mains, salads

charred bean sprout salad + marinated baked tofu (but you can use chicken, haters).

charred bean sprout salad with marinated baked tofu.

So, you remember when I was all, “New Year YEAH! Totally going to post more often” and you were all “YEAH can’t wait!” and then I was all

(crickets chirping)

(a lone tumbleweed drifts by)

YEAH! That was more than a week ago, people. I rock hard at New Year’s resolutions, do I not? Hopefully you’re doing just as swimmingly with yours.

charred bean sprout salad with marinated baked tofu.

So here’s what: I’m in the middle of a project which I can’t say much about, other than to tell you that it centers around a singular thing. A food item, as it were. I’ve noticed that with projects such as this, it’s important (honestly, for survival) to eat foods which have nothing whatsoever to do with the foods I’m working with for the project at hand. I eat what I’m making, certainly, but I have to limit it or else some pretty serious burnout happens. And no one likes food burnout.

This is my way of fighting burnout, at least this week. It’s a salad which has zero to do, in flavor or in ingredient breakdown, with the assignment at hand. And it’s lovely: really bright (perfect for the cold weather) and exotic and easy to prep and throw together, repeatedly, all week long. And it makes me feel like I’m The Person Who Dramatically Orders Takeout Whilst Working Dramatically, because it’s even more delicious than takeout, and also because after you prep it, it’s effortless: so effortless you’ll think someone else made it for you.

charred bean sprout salad with marinated baked tofu.

It’s a recipe mashup with my own twists: I loved the idea of Bon Appetit’s Marinated Tofu with Peanuts and Charred Bean Sprouts (who knew you could  char bean sprouts?!), but I thought it could be heartier: more full of things. Also, I’m more a fan of baked tofu than just marinated tofu (something about the texture and the flavor seems to improve with cooking), so I used Thug Kitchen’s instructions  (in their new cookbook) for Marinated Baked Tofu, using their Ginger-Sesame Marinade. Can I say something? That cookbook is awesome…we will talk more about that later.

The mere fact that you’re seeing this post means that I’m procrastinating on getting down to business with my assignment: I tend to do anything and everything BUT THE THING at I need to do, and this is proof. I’m going to get back to work, but wish me luck, friends: this thing I’m working on is particularly challenging, and I’m a little in my own head with it. I’m attempting to work my way out of that today, but I could use the good vibes, if you don’t mind.

Adapted and messed with from the two things listed above from Bon Appétit and Thug Kitchen: links to the original recipe for the Bon Appetit recipe is directly above, but for the Thug Kitchen one? Get the book: it’s awesome.

Charred Sprout Salad with Marinated Baked Tofu

for asian vinaigrette:

  • 2 1/2 teaspoons fresh ginger, peeled and grated
  • 4 teaspoons seasoned rice wine vinegar (or use regular rice wine vinegar, if you wish)
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable or grapeseed oil
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

for marinated tofu:*

  • 1 block extra-firm tofu, drained
  • 1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
  • juice of 2 limes
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
  • 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
  • 2 teaspoons sriracha or gochujang
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced

for the salad: 

  • 1 cup  uncooked quinoa
  • 2 cups bean sprouts
  • 1 tablespoon neutral oil (I like grapeseed for this, but i’ve used a light olive oil also)
  • 2 avocados, in 1/2-inch cubes
  • small bunch carrots, sliced into matchsticks (about 1 cup)
  • 1 bunch scallions (5 to 6), white and green parts, shoots sliced vertically and then on the diagonal
  • small bunch mint and cilantro, choose one or use both (as I do), roughly chopped
  • 3/4 cup peanuts or almonds, roughly chopped
  • 1 to 2 limes, cut into wedges, for serving
  • sea salt and fresh ground black pepper

*You’re not into tofu? I completely get it, so why not just throw this marinade on something else, like some chicken breasts and then cook it the way you prefer. I’m cool with that.

Make that vinaigrette: 

It takes 5 seconds and gets better as it sits, so you may as well get it out of the way. Whisk ginger, rice vinegar, soy sauce, and sugar together in a small bowl. Continue whisking as you slowly stream in the oil, and keep whisking until emulsified. Place in a jar, close tightly, and allow flavors to blend in the fridge for an hour or more.

Make that tofu: 

Drain the tofu if you haven’t already, then wrap it in a few layers of paper towels and sandwich it between two plates. Place something heavy on the top plate (maybe a big jar of peanut butter or can of beans or something) until excess water is pressed out, about 1 hour.

In the meantime, whisk all marinade ingredients together in a large, shallow dish; a glass Pyrex baking dish works well here.  When the tofu is ready, slice it into rectangles widthwise (see chart above) around 1/4 to 1/2-inch thick: you decide, but make them identical. Lay them in the marinate, cover the dish, and transfer to the fridge for 2 to 8 hours (the longer, the better, so do it in the morning for a lovely dinner in the evening), stirring or shaking occasionally to get the marinade worked into the tofu.

When ready to cook, preheat oven to 450˚F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil (less to clean up) and grease lightly with oil.

Place the tofu slices on the baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Remove, flip slices, baste with a little marinade, then bake for about 10 minutes more. Remove, flip, baste, and bake until crispy edges begin to form, about 5 more minutes. Remove and let cool for about 15 minutes – the perfect amount of time in which to make your salad. Speaking of…

Make that salad:

If you haven’t, rinse the quinoa several times in a fine mesh strainer or it’ll taste like soap and will ruin your whole meal, seriously. Transfer it to a medium saucepan and add 1 3/4 cups water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat; once bubbling, cover and reduce heat to low and cook for 13 to 15 minutes, until perfect. Remove from heat and allow to stand for a few minutes, then fluff with a fork. Set aside until warm or room temperature.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once hot, add bean sprouts and spread them out in the pan in a single layer; allow to cook undisturbed for 3 minutes, until charred and brown on one side. Remove from heat and season with salt.

Time to put things together: first, slice your tofu the way you want to: I like to slice the tofu rectangles widthwise like thick french fries. Divide your quinoa between 4 plates, then divide your bean sprouts over top. Next up, divide the tofu fries between the plates, then top with avocado, carrot matchsticks, and scallions. Scatter a generous amount of mint and cilantro over that, then top with the chopped peanuts. Throw some limes onto the plate next to each salad, then season with salt and pepper and serve those luscious salad stacks immediately.

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  • Reply sara January 28, 2015 at 10:34 am

    Oooh, this looks fantastic! Love the flavors going on here. 🙂

  • Reply Faygie January 28, 2015 at 10:57 am

    Since I’ve become vegetarian/mostly vegan, I’ve come to LOVE tofu. This salad looks great! I think if (when) I make it I’ll make some with tofu for myself, and the rest of the family (NOT tofu lovers) can have it plain as a side dish, or with chicken in it.

    I’ve been eyeing the Thug Kitchen cookbook forever now. I actually have it on hold at the library, because I wanted to look through it before I decided whether to get it or not, but I’m sure I’ll end up with it. I’ve heard nothing but great things about it.

    • Reply shannon January 29, 2015 at 9:50 am

      It’s good, right! I realize some people have a sensitivity to soy, and others just don’t love the texture, but i think when prepared correctly it’s a genius vegetarian add to salads and other things. And it takes flavors SO well: i just find it entirely adaptable but it’s definitely something which could go wrong if you don’t take your time in preparing it.

      the Thug Kitchen cookbook gets high marks from me: there’s lots to make, and it’s a great variety of things to pick from. Also, very helpful generalized tips you can apply (like how to bake and marinate tofu properly, for example) to everyday cooking. So far, i love it. if you get it, we’ll compare notes, because i need to make more things from it.

  • Reply Wendy January 28, 2015 at 8:17 pm

    Good luck with your project, Shannon! I totally get the procrastination thing (or escapism thing). I am here leaving a comment on this delicious salad post (LOVE baked tofu) rather than working on the two projects I have to complete by tomorrow. 🙂 Maybe if I was eating food like this, my brain would function at optimal capacity and I would simply get to work. Its worth a shot. That cookbook will need to be put on my library list.

    • Reply shannon January 29, 2015 at 9:52 am

      Thank you, Wendy! It’s just a big one, and one which challenges me on a few levels: definitely it’s gotten better as of yesterday, and i’m sort of out of the woods with most of it…here’s hoping the rest of it goes smoothly! 🙂 Thanks for spending your procrastination time with me; now you get back to work also.

      i haven’t checked to see if this one is at our library yet, but they seem to get things pretty quickly, so i have high hopes.

      • Reply Wendy January 31, 2015 at 7:17 am

        p.s. Not only does the library system have 12 copies but I am now number 16 on the waiting list! Could be worse. 🙂

        • Reply shannon February 6, 2015 at 1:39 pm

          could be WAY worse, Wendy: i’ve been like, 178 on a list of 300+ holds before, and it went relatively quick…quicker than i thought, at any rate. shouldn’t take long! Viva the St. Louis County library system.

  • Reply Ashley January 28, 2015 at 8:34 pm

    Absolutely loving the two recipe mash up! Baked tofu is so addictive and delicious, as is a fresh, herby salad. Plus some quinoa to keep us all feeling January-righteous. I’m glad to hear your like the Thug Kitchen cookbook. I’ve been trying to get it, but my library hasn’t acquired it yet.

    As for your project, consider lots of good vibes sent your way!!! I’m a master procrastinator myself, and I know that after some quality delaying, something productive happens. You’ve got this!

    • Reply shannon January 29, 2015 at 9:57 am

      So addictive, right! after i had sliced these into “fries” i found myself reaching into the fridge to snack on them…really delicious, even just by themselves. and gotta have some grains in there: i’ve decided i’m not sure what i did before grains were a thing in salads, you know? If you find the TK cookbook, you let me know how you like it. I love it: i think there’s lots of helpful stuff in there and it’s super accessible: nothing crazy, just pretty straightforward, solid recipes, and i can appreciate that because WHOA do i get sick of my kitchen being stuffed with speciality ingredients.

      thank you! i’m really trying to get better at the procrastination thing; like this is actually me being not procrastinate-y, because this isn’t due for two weeks, but i’ve made myself a deadline of this weekend to get this part of the project finished and out of the way. i have a really bad habit of jumping on projects, researching, and then sitting on them…and then it becomes my life and it’s like i can’t do anything else. this time, i’m trying to fix it with a little fake-early deadline. 🙂

  • Reply Monica January 29, 2015 at 10:49 am

    This looks delicious. This is one of my favorite kinds of salads since I particularly love Asian vinaigrettes with ginger and vinegar. I love tofu, too, and I usually have a block in the fridge for stir-fry. I have never baked with it and I know it’s bound to be amazing as it soaks in all that flavor. This is really a lovely way to treat yourself well…taking the time to make something delicious and nutritious. It doesn’t always have to be cake. 😉

  • Reply Brianne January 29, 2015 at 5:07 pm

    That tofu sounds mad delicious, yo. I love Thug Kitchen! Their book is hilarious.

    Good vibes to you, friend! You got this!

    • Reply shannon February 6, 2015 at 1:43 pm

      It’s legit, brianne: i’ve made tofu before, but i would bet that’s my best so far, and it’s all thanks to the Thugs.
      Which is a really odd thing to say, if i think about it.

      thanks! you know, i just finished up the hard part this morning so i’m celebrating by taking some time out to catch up and relaaaaaax. feels good. hate when i’m in the thick of it, but i’m finally getting things solidified.

  • Reply Willow @ Will Cook For Friends January 29, 2015 at 6:32 pm

    Oooh, I feel you… food burnout is no small thing. I went through that recently with a project I was working on, and this salad would have straight-up saved me. Charred bean sprouts?! Marinated baked tofu?! Yes, and also, yes. (And can I just say how much I love Thug Kitchen? I haven’t made anything from the book yet, but I have read through it multiple times!) As for your big assignment, you have so got this. Whatever it is, you are going to rock it out, and it is going to be awesome, because that’s how everything is that I’ve ever seen you do in the history of ever. Good vibes = sent. 😉

    • Reply shannon February 6, 2015 at 1:50 pm

      I’m with you: reading the TK book is an absolute JOY, because they speak exactly how i speak, when i’m not being professional (i should say that in quotes because who am i kidding) and proper over here. They literally speak my language, and i love that.

      good vibes = received! And just this morning i pretty much nailed the final piece of the hard part of the assignment: i only have a few minor tweaks and technical things to do, plus a bunch of writing and remembering where all my notes are. so those vibes helped! thank you for that.

  • Reply John@Kitchen Riffs January 29, 2015 at 7:21 pm

    I’m big on procrastinating when I’m supposed to be doing something, too. Although I always think having your subconscious work out problems while you’re doing something else in the end makes the task I’m supposed to be doing faster and easier. At least that’s what I always tell myself. Probably helps that I’m gullible. 😉 Anyway, fun dish! And I need healthy — been making way too many heavy dishes lately. Thanks.

  • Reply Elizabeth C. January 29, 2015 at 8:18 pm

    Tofu…for sure!! No haters here. I can and will make this!

    • Reply shannon February 6, 2015 at 1:41 pm

      Yay! i knew you’d be on board with this, Elizabeth: i feel like i’ve seen a few tofu recipes on your site as well. 🙂 Tofu can be a wonderful thing.

  • Reply Katherine January 29, 2015 at 9:53 pm

    I can’t wait to see what the secret ingredients is that you’re working with! In the meantime, I’m all over this tofu. Haven’t made tofu since we left Alabama!

    • Reply shannon February 6, 2015 at 1:40 pm

      That’s CRAZY, Katherine: you need to bring the tofu back in. Well, okay: AFTER the baby gets here: who has time to marinate when you’re marinating a BABY. no one.

  • Reply movita beaucoup January 30, 2015 at 8:38 pm

    Thanks for making our dinner this evening look positively pathetic.

    • Reply shannon February 6, 2015 at 1:39 pm

      Well, thank YOU for making any cake i frost look like a spastic gopher did it.

  • Reply Emma February 2, 2015 at 9:37 am

    damn i just said the other night that ‘i want to eat more asiany salads with peanuts on them!’ and booyah here i go.

    • Reply shannon February 6, 2015 at 1:37 pm

      I’m here for you, Emma.

  • Reply Amy @ Elephant Eats February 13, 2015 at 12:34 pm

    Mmm, this looks so fresh and delicious! I am most certainly NOT a tofu hater but sadly have gone soy-free for little Berkeley. However I think as of this week I’m sadly officially done breastfeeding and all sorts of soy and dairy items are calling my name now (TOTALLY gonna try to do cheeeeeeese fondue for vday to celebrate!). Also, I’m exactly like you when it comes to procrastinating.

    • Reply shannon February 18, 2015 at 11:30 am

      you should celebrate! i know it’s hard to cut out whole food groups, but that’s super awesome that you did that to help your wee Berkeley! When you get back into soy, try this since you’re not a tofu-hater: it’s pretty good, and nice for moms with wee ones b/c you can make a big batch of the tofu and then throw salads together when you need them. i STILL love stuff like this as my go-to because it’s nice to already have things prepared for yourself should you need to focus on kid dinners or other things.

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