feels like spring: baked-tofu salads

tofu, radish, scallion, & romaine on Heath*

One of my favorite quick salads to make when the weather starts warming is baked marinated tofu on greens. Of course one can buy premade baked tofu in assorted flavors, but why? All that's needed are extra-firm tofu (otherwise the tofu falls apart), soy sauce, and a tomato- or other fruit-based marinade: ketchup, barbecue sauce, or the like, whatever condiment bottle's in the fridge, really, or something homemade.

The sweetness of the marinade cuts the saltiness of the soy sauce as well as adding flavor to the bland tofu slabs. I play with different flavors and spices each time, but it can be as simple as straight ketchup and soy sauce. The flavors also better infuse the tofu if marinated in the fridge for two or three days, turned once or twice (yes, that's right—this is easy but not necessarily fast food). Baked tofu also makes for a filling room-temperature snack. Any extra marinade can be saved for future batches or used for dipping.**

Baked-Tofu Salad with Radish and Scallion
  1. Slice extra-firm tofu into slabs about a half-inch thick and about two inches wide, or whatever works to evenly divide the tofu block. (Thin slices better soak up the marinade, but if too thin, they'll fall apart, so a half-inch thick is about perfect, the width not being as important.)
  2. Pour some soy sauce into a shallow dish big enough to hold the tofu slices.
  3. Squirt in some ketchup, barbecue sauce, or marinade, along with any other flavorings that sound good. (For this batch I added a little chopped cilantro, minced garlic, freshly ground black pepper, and a dash of cayenne.)
  4. Mix with a fork and then taste and adjust the seasonings.***
  5. Dunk the slabs into the sauce, front and back, and marinate for two or three days in the fridge, covered, turning the pieces once or twice.
  6. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (or 375 or 425—it doesn't matter much).
  7. Lay out the tofu pieces on a baking sheet, with space between.
  8. Bake the tofu for about 30-40 minutes, turning once halfway with tongs or a metal spatula. (Longer baking time will dry out the tofu, so time the baking to taste, since nobody wants to eat a tofu brick.)
  9. While the tofu is in the oven, tear up, wash, and spin dry some romaine hearts (or lettuce of choice), thinly slice some radish, chop some scallions, and arrange them in salad form on a plate.
  10. Drizzle the greens with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar (or dress the salad with another favorite). Grind on some pepper.
  11. Place three slabs of baked tofu atop each salad.****
  12. Eat outside in the sun.

*Note: The dinner plate is a thrifted Heath Rim Line second, scored at Goodwill a year ago (I found four at $1 each).

**Note: Unlike marinades for raw meat or seafood, there are no potentially hazardous juices to worry about here.

***Note: I'm not giving exact measurements for a reason: cooking isn't rocket science or brain surgery but experimentation and palate development, so have some fun.

****Note: . . . because "three is a magic number."

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