Tag Archives: tofu

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.

whole foods tofu caesar dressing

4 Apr

Lowfat creamy dressings rarely taste delicious, especially when they’re made with corn syrup and wacky gums. When blended, soft or silken tofu makes for an excellent non-dairy, lowfat ingredient that adds creaminess to any dressing or even a fruit smoothie.

The only problem is most packaged tofu you find in the grocery store tastes like bland sponge. If you’re lucky enough to live in the SF Bay Area, however, you can get your hands on the quality stuff — specifically, Hodo Soy Beanery’s Nama Yuba, a creamy, burrata-like soy cheese made from the fat and proteins that rise to the top of heated soy bean milk.

I was browsing through the Whole Foods iPhone app recently, and noticed a recipe for lowfat Caesar dressing made with tofu. After giving it a whirl, I have to say it does NOT taste like Caesar — more like a tangy garlic dressing, which was still yummy. With the addition of a couple anchovies, I think this could be a dressing Julius would be proud of.

tofu caesar dressing
et tu tofu?

2/3 cup (about 5 ounces) firm silken tofu (or the good stuff, if you’ve got it!)
2 tablespoons water
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 tablespoons light soy or chickpea miso (I used white miso and cut down to 1 tablespoon)
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 clove of garlic
2 anchovies (packed in oil)
Ground black pepper, to taste

Put all ingredients into a blender and purée until smooth. Makes about 1 cup.

“otsu” ginger sesame soba

30 Jun

Living in San Francisco, it’s easy to forget what it’s like to sweat through a shirt in the stifling summer heat. Thankfully this weekend I traded in the crummy June fog for the blue skies and rolling vined hills of wine country, not to mention 96-degree temps… Pulsing swollen mosquito bites… Hands singed on a hot steering wheel… Fleeting notions of removing one’s sweaty bra…

There are few things that will cool a body’s internal temperature down on stifling days like those. A cold shower, iced tea and “Otsu” Cold Soba Salad.

Grated ginger and Japanese pepper powder add heat to a soy vinaigrette that’s emulsified with sesame oil. Tossed into a chilled bowl of soba noodles, fried tofu, cilantro and scallions, the combo of cool, spicy, crunchy and smooth is enough to trick the body back into perfect equilibrium.

“Otsu” Cold Soba Salad
Adapted from Pomelo restaurant

Serves 4

Ginger-sesame dressing:
* zest of 1 lemon
* 1 1/2 oz. cleaned ginger, thinly sliced
* 1 T. granulated sugar
* 3/4 t. cayenne (I used Nanami Togarashi Japanese Pepper instead)
* 3/4 t. salt (I skipped the salt)
* 1 T. fresh lemon juice
* 1/4 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
* 1/3 cup soy sauce
* 2 T. canola oil (I used olive)
* 2 T. pure sesame oil

Soba Noodle Salad:
* 1 package (9-10 oz.) soba noodles, cooked and rinsed in cold running water
* 1 block firm tofu, cut to 1/2″ cubes
* 2 T. canola oil
* 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
* 3 scallions, green and white part, cleaned and thinly sliced
* 1/2 cucumber, peeled and cut in half lengthwise then cut across into thin half-moons
* Sprinkle sesame seeds + cilantro sprigs for garnish

In a food processor, combine lemon zest, ginger, sugar, cayenne, and salt and process to a smooth puree; add lemon juice, rice vinegar and soy sauce. Blend well. Slowly add canola oil and sesame oil until well combined.

Add tofu to a large non-stick skillet without any oil and toss over high heat until all water has evaporated; add canola oil, reduce heat to medium-high and fry, tossing frequently until tofu is firm and bouncy; beware of possible splattering; drain over paper towels; in a large mixing bowl combine drained soba noodles, cilantro, scallions, cucumber and 2-3 oz dressing, toss well; arrange salad in center of large plate and top with fried tofu. Garnish with sesame seeds and cilantro sprigs.