The First Mess // healthy vegan recipes for every season »

Masthead header

a really high protein salad + balsamic tofu


Having worked in restaurants of all levels and types for a number of years, I can tell you with absolute certainty exactly what most 20 to 50-something year old ladies gravitate towards on a menu at lunch time without fail. Ready? It’s a leafy green salad with a big old piece of (usually animal-sourced) protein on top cooked in a minimal amount of fat, served with an oil and vinegar-based dressing, other vegetables etc. And if that option isn’t on the menu, there are inquiries that hint around the possibility of one being made anyway. If answered in the (very accommodating) affirmative, the next question/demand is usually along the lines of “Oh but I need the dressing ON THE SIDE **woman’s hand expressively pushes imaginary carafe of dressing to the side for clarification**.” Right, got it.

Fancy lady salads.

As much as I despise dealing with peeps ordering this kind of thing, I actually adore those make-it-a-meal-kind of affairs in a bowl (totally conflicted over a salad–I know, I know). Lots of green leafies, beans, nuts, seeds, a handful of cooked grains, vegetables, good pinches of salt and pepper, maybe some pecorino or crumbly goat cheese for a salty tang. And in this version, some lightly charred and garlicky balsamic tofu on top. Oh yes.

I always kind of forget about tofu and come back to it, wondering where it had been for the last little while. It’s not something I buy/cook frequently. I’m pretty particular on the preparation methods I apply to this protein and even more persnickety on what brand/types I’ll buy. So here are some things I’ve learned through trial and error and a fair bit of reading.

Buy organic and local. I mean it on this one.
Choosing organic soy foods does point to one obvious thing: you’re avoiding pesticide consumption and radiated foods. This practice also points to one much larger thing: you’re saying no to a largely genetically modified crop with your dollars, snubbing the efforts of agro-giants like Monsanto. What efforts? Well there’s a lot pertaining to deforestation in the amazon, putting decades-old family farms out of business, instilling fear into the economically sensible act of seed-saving, dousing those roundup-ready crops in pesticide, depleting soil quality… I could go on and on. I hate being preachy, but a simple course of action means a lot here. Worthy of note: the price difference is marginal when switching from conventional to organic tofu.

Is tofu even healthy?
There’s been some hoopla surrounding soy-based products and soy in general over the last few years. I’ve read a lot of alarmist literature on this particular food, but the reality is that it has been consumed for hundreds of years in many parts of the world. Studies are frequently conflicting (soy foods cause hot flashes, no wait soy foods prevent hot flashes etc) and there is always a new, very strong opinion. I’m no authority on whether consuming soy is right for you or anyone for that matter, but Dr. Weil (way more of an authority than me) provides a good summary here as well as some other links within his website. At its core, tofu is made from a coagulated fresh soy milk. The curds produced from this process are pressed into blocks of varying firmness. If you have access to good, locally made tofu without any junk in it, I don’t see any problem with consuming it on a weekly basis. Ingredients should include (organic) soybean curd, whatever acid/salt/enzyme the manufacturer chooses as the coagulating agent, and water. That’s it.

Press it.
If you are applying high heat (sauteing, grilling, roasting etc) to this wondrous substance, pressing it beforehand is going to help you enjoy it so much more. In effect, you’re removing the flavourless packing water, which makes way for a more enjoyable, chewy texture and a higher likelihood of golden brown-happiness once cooked. Also! Removing the no-flavour packing water leaves room for (duh) really delicious stuff in the form of a marinade or just a quick spice/flavour rubdown. Subtract water. Add tasty stuff. That’s easy math.

Or freeze it.
Very cool things happen to tofu when you freeze it in some sort of liquid (either the packing water or a marinade). The first time I tried it like this was when we were making a “thousand layer” tofu green curry during a vegan cuisine-focused lab in culinary school. The curry itself was amazing, but the tofu! It blew me away. Once you thaw and cook it up, it develops this layered interior. The texture is insanely agreeable, leaning towards chewy and meaty, but still soft/almost unctuous on the inside. For such minimal effort, it’s a really cool little tactic to try.

Are you afraid of making tofu at home? Or do you cook it often? Are your cooking methods super specific or tried and true? I would love to hear about your reasons for aversion or outright love of this stuff.

