Monday, December 31, 2012

Baked Tofu "Croutons"

For our family Christmas party this year, I brought a salad. I bring a salad so often when I go to dinners, I felt very boring. But, many people commented that they liked it, so I guess it wasn't as boring as I thought. When I bring a salad to a party, I tend to put things in it that aren't just the standard garden variety(i.e. lettuce cucumber, tomato and croutons). The items I add certainly aren't unusual by today's foodies' standards, but might not be what many folks would put in their dinner salad. I'm not trying to be eclectic or trendy. I do this for a couple of reasons. One, I eat A LOT of salad. I eat one most days, so I need to change up what I put in it for it not to get boring. Second, sometimes when I go to a potluck or dinner party, depending on where and if it's meat based, there's not a lot I can eat. So, I add some things to my salad offering to make it the tiniest bit substantial, just in case.

There are a couple of characteristics I am aiming to achieve when I assemble as salad: a good variety of color, and a mix of textures. There is a salad I've gotten a bunch of times at John Harvard's restaurant that looks good on paper, but I'm always disappointed when I eat it. It's got red lettuce, hummus, lentils, feta cheese and roasted red peppers. It comes with pita bread. Not a bad combo for a pub. But, the issue I have with it, is that everything in it is soft and mushy.  It needs one crunchy thing and it would be SO much better. I smartened up and started ordering it with a few nacho chips instead of pita bread. This isn't ideal, but it gets me by. They could keep the red peppers fresh instead of using roasted, and add some toasted almond slivers for a better mix of textures.

As an example, the salad I made the other night included: red leaf lettuce; edammame beans; toasted sunflower seeds, shaved carrot, chopped red cabbage, garbanzo beans and feta cheese. I made a white whine vinaigrette for it.

I much prefer to add the dressing and toss it into the salad prior to serving it vs. everyone pouring some on top of their salad. The flavors can't blend well that way. I also find red leaf lettuce to be a good choice for a basic salad. It is versatile and takes on dressings well.

Recently I've been baking tofu more often. I've tried a couple of different versions, and there are many concoctions. I liked this basic one for the purpose of salad "croutons". I cook it longer than the recipe calls for so it comes out somewhat crunchy and I think it makes a good salad topper.

I'm not 100% sure this is exactly the recipe I used, but I do remember it was really simple.

1 block of firm tofu, pressed for an hour and cut into 1/2" slices
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tblsp melted earth balance (you could use canola oil)
a generous sprinkle of garlic powder
2-3 tblsp nutritional yeast

1. Mix the soy sauce, Earth Balance, and garlic powder in a shallow dish. Lay the tofu slabs in the dish and marinate for 30 minutes.
2. Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees.
3. Dredge each piece of tofu in nutritional yeast.
4. Bake for at least 30 minutes, turning halfway through. For drier "crunchier" tofu, bake for 45 minutes.

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