cut the block of tofu into 4 slices longways, and spread these out onto a plate covered with two layers of paper towels. Cover the tofu with two more layers of paper towels and another plate. Apply pressure with something heavy, like a few books or a toaster. When you’re done, the paper towels will have absorbed a lot of the tofu’s moisture, and it will have a better texture and absorb marinades better.”

1. In a large skillet heat the vegetable oil over medium-high heat; add the bell peppers, zucchini, red onion and tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes while stirring periodically to prevent excess browning or sticking.

2. Combine the egg and tofu together in a bowl and lightly whisk them up with a fork, all you want to do here is make sure that both of these ingredients are mixed together. Add the turmeric and chili powder to the vegetables and stir until everything is coated in the spice mixture before adding the egg and tofu mixture into the hot pan.

3. Using a rubber spatula push the tofu and egg concoction around the skillet until the eggs have set; like plain scrambled eggs you want your tofu and eggs to be velvety and  custard-like. Serve with the diced cucumbers, cilantro and a generous spoonful of your favourite salsa.

The merrier the meal, the merrier the music. Here is Cassius 1999, one of the catchiest and danciest songs that I have in my iTunes library. This song, along with others by Cassius and Daft Punk, keep me awake and full of energetic bounce either in the morning or evening. Anecdotally, this song is living proof of music’s ability to transform a mood or state of awakeness, as is the tofu and egg scramble; by combining both elements you’re creating an environment of elevation and a sure start to a happy mood.

Cassius – Cassius 1999