Hope you’re all enjoying these beautiful and long end-of-summer days. Big love, sunshine and bean curd to yas :)
Laura


high protein salad with garlicky balsamic tofu
serves: 4
notes: According to my non-scientific nutrition calculations, this salad has approximately 28 grams of protein per delicious serving. Let’s. Get. Pumped.

tofu:
1 454g block of firm to extra firm tofu, pressed (great instructions for pressing here)
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp olive oil
1 big clove of garlic, minced
handful of chopped herb of your choice (I went with basil)
salt and pepper

salad:
salad greens for 4 people (about 2-3 cups per person)
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper
1 cup cooked chickpeas
1 cup cooked quinoa
2-3 medium tomatoes, cut into wedges
big handful of pine nuts (toasted if you like)

Cut the pressed tofu into 4 slabs: cut it in half down the middle on the smaller, rectangular side. Then proceed to cut those 2 slabs in half in the same manner. You should end up with 4 big squares of tofu that are about 1/2 inch thick.

Place the slabs of tofu into a large dish. Pour the balsamic vinegar and oil on top. Season with salt and pepper. Scatter the chopped garlic and herb all over the top. Marinate for 30 minutes or so, gently flipping the pieces of tofu around here and there.

Preheat the grill to medium-high. Place the tofu pieces onto the grill. Wait for about 4 minutes or until good char marks appear. Flip the pieces over. Cook until char marks appear on the reverse (about another 4 minutes) and tofu is browned to your liking. Remove from the grill and set aside. Don’t have a grill? You can always roast it.

Toss the salad greens with the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Divide greens evenly among 4 plates. Distribute the chickpeas, quinoa, pine nuts and tomatoes amongst the 4 plates as well.

Cut tofu slabs into triangles if you like and arrange on top of salads. Serve.

You might also like…

roasted tofu and kale with pine nuts + delicious surprises

Inspiration and big change is always floating around in the back of the mind, in the atmosphere, everywhere really. LikeView full post »

mushrooms and tofu en papillote + starting out a bit persnickety

I used to hate mushrooms and tofu. Together, separately, with sauce, without sauce, deep fried, grilled, whatever theView full post »

farro with grilled endives + realness

I inadvertently took a week off from this little spot, oops. But I’ve made up for it with 287438634972 words worthView full post »

 

pin it subscribe tweet this post share on facebook email to a friend
yossy | apt2bbakingco23/08/2012 - 4:39 pm

Laura! This is just the inspiration I needed today. In fact, I am going to press some tofu right now for dinner tonight.

sara23/08/2012 - 6:16 pm

love the tips! the freezing thing is so interesting. LOVE your remark about women and salads, so true. I also think it’s funny that ladies think it’s always the “healthiest option”, regardless of the bacon, cheese, creamy dressing etc. So funny :)

Kris23/08/2012 - 7:45 pm

Great post… as per usual. I love tofu, and, though I do freeze my tofu from time to time, I’ve always thought it was a bit of a faux pas. I’m going to pay attention to those layers next time.

Adrienne @ How to Ice a Cake23/08/2012 - 9:18 pm

I’m not usually a big fan of tofu, but this looks so beautiful! And I’m always a fan of a bunch of great ingredients thrown in a bowl :D

Ashlae23/08/2012 - 10:53 pm

I rarely eat tofu (I’m a tempeh girl, myself), but you piqued my interest with the whole freezing thing. So now I’m sitting across from a block of tofu, watching a towel absorb it’s excess liquid (woo hoo, what a rowdy Thursday night). In a few minutes I’m going to slice that thing, slather it in marinade and pop it in the freezer. AND TOMORROW I’M GOING TO MAKE TOFU MAGIC HAPPEN.

PS – so stoked you said “leafies”. You’re the woman after my own heart.

Jessica24/08/2012 - 3:41 am

Never thought of freezing tofu for this fab outcome…this is a must try! Also love the idea of roasting it. I usually roast anything I can get my hands on so it surprises me I haven’t thought of tofu. One of my personal tofu favs is crumbling it and mixing with spinach and feta to make a filling for a pie. With loads of basil too!

Michelle24/08/2012 - 9:26 am

I am all about the fancy lady salads (minus the demanding attitude of course!)

Hannah24/08/2012 - 9:43 am

I’ll take your salad over the fancy lady one any day! And your tofu information is all spot on – thanks for sharing. If anyone else has little ones: if you can get ‘sprouted’ tofu (the folks at our farmer’s market carry it, and I believe Wildwood is making it available at grocery stores now too?) – my kids sometimes get tummy aches from regular tofu, but seem to have a much easier time with the sprouted variety. This looks incredible, and I can’t wait to try it – yum yum.

