Warm Tofu and Snow Pea Salad with Asian Dressing
I just don’t understand why people don’t like Tofu. I absolutely love it – I cook with it, I put it in sandwiches and I use it in salads. I guess I like it because its texture is very similar to the Indian cheese, Paneer, which was a favorite of mine when I was growing up in Delhi. Tofu doesn’t taste much like Paneer (which is milk based and hence very high in fat and cholesterol) but it takes other flavors very well and so I try to spike it up with some spices, sauces or dressing. Also I like to work with organic extra firm tofu because it stands well to the cooking process. Soft or silken tofu works well in some Chinese recipes but by and large it is too creamy and so falls apart. Of course, these days there is all this talk about genetically engineered soy and how it is unhealthy, so I try to stick to the organic kind (hoping that it is less unhealthy and contains no chemical pesticides or fertilizers).
This salad is not an adaptation of any standard recipe – I just struck upon it because the first time I made it, I had these ingredients readily available at hand and since then I have made it several times because it is healthy, tastes great, is very filling, is easy to make and with all the vibrant colors, it is a feast for the eyes. It is especially wonderful because I am trying to maintain a low carb diet and this salad is a wonderful one dish meal that has low carbs and is still very satisfying!
1. ½ lb fresh snow peas
2. About 10-12 colorful sweet Italian peppers (or bell peppers would do as well)
3. 8 ounces of extra firm Tofu
4. Two teaspoons soy sauce
5. 2 tablespoons honey
6. 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
7. ½ teaspoon red chili powder
8. ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
9. 1 teaspoon garlic powder
10. 2-3 tablespoon Extra Virgin olive oil
11. One tablespoon white sesame seeds
12. Salt to taste
13. 10-15 Thai basil leaves
14. 2 tablespoon pink sushi ginger
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degree Fahrenheit.
2. Cut the Tofu into even sized cubes (about ½ square inch) and dry all the pieces using a dry paper towel.
3. In a bowl combine the following ingredients: one tablespoon honey, one tablespoon rice vinegar, one tablespoon olive oil, two teaspoons soy sauce, one teaspoon garlic powder and one teaspoon red chili powder. Whisk all these ingredients to make an emulsified liquid.
4. To this emulsified liquid, add the cubes of tofu and toss them gently to coat all the sides with the liquid sauce.
5. Spread the marinated tofu cubes on a cookie sheet (preferably covered with tin foil because it make clean up much easier) and place the cookie sheet in the oven. The tofu needs to be baked for ten minutes but about half way through that (after 5 minutes) turn the pieces of tofu so that all the sides get heated and baked evenly. Set your timer and take the tofu out after 10 minutes of baking time.
6. While the tofu is getting baked, wash the snow peas under cold water and remove the fiber that runs along the length of some of them.
7. Heat about 4 cups of water and blanch the snow peas in hot water for only 2 minutes.
8. Take the snow peas out of the hot water and run them under very cold water or a bowl full of ice. Then dry them with a paper towel and set them aside.
9. Wash and cut the sweet peppers (remove the inside veins and seeds).
10. In a non-stick pan toast the sesame seeds for 2-3 minutes (so they turn light brown) over medium heat. Stir them constantly to prevent them from burning. Due to their high oil content, sesame seeds get burnt very quickly so you’ll need to keep an eye on them!
11. Wash the Thai basil leaves and using a sharp knife chiffonade the leaves (cut them in thin strips).
12. In a large mixing bowl add the following ingredients: warm diced tofu pieces, blanched tofu pieces, toasted sesame seeds and chopped Thai Basil leaves.
13. Using a sharp knife also dice the sushi ginger as finely as you can.
14. To prepare the dressing, combine two tablespoons of honey, one tablespoon of extra virgin Olive Oil, One tablespoon of rice vinegar, red pepper flakes, the chopped sushi ginger and salt to taste. Whisk these ingredients thoroughly.
15. Drizzle the dressing over the salad.
16. Toss gently with a pair of salad servers.
17. Serve the salad warm or chilled (I prefer it warm) as a first course or as a light meal by itself. It makes a delicious, well-balanced and nutritious meal.