Tag Archives: caprese

momofuku’s tomato tofu caprese salad

16 Jul

I love eating garnishes. Growing up, we often ate dinner at Zippy’s—a popular diner chain in Hawaii. Typically, I’d order the “Broasted Chicken” kid’s plate (don’t ask my why they call it ‘Broasted,’ it’s just fried) and my grandparents would order spaghetti or a mushroom burger upgraded to the “complete meal,” which included a drink and Jello or pudding.

I coveted the adult “complete meal,” especially for its grown-up adornments – a dark green curly-leafed parsley bush accenting each plate or pickle spear and black olive duo tossed wayside a burger. In my most annoying kid voice, I’d shriek, “can I have that?!”

As an adult dining at high-end sushi joints, I adore sashimi of mild, white fish nestled on a delicate shiso leaf. Unlike the plastic grass comb in a cheap bento box, shiso leaves are a prized garnish – thin like tissue, but intense in flavor. This bright green leaf with a jagged edge is sold for upwards of $0.50 per leaf at specialty grocery stores like Berkeley Bowl. The Japanese use it namely to garnish sashimi and sushi, though also pickled with ume. Shiso’s tomato-meets-mint flavor is uniquely pungent, and somewhat of an acquired taste.

Recently, I went to see Momofuku’s David Chang at the launch party of his new food magazine published by the McSweeney’s gang. Lucky Peach is a wonderful ode to literarily inclined rebel chefs turned author/tv personalities. In a transcribed conversation between Chang, Anthony Bourdain, and Wiley Du Fray, the three ridicule the non-talent of simplistic, local-ingredient focused menus—an assertation they can back up with their own cuisine successes.

For example, Momofuku’s Tofu, Tomato, and Shiso Salad—an Asian twist on Capri’s famed tomato, mozzarella and Basil combination. Brilliant! I don’t need much of a reason to go buy shiso in the first place, so this recipe was the perfect excuse. Instead of cherry tomatoes, I used sweet heirlooms and the very best locally-made medium-firm tofu. The result? An airy salad, sweet, salty and acidic with the soy vinaigrette. Perfect for a summer meal.

momofuku’s tomato tofu caprese salad
a salad that meets my high garnishing standards

One 12-ounce block silken tofu, drained
2 pints (1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pounds) mixed cherry tomatoes (I opted for normal heirlooms)
1/4 cup sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon usukuchi (light soy sauce – I used regular)
1 teaspoon Asian sesame oil
1/2 cup grapeseed oil or other neutral oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
6 shiso leaves, stacked atop one another, rolled into a tight cigar, and thinly sliced crosswise

I didn’t bother to cut the tofu nicely, but if you want to:
With your knife blade parallel to the cutting board, cut the block of tofu in half. Using a 2- to 2 1/2-inch ring mold (or a narrow straight-sided glass), cut cylinders of tofu out of each slab. Carefully turn each cylinder on its side and slice in half, yielding 8 rounds of tofu. Save the tofu scraps for another use.

I also skipped skinning the tomatoes, but if you want to:
Bring a large saucepan of salted water into a boil. Prepare an ice batch in a large mixing bowl. Cut a tiny X or slash into the bottom of about two-thirds of the tomatoes. Drop them, in batches, into the boiling water, and after 10 seconds, remove them with a slotted spoon and transfer them to the ice bath to cool. Slip the skin off the blanched tomatoes, put them in a bowl, and refrigerate for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, cut the remaining cherry tomatoes in half.

Stir together the vinegar, soy sauce and sesame and grapeseed oils in a large mixing bowl. Add all the tomatoes and toss to coat.

To serve, place 2 slices of tofu in each of four shallow serving bowls, and sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Top each portion with about a cup of dressed tomatoes, season with a pinch of salt and a few turns of freshly ground black pepper, and garnish, generously with the shiso chiffonade. I went the stacked route (see pic). Serves 4.

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harvest moon picnic

23 Sep

Harvest Moon over the Golden Gate - taken with Pro HDR app for iPhone

Yesterday marked the official start of Autumn and unlike the previous 19 years, a full moon coincided on the exact date — what is referred to as a harvest moon. The moon rises due east, while the sun sets due west, creating an bright sky lit by both the setting sun and reflective orange moon.

Perched atop the Marin Headlands, we spread out a blanket, popped the bubbly and waited for the celestial show to begin. Inspired by the earthly occasion, I assembled a few harvest-themed snacks.

Baby Heirloom Tomato Caprese Salad

Smoked Salmon on Rye with Lemon Creme Fraiche and Arugula

Figs Wrapped in Prosciutto

Fig season is in full swing, and I procured a large crate of plump juicy gems. While working at Parties That Cook, I learned to oven-roast figs stuffed with tangy gorgonzola and swathed in smoky prosciutto. It’s a recipe that never fails to impress — be it a harvest moon picnic or cocktail party.

Figs Wrapped in Prosciutto with Melted Gorgonzola Centers
a sumptuous small plate, if i ever did meet one

* 24 ripe Black Mission figs
* 3 Tablespoons butter, melted
* 12 slices prosciutto
* 3 ounces Dolce Latte Gorgonzola, (can substitute Cambozola)
* 1/2 bunch thyme

Preheat oven to prepare for broiling.

Cut off the stem of each fig. To make a pocket for the cheese, slice down through the stem of each fig about a half an inch then rotate it and slice down again, creating an X as you view it from the top. Cut each piece of prosciutto in half length-wise. Wrap each fig in prosciutto around the circumference of the fig leaving the stem end of the fig exposed. Brush the fig wrapped in prosciutto with butter. Stuff each pocket in the fig (where you made the slice previously) with Gorgonzola.

Broil the figs for about 5-10 minutes, until the Gorgonzola is melted and the figs are plump.

Garnish each “fig in a blanket” with the tip of a sprig of thyme. Serve immediately while still warm.
Makes 24

Harvest moon: Nightfall over San Francisco - Click to enlarge