Tofu and Warm Mushroom Salad

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So. It only took me 10 months and an extra 5 pounds to finally squeeze a salad into this blog.  Not too shabby if I may say so myself.  But the truth is, every month I shout: “Who THE HELL’S GUT is this!?” for like 50 times, followed by: “It definitely ISN’T mine but it’s telling me to go on a diet” for about 30 times, followed by: “I SWEAR on whoever’s gut this is that I’m going on a diet!!” for another 20 times.  And I TOTALLY SWEAR 99% of the time I actually mean it which leaves me just as lost as you are of why only 0.1% of the time it actually happens.  This thing called “self-control”… it has a life of its own.

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In my defense, I used to be a lot more salad-friendly by which I mean a couple of poached eggs (yes, TWO) with 1 diced avocado (yes, WHOLE) on any number of decorative leafy-things. We were happy. We were compatible… until less than 2 years ago when my perfect eggy-world came crumbling down, I could no longer bear to look salad in the eye for its hollowness reminded too much of the happy memories I shared with eggs. But this grief has to stop… life has to go on… mainly because the scale says so. I realized have to reinvent another go-to salad. So my rule no. 1 for salad is that it has to be satisfying without leaving me feeling like a goat… a hungry goat. And what does a hungry goat do? Hungry goat BINGES (and not on grass, too). It gets bloody. Fortunately the protein in eggs and the fat from avocado used to fill that spot for me, but now eggs are out of the equation and avocados isn’t exactly a “local produce” here, I have to search for substitute.

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I recall a salad I enjoyed back in a Japanese BBQ restaurant in NYC, a light silken tofu salad with miso and sesame dressing. As an appetizer it did beautifully, but to step up as a meal it needs something more meaty… something like oven caramelized mushrooms! Yes. That’s it. In my opinion, most people don’t know how to do mushrooms justice. They can’t just be wilted down to a watery mess in a pan and be robbed of its culinary talent. Mushrooms need high heat, caramelization, extraction of the excess water until they are transformed into intensely flavored bodies with deeply browned edges. Most of the times this is done in a skillet which will take a few batches and a lot of oil (because mushrooms are just sponges), whereas in a high-heat oven it can be done all in one baking sheet with just a light coating of olive oil. With the nutty miso dressing, I really didn’t feel like I missed anything. I was so proud of myself I put this beautifully guilt-free salad together as I was sure this would no doubt lead to a triumphal number on my scale tonight.

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I even made a big plate for Jason… Of course then he came home, inhaled it… and went on to to give me the hungry-puppy look. Sigh… I had to go back to the kitchen and fix him a bowl of wonton noodles which I shared with him. Sigh sigh… I don’t know about you, but it’s ALWAYS someone else’s fault when my diet is ruined.

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Servings: 2

You would be able to easily find all of these ingredients in a Japanese market or online.

Ingredients:

  • 350 g of assorted mushroom (preferably something flavorful like shitake or other kinds of wild mushrooms)
  • 3 tbsp of olive oil
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/8 tsp of salt and ground black pepper
  • 1 box of silken tofu (or the softest one you can find)
  • Any assorted salad greens of your choice
  • Dressing:
    • 1 tbsp of mayonnaise (you could use light mayo)
    • 2 tsp of miso paste (I used red miso. White ones would work, too)
    • 1 tsp of toasted sesame paste (I used a Chinese variety that’s darker than tahini which is un-toasted)
    • 1 tsp of sesame oil
    • 1/4 tsp of dashi granule
    • 1 tsp of toasted sesame seeds
    • 1 tsp of Japanese sushi rice vinegar (which is sweeter than normal rice vinegar. If you want to use normal rice vinegar, increase the amount of sugar.)
    • 1/4 tsp of grated ginger
    • 1/3 tsp of sugar
    • 2~3 tsp of water

Preheat the oven on high-broil.

Rinse the mushrooms clean under water (or clean them with a damp towel). Trim the tough stems off if any and cut them into thin slices. Toss them with the olive oil, salt’n pepper and minced garlic, then spread them out evenly on a baking sheet. Place the sheet on the top-middle rack in the oven and let it toast. Every 10 min, use a spatula to redistribute/flip the mushrooms evenly and keep toasting them until there is no more moistures on the bottom of the sheet, and the mushrooms are nicely browned on the sides and edges, approx 25~30 min. They would have shrunken considerably in size.

Silken tofu is usually hard to be removed from its box without breaking. I like to cut all 4 sides of the plastic box with a kitchen scissor and open it by “flattening” it (like opening a gift box). Dice the tofu into small squares.

Make the dressing by evenly whisking all the ingredients together.

Make a bed of salad greens on the plate. Then the warm toasted mushrooms and tofu on top. Drizzle as much dressing as you like and serve.

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