My boyfriend is in town for 6 weeks (happy dance!), so it is no surprise that the amount of sugary goodies I have been consuming has skyrocketed. He has an insatiable sweet tooth and I can't say I have the inclination or the will power to refuse him. In my opinion, the sure cure for this type of overindulgence is to eat a healthy meal with lots of veggies. (And then of course, reward myself for making such a nutritious choice by having a cookie for dessert.) So in the hopes of rescuing what fitness I have left, I decided to make this Chopped Salad with Baked Tofu. And then go out for a run.
I was excited about making this salad because it requires a little bit of extra chopping. I had just recently taken a Basic Knife Skills class at Great News Cooking School and I was eager to put my new knowledge to work for this recipe. Even before taking the class, I would say I am pretty handy in the kitchen with a knife, so chopping the cabbage and mincing the chives would be easy-peasy; but I was really looking forward to mincing up the red onion since I had finally learned how to cut perfect size cubes using the proper technique, just like a real chef. I grabbed my knife*, put the red onion on the cutting board, and proceeded to chop off the root end.
For those of you in the know, you were probably immediately aware that I had cut off the wrong end of the onion; and, if you are not an expert at knife skills I can inform you of my mistake. The initial step involves cutting off the stem end (or the top) before slicing the onion in half through the root. Alas, despite my recent training in professional onion-chopping, this practice session was clearly down the tubes. In the end it wasn't any real detriment to the recipe itself, but more a personal disappointment to this overeager chef.
I managed to let go of my error and turned my attention (and my knife) towards chopping the other vegetables. The shallots were a particularly nice part of this recipe since they browned to a lovely golden color and added great flavor to the salad. Though I have to say, my favorite part was chopping the bright green chives; the quick, repetitive slicing yielded tiny rings that appealed to my appreciation of all things small.
Although the chives were my favorite "action" part of this salad, my tastebuds most appreciated the slivered almonds, napa cabbage, and baked tofu. Napa cabbage has a mild, sweet flavor and a lot of moisture which gives it a terrific crunch. Also, if you have never had baked tofu, you should definitely give it a try. I personally like that it has a savory taste that remains delicate, yet far from flavorless, and an extra firm texture makes it extremely easy to work with.
Overall, I would be lying if I said this salad knocked my socks off, but it was crunchy and tender and I really liked the flavor of the miso dressing. But honestly, I think the real reason I don't feel more strongly about this salad is because of that blasted red onion! And no, despite what you might think, it isn't because of my chopping error, but it is definitely because the flavor was completely overpowering. I don't think the potency was directly related to the amount, but rather to the naturally intense flavor of the red onion itself. So in the recipe listed below, there is no red onion; but if you choose to add it, only go with a scant amount so you can still appreciate the miso and sesame flavors.
*I have had a Henckels 6" Chef's knife for about two years now, I recently got a Shun 7" Hollow Ground Santoku knife, and I even more recently got a Shun 3 1/2" Paring knife. I absolutely LOVE all three of the knives, and I would particularly recommend the Shun knives to anyone looking for real quality and a beautiful piece for the kitchen. The Henckels is usually my go-to knife, but depending on your hand size a 7-8" knife might be preferable. (I am currently pining after this one, or this set which happens to be on sale right now.)
Chopped Salad with Baked Tofu
Adapted from 101 Cookbooks
I've had my eye on this recipe for awhile now, and using my skills from the knife class gave me a good excuse for trying it out. Don't be put off by the chopping, because all of it can be prepped ahead of time if you prefer. I also made a few changes to the recipe: in particular substituting the Napa cabbage because I LOVE it, and also omitting any red onion. This was the first time I used miso paste, and I decided to go with the most common "white" miso, which was recommended by Heidi Swanson in her original recipe. If you really love these kinds of healthy, natural foods, also check out Heidi's cookbook Super Natural Cooking.
1/2 head of Napa cabbage
1 cup slivered almonds
3/4 cup chives, minced
8 ounces baked tofuExtra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cup shallots
1 1/2 cup shallots
2 tablespoons miso
1/2 teaspoon powdered mustard, or 1/4 teaspoon regular mustard
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
Do the chopping first. Halve the Napa cabbage and cut out the core. Cut each half into small pieces (1/4-1/8 inch wide) across the width of the cabbage. Place all cabbage in a large serving bowl. Next, mince the chives, and chop the baked tofu into bite-size pieces. Add these to the serving bowl along with the slivered almonds. Set aside.
Peel and thinly slice the shallots-the key is to evenly slice them for cooking. Place the shallots in a pan with about 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and cook over medium heat for approximately 10 minutes, stirring often. The shallots should cook past the translucent stage until they are lightly browned and not burned. Remove shallots from the skillet and set aside to cool.
Lastly, make the dressing and assemble the salad. In a medium bowl, mix together the miso, mustard, and brown sugar; then add in the rice vinegar and whisk to incorporate everything together. Continue whisking, and add in the olive oil followed by the sesame oil (add more if you like sesame). Add a final pinch of sea salt, and adjust to taste. To complete the salad, add the cooled shallots to the serving bowl with the cabbage and tofu, and drizzle the miso dressing over the top. Toss the salad to distribute the dressing and add more if preferred.