I know, you're thinking - Huh? Tofu Salad? For Valentine's Day?
Hey, I'm just writing about my own experiences and thoughts here. And what can I say. My husband and I both L-O-V-E, LOVE this dish.
It comes from the book The Smith & Hawken Gardeners' Community Cookbook, which was compiled and written by Victoria Wise, and, if I remember correctly, was a bridal shower gift from my sister's neighbor.
This recipe was contributed by one Matthew Marquis from Ohio, and he explains how he came up with this dish:
"When, as a college student, I needed an inexpensive, healthful, one-plate meal that was not pasta or rice I concocted this dish. It has become my most widely requested garden recipe. Even if you haven't cared for tofu before, try this and I guarantee it will change your mind. And don't be shy or light-handed with the herbs."
Anyway, it had been a while since I made this, and I was thinking about it a few weeks ago, and thought it would be something different I could include in this "Valentine's Day Ideas" series. It makes a good lunch or dinner. For dinner, you could round it out with a baguette and a bottle of white wine - something crisp and light.
Anyway, here's the recipe.
1 large head butterhead, Boston, or Bibb lettuce, washed and spun dry.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound firm silken tofu, cut into half-inch cubes (I actually used more - the packages of tofu are usually 14 oz for some reason. I bought and used two of them.)
1 medium green bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and thinly sliced
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1/3 cup mixed chopped fresh herbs, such as basil, oregano, thyme, sage, marjoram and cilantro
Freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons honey, preferably clover honey
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard (and okay, in the picture, that's also the oil there)
And here's what you do:
1. Place the lettuce leaves in a large serving bowl or platter and set aside.
2. Heat the oil in a large heavy skillet until beginning to smoke. Add the tofu cubes
and cook on medium-high heat until beginning to brown, about 3 minutes. (Actually, it took longer than 3 minutes, partly because the pan I started them out in was too small, and also because tofu has a lot of water in it which takes time to cook out. And I was using nearly twice the tofu called for in the recipe. But no matter - it still worked.
Add the green pepper and onion and stir to mix.
Continue cooking until the pepper is well wilted, about 3 minutes.
3. Turn off the heat, leaving the pan on the burner. Add the herbs, black pepper to taste, honey, and mustard and stir vigorously to combine.
While still warm, spoon the mixture over the lettuce leaves and serve right away.
Really - try it. It's delicious. You don't have to be a vegan or a vegetarian to like it, honest. And one of the reasons I enjoy it so much is because I like warm salads. I like the contrast between hot and cold, and I like how the warmth of the tofu mixture wilts the lettuce a bit. And the combination of flavors - the herbs (I used frozen-in-oil herbs from last summer's garden - basil, mostly, and I think some parsley), the honey and mustard, the textures - the soft tofu and the softened-but-still-firmer-than-the-tofu peppers and onions.