Saturday, May 3, 2008

Spicy Tofu & Spelt Salad

extreme closeup means you can't see the ugly bowl it's in. tricky!

The season of the salad is upon us! I love cold grain and veggie salads in the spring and summer, they're quick (my primary requirement), they're refreshing, and they make a buttload so they're easy to take for multiple lunches throughout the week. Plus, it's really hard to go wrong with a salad. Grain Thing plus Tofu or Bean Thing plus whatever veggies are in the fridge or freezer and you're good to go. I'm still learning how to make dressings, but getting better, and from chopping up veggies my knife skills have been improving considerably, yet another great thing about salads, no perfection required.

This salad is one of my very favorites. It's made by the deli at PCC, but I've only actually seen it in their deli case one time. PCC makes a lot of wonderful vegan salads, including a kumut one similar to this. They also make a Perfect Protein salad with chickpeas and veggies and a veganaise dressing, that one I'm still trying to track down. PCC has a nasty (yet understandable? I guess?) habit of not sharing the recipes for their salads, though I'm wondering if they'd give it to me if I ask, must check that out. I originally found the recipe for this salad on the Seattle Times website but it's not there anymore (bitches), instead I found it on this blog. Make it, make a lot of it, and good luck making it last more than a day. I think my record is about 3 days? It's like crack. I always use approximately the same vegetables, though last time I forgot green onions and it was still good. But maybe corn would be good in it too? Yeah? It's also quite good over a bed of greens. It's just plain good, it what it is.

PCC's Spicy Tofu and Spelt Salad

Makes about 6 servings

Sauce:

- 3 Tbsp tamari or soy sauce

- 3 Tbsp Asian-style sesame oil (I used peanut oil, I'm out of sesame)

- 2 Tbsp vegetable oil or olive oil (I used grapeseed)

- 1-½ Tbsp rice wine vinegar

- 1/8 to 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

- 1 Tbsp finely minced fresh ginger

- 1 Tbsp finely minced fresh garlic (I use 3 cloves, I see no point in ever measuring out garlic like they say)

Salad:

- 1 tsp kosher salt

- ¾ cup spelt kernels (I use 1 whole cup because I'm a spelt freak)

- 14 to 16 ounces firm or extra-firm tofu

- Cooking spray

- ¾ cup sliced red bell pepper

- 2 green onions, thinly sliced

- 2 Tbsp coarsely chopped parsley

- ½ cup thinly bias-cut carrots

- ½ cup thinly sliced red cabbage

1. Whisk together tamari, sesame oil, vegetable oil, vinegar, cayenne, ginger and garlic; set aside. You will use this in three different parts of the recipe.

2. Cook and drain spelt kernels: Bring 10 cups of water to a boil in a large saucepan; add salt and stir in spelt kernels. Return to a boil and boil gently until tender, about 1 hour, adding more water if needed.

3. Drain the spelt well, and then toss cooked spelt with 4 tablespoons of the sauce. Set aside to cool.

4. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Drain the tofu and cut into 20 to 24 cubes, depending on package size. In a medium to large bowl, gently fold tofu and 2 tablespoons sauce together to evenly coat tofu. Lightly spray a rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray. Spread tofu cubes on the baking sheet; do not crowd. Bake for about 20 minutes. Cool.

5. Toss cooled spelt and tofu with bell pepper, green onions, parsley, carrots, cabbage and remaining sauce.

aren't the veggies just so pretty on their own?

My own notes for this particular batch:
A. I have stopped bothering to measure, so mine has a lot more veggies. I hate measuring veggies. I pretty much only use my measuring cups for baking anymore.

B. Because I have stopped bothering to measure this recipe, my dressing came out with a bit too much peanut oil and tasted less spicy and more peanut-oily. This situation was nicely resolved when I attacked talked nice to it with my hand blender.

C. I had another note, but I am getting over a cold and it's kind of late and I want to get back to watching Ugly Betty on DVD so I forget.

D. I remember! I added a bit (maybe 1/2 tsp?) of miso paste to the dressing. I don't know, I saw it in the fridge and thought it might give a bit of a healthy boost and nice flavor. While I don't know if either statement is true, it certainly didn't hurt.

E. I made a separate marinade for the tofu out of ginger paste, soy sauce, peanut, and grapeseed oil and then left it to soak in the fridge for a couple of hours while I went out shopping and eating cupcakes.

F. This batch turned out considerably spicy (too much cayenne?) but it mellows out considerably in the refrigerator. Not entirely, it's still got some kick, but I don't feel like my mouth is going to dissolve off my face once it's cold.

Enjoy!