This post and recipe highlights a few things I have recently learned to love in my journey to healthy eating. The first is how to make a salad a satisfying meal. The second, and most exciting, is the discovery of baked tofu! I follow a few blogs whose authors have really nailed the meal salad. Kiersten and team from Oh My Veggies are excellent at this, and I am making their Chopped Power Salad recipe today, with just a few modifications.
For me, there are a few things which make a salad “meal appropriate”. Incorporate lots of different flavors and textures, (crunchy and creamy, sweet and savory, etc.). Use a fabulous (homemade ideally) dressing which ties everything together. Use at least one hearty item in the salad, like tofu, beans, and/or nuts. In this particular salad, The red cabbage and bell pepper stay crunchy even after a few days in the fridge – you can even leave out the romaine if you don’t want it or don’t have it. The cashews, chick peas, and hemp hearts add a crunchy nutty element, while the cilantro and green onions add freshness. Topping it off with the chewy, deeply flavored baked tofu takes this over the top – its slightly sweet and slightly nuty. And most important of all – a really delicious dressing which brings everything together. I’ve used miso before in the kale and brussels sprout salad. There I used it with a tahini (sesame seed) paste for a middle-eastern flair. Here miso is combined with almond butter for a richer, almost Asian-ish flavor.
The second technique I learned this year was how to prepare tofu. I’ve been using tofu in stir-fries for many years, but I could never figure out how to get it to taste as good as restaurants without frying it. I tried marinating it, sauteeing it in sauces, blotting it with paper towels, slicing it in different shapes and sizes….but nothing worked. The tofu was just OK – usually a bit bland and spongy, and almost always fell apart while I was using it.
Then I started reading recipes on the internet which were more specific on what to do with tofu. Its a 3 step process — Press, marinate, then bake. Don’t just half-heartedly blot like I had been doing before. Really commit to pressing the tofu for at least 15 minutes, ideally 30, and use something heavy! I usually slice the tofu in slabs, put them on a plate, cover with paper towel, and then start stacking. Usually start with a cast iron pot, and then put more things inside it – giant olive oil bottles, large cans of tomatoes, whatever heavy I can find in my kitchen. Pressing removes liquid from the tofu and allows it to absorb the marinade better and take on a more chewy texture. Once the tofu has pressed, let it marinate in whatever sauce you are using. After marination, bake the tofu! The flavor gets infused into the pieces, and each piece stays together wonderfully. While this preparation method requires some advance planning, I’ve found it doesn’t take too much extra time. While the tofu is pressing, I make the marinade. While its marinating and baking, I prepare the rest of the ingredients and clean up. I suggest you prepare double batches of the stuff and keep it around to use whenever you want during the week. Tofu soaks up the flavors of whatever sauce you are using, so you can create virtually any-flavored tofu using this technique.
Pros: filling and satisfying
Cons: needs advance prep to prepare tofu
- ALMOND MISO DRESSING
- 3 tbsp unsweetened almond butter (if you use sweetened, cut the maple syrup)
- 1 tbsp miso paste
- 1 tbsp maple syrup
- 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 inch piece of ginger, grated or minced finely
- 1-2 tsp sriracha (start with 1, then add more to taste)
- 2 tbsp water
- CHOPPED SALAD
- 1 14 oz package extra firm tofu
- Almond-Miso Dressing (from above)
- 1 head romaine lettuce, chopped
- ½ head purple/red cabbage, sliced thinly
- 1 red pepper, cut in strips
- 2 sliced green onions
- ½ cup cilantro leaves (optional)
- ⅓ cup raw cashew pieces
- 1-2 tbsp sesame seeds (optional)
- 1-2 tbsp hemp hearts (optional)
- Cut the tofu in slabs and press for 30 minutes.
- Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees
- Whisk together all of the ingredients for the almond-miso dressing except the water in a small bowl. Add the water and whisk again; if the dressing is too thick, add more water ½ tablespoon at a time until it reaches a smooth, pourable consistency.
- Cut the pressed tofu slabs into cubes about 1 inch square
- Put the tofu cubes in a large bowl.
- Drizzle them with 2 tablespoons of dressing and toss gently to coat.
- Transfer the tofu to a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 35-40 minutes, stirring halfway through the baking time, or until the tofu is just beginning to brown on the edges.
- Remove the baking sheet from the oven, drizzle the tofu with another tablespoon of dressing, and use a spatula to toss the tofu in the sauce, making sure every piece is coated.
- Toss the lettuce, cabbage, carrot, red pepper, green onions, cilantro, cashews, sesame seeds, and hemp hearts in a large bowl. Fold in the tofu. You can either toss the entire salad with the remaining dressing at this point or divide the salad into bowls and drizzle the dressing on top.