Chopped Salad with Almond-Miso Dressing

power salad 3

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.


power salad 5

Pros:  filling and satisfying

Cons:  needs advance prep to prepare tofu

Chopped Salad with Almond-Miso Dressing
Hearty meal salad with lots of protein and goodness
Recipe type: Salad
  • 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
  • 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)
  1. Cut the tofu in slabs and press for 30 minutes.
  2. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees
  3. 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.
  4. Cut the pressed tofu slabs into cubes about 1 inch square
  5. Put the tofu cubes in a large bowl.
  6. Drizzle them with 2 tablespoons of dressing and toss gently to coat.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.



Kale and Brussels Sprout Salad with Tahini-Maple Dressing

Kale and brussels sprout saladCould a recipe title have any more foodie buzzwords in it than this one?  At this point, I’m sure you have heard of kale – the wonder food taking people by storm.  Perhaps you’ve had it as kale chips, or in a raw salad?  Perhaps just sauteed simply with garlic and red pepper flakes?   I tend to run fast and run far from trends, but kale is one trend for which I’m happy to be a follower.

Because its me though, I wanted to do something different from the typical kale salad.  I re-discovered brussels sprouts a few years ago.  The first time I had a roasted caramelized sprout with crispy, just burnt enough edges, I forgot all about the boiled mushy brussels I had known before.  Why would anyone ever eat a brussels sprout which wasn’t roasted?  And certainly why would anyone eat those mini cabbages raw?

Well, this salad from blogger Cookie & Kate made me a believer.  Raw brussels sprouts thinly sliced add a beautiful crunch to this salad, and have a mild flavor.  Combining them with a classic kale salad just takes both of these powerhouse ingredients over the top.

Kale and Brussels Sprout Salad

The salad dressing on this is also divine.  Miso is one of those ingredients that everyone, and certainly everyone vegetarian, should have on hand.  Its pretty cheap, lasts forever, and adds that extra umami “oomph” to foods which nothing else really can.  Combining miso with nutty creamy tahini and the mapley-sweet maple syrup means this salad hits all of your taste buds.

I rarely make the same food twice, as my list of recipes I want to make just keeps growing and growing.  But I’ve already made this salad 4 times, and every few weeks I get the urge to make it again.  Its the perfect thing when you feel like you’ve been indulging a bit and want to eat lighter.  Yet its so tasty, crunchy, and satisfying it is the farthest thing from any sort of deprivation.  Best of all, even with the chopping, it comes together in less than 30 minutes.   This is one trend which will definitely last in my kitchen.

Pros:  fast, satisfying, healthy

Cons:  None;  the hardest part will be getting the initial pantry ingredients for the dressing (miso, tahini).  Once you have them, this salad is only a few minutes away.

adapted from Cookie and Kate here

Kale and Brussels Sprout Salad with Tahini-Maple Dressing
  • 1 bunch of curly green kale
  • 12 brussels sprouts (about 2 big handfuls’ worth)
  • 3 tablespoons sliced almonds
  • ¼ cup shaved Parmesan (use a vegetable peeler to shave the cheese into little strips)
  • dash of sea salt
  • ¼ cup tahini
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons white miso
  • 2 teaspoons maple syrup
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • ¼ cup water
  1. Use a chef’s knife to cut out the ribs/stems of the kale leaves. Chop the kale into small, bite-sized pieces. Sprinkle a dash of sea salt over the kale and use your hands to massage the kale by lightly scrunching handfuls of kale in your hands. Release and repeat until the kale becomes darker in color and more fragrant. Transfer the kale to a medium serving bowl.
  2. Chop off and discard the stem end of the brussels sprouts and any discolored outer leaves. Slice the sprouts as thin as possible, then use your fingers to break up any clumps. Add the sprouts to the bowl.
  3. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the tahini, vinegar, miso, maple syrup and red pepper flakes. Whisk in the water until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Pour the dressing over the kale and sprouts and mix well.
  4. In a small pan over medium heat, toast the almond slivers, stirring frequently, until fragrant and turning golden (this will take less than five minutes so watch carefully). Add the toasted almonds and parmesan shavings to the salad and toss. Serve immediately.


