Friends are to cooking as peanut butter is to jelly. I think that’s a pretty good analogy for the reason I love to cook - do you feel that way, too? They are so much better together than they are by themselves.
When I’m on my own, I’ll happily call a granola bar lunch, or yogurt dinner. It tries to be a meal, but kinda isn't, and I don’t worry about it much.
But when I think about cooking up something for someone else, I start dreaming fantastical food dreams. Whatever I make is an expression of my relationship with the person, how I know them, what I know they’ll love, or how it could make their day a little more wonderful.
Speaking of wonderful, you’re about to meet one of my beautiful besties and a veritable cooking guru, Suzie Q. (Okay, maybe it’s not Suzie Q, but close enough!) She’s a fit and fantastic home cook that makes phenomenal, photogenic food. (Yey, alliteration!)
And I love her all the more because she whatever she makes, she makes it to satisfy the nutritional and emotional needs of those around her.
We decided we definitely needed to get together and have a cooking pow-wow. And, finding that ever essential body-soul balance, tofu salad and lemon cookies were just the thing for our lunch.
Suzie is a tofu and tahini whiz. This girl inspired me to try making tofu and hummus, so she pretty much puts the zing in amazing… whatever that means, it’s a good thing! So she cooked us up some tasty tofu and showed me how to make its new favorite clothes: a tahini-lemon dressing.
My heart was happy that the lemon love extended to dessert, in the form of star shaped sugar cookies. I mean, we got to cut out cookie-dough stars. My inner six-year-old was also happy.
Sautéed Tofu Salad with Tahini Lemon Dressing
makes lunch-sized salads for 3 or 4
12 oz block extra-firm tofu
2 Tbsp. olive oil
Cumin, salt, pepper, garