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
(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.
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.
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.