Sriracha roasted chickpeas, cauliflower, and pickled mustard seeds

Roasted cauliflower, sriracha chickpeas and pickled mustard seeds

I stumbled upon this recipe on Reclaiming Provincial, a blog often featuring food rooted in nostalgia and “intertwined with memory & tradition”.  I believe the author invented the dish (I bow down to her genius!).  The amazing thing is, as I was making (and devouring) this dish, it brought me back to foods I grew up eating in my traditional Indian childhood home.   It is not at all Indian, but has those feelings of comfort, multiple textures, and interlaced flavors of sweet, spicy, salty, and tangy, which are all things I love about eating Indian chaat.   If you go the Wikipedia page for chaat (what did we do without Wikipedia?), you will see the word comes from an old Prakrit (dialect of Sanskrit) word which means “to devour with relish, eat noisily.” Alone in my home on a freezing afternoon, I absolutely devoured this meal with relish.

cauliflower ingredients

Similar to chaat, the dish has a number of components prepared separately which are then mixed together.  It might seem complicated, but each component is simple, and you can put the meal together in an hour, of which most of the time is unattended.

  1. Roasted cauliflower.   I roasted the cauliflower until it was crispy and golden brown, along with some salt, olive oil, and a bit of toasted ground cumin.  I always hated cauliflower as a child, but in the last few years I have been going through a head of the stuff a week.  There are so many amazing things you can do with cauliflower, but simply roasting is still one of my favorite ways to eat it.
  2. Roasted sriracha chickpeas.   Roasting isn’t just for vegetables.  It’s also great for nuts, seeds, and even chickpeas.  It deepens the chickpea flavor of the little beans and gives them a crunchy outer shell, while retaining some meaty texture inside.  Coat with some sriracha and really, what’s not to love?!  I could eat these all day long by the handful
  3. Pickled mustard seeds.  Rounds out the trifecta of deliciousness.   I had never heard of actually using something like pickled mustard seeds in anything other than making pickles or mustard.  But I am 100% in agreement with other bloggers that these little nuggets are amazing.  I can think of a thousand dishes which would benefit from the tiny bursts of tangy flavor and texture these provide.  Make lots of this stuff, you won’t be sorry.  The great news is, this takes almost no effort.  Throw a few things in a pot along with the mustard seeds and let them simmer away while you make the rest of the dish.
  4. To round out the dish, I also added some sriracha laced greek yogurt, minced cilantro and red onion, and a squeeze of lemon.  These types of accompaniments are also standard in most Indian chaats.

The result is a mix of flavors and textures you would never imagine you could get from this combination of ingredients.   It has crunch from the chickpeas, creaminess from the yogurt, freshness from the onions and cilantro, just the right amount of tanginess from the mustard seeds and lemon, and spiciness from the sriracha.   I ate the entire dish, and an hour later, I’m ready for some more.

photo-2 (3)

Roasted cauliflower, chickpeas, pickled mustard seeds

Pros:  healthy; unique combination of ingredients

Cons:   May work better as a side than a main dish

adapted from Carey at Reclaiming Provincial  here
Sriracha roasted chickpeas, cauliflower, and pickled mustard seeds
Serves: 2
  • Cauliflower
  • 1 head cauliflower
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp roasted ground cumin (optional)
  • Chickpeas
  • 1 can chickpeas
  • 2 tbsp sriracha + extra to taste
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Mustard Seeds
  • ¼ cup yellow mustard seeds
  • ⅜ cup white wine vinegar (1/4 + ⅛ cups)
  • ⅜ cup water
  • ⅛ cup sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Finish
  • ¼ cup fresh cilantro leaves, minced
  • ½ small red onion, diced
  • ½ lemon for squeezing
  • 4 oz plain greek yogurt mixed with 1 tbsp sriracha
  1. Pre-heat oven to 400
  2. Combine mustard seeds, vinegar, water, sugar, and salt in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, then turn down to simmer.
  3. Let simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until liquid is mostly absorbed and seeds are plump and tender
  4. Remove from heat and let cool. Transfer to a container and refrigerate if not using immediately.
  5. While mustard seeds are simmering, cut cauliflower into florets and toss with olive oil, salt, and cumin (if using)
  6. Spread cauliflower onto ½ of a large baking sheet covered in parchment
  7. Drain chickpea can and toss with 2 tbsp sriracha, olive oil, and salt. Spread chickpea mixture flat on other half of baking sheet
  8. Roast pan in oven for 40 minutes. Check on pan every 10 minutes and give cauliflower and chickpeas a toss. If chickpeas look dried out, add some more sriracha
  9. You are looking for deep color on both the cauliflower and chickpeas, and the chickpeas should be somewhat crunchy (they will crisp up further once off the heat)
  10. While chickpeas and cauliflower are roasting, prepare the remaining ingredients. Dice the onion, mince the cilantro, and mix the yogurt and sriracha.