Stacy24/08/2012 - 11:36 am

Somehow I think that the forgetting-about-then-remembering thing happens to me with tofu as well; I have no idea why. Perhaps it’s because tofu can be so boring when prepared certain ways — but so fabulous when made well. I am looking forward to trying the freezing technique!!

alison24/08/2012 - 5:38 pm

As a vegetarian of several years I have yet to try tofu. Crazy, I know. I’m a little afraid of it. Texture, maybe? Anyway, this looks beautiful and I couldn’t agree more on the local and organic.

Amy @ fragrantvanillacake25/08/2012 - 8:17 am

This salad sounds delicious, and it is beautiful! I could have gone for one of these for dinner last night :)!

Lena25/08/2012 - 8:30 am

I worked in a cafe after highschool, so I did not serve lunch, but I can tell almost without fail what people are going to order at a cafe now. And when a group of 20 something women, all stylishly dressed walked in, you had to try hide somewhere so that someone else had to make the oh so many latte macchiatos.
I need to try this tofu version. I actually quite like tofu, but am always looking for new things to try.

ally25/08/2012 - 11:29 am

this looks absolutely perfect – my kind of salad, completely!
xo
http://allykayler.blogspot.ca/

Kathryne25/08/2012 - 5:08 pm

Balsamic tofu?! Why didn’t I think of that?!! I don’t eat a lot of tofu but man I would get excited about this salad, that’s for sure.

I ate so many fancy lady chicken-topped salads (dressing on the side) before becoming a [mostly] vegetarian. Glad those days are over.

Debora26/08/2012 - 7:15 am

Great recipe! I’m always looking for new ways to prepare tofu and this is definitely worth trying.

linda26/08/2012 - 9:15 pm

Such a beautiful website you have! I’m considering schools and I’m curious about the culinary school that you went to? the vegan lab sounds very unique! thanks, linda

Kathryn26/08/2012 - 9:29 pm

I’m always slightly paranoid that a salad isn’t going to fill me up enough and so I always gravitate to ones that are packed with protein and fun ingredients like this. Tofu is not something that I eat a lot of & I don’t think I’ve ever cooked it so I really appreciate your tips as well.

Jessica27/08/2012 - 12:41 am

Roasted some tofu last night Laura for the first time – and it was delish! I did mine with malt vinegar, garlic, rice bran oil and pomegranate molasses. Yum! Thanks for the tip on this one. :-)

Jeanine28/08/2012 - 1:58 pm

I guess that means I’m a fancy lady – dressing on the side and all. I hope I don’t make the imaginary carafe motion, but I’m not so sure now :)

Shannon31/08/2012 - 8:55 pm

I’ve had this twice for dinner this week and loved it more each time. When people find out I’m a vegetarian, they almost always ask me, “But where do you get your protein?”. Um, 28 grams right here in this one bowl of deliciousness people.

Tofu protein | Babystepsandbe05/09/2012 - 12:12 am

[...] a really high protein salad + balsamic tofu » The First Mess [...]

[...] Tofu–cooked or raw (teach yourself to make baked tofu and never have a boring salad again!) [...]

[...] made another recipe from The First Mess tonight. Tasty enough, but unfortunately we were unable to work in any animal products. We are now [...]

Lauren21/12/2012 - 8:58 pm

I love vegetarian, and gluten free options.
I think your recipes are great!
Thank you

[...] is supposed to be going out like a lamb! For lunch (and then again for dinner), I made us this Garlicky Balsamic Tofu Salad. It involved grilling the tofu and I’m really proud of myself – there was no fire [...]

[…] couple weeks ago, I made the tofu from Laura’s high protein salad with balsamic grilled tofu recipe.  Steve would never (we’ll see about that) eat tofu in its distinguishable form, so I made […]

[…] to the tofu scene? I found a great recipe from The First Mess that introduces using tofu in a whole new way that even I’ve never tried before! In the […]

[…] is een heerlijke maaltijdsalade vol gezond lekkers. Het recept komt hier vandaan en heb ik ietsje aangepast naar wat ik in huis […]

Your email is never published or shared. Required fields are marked *

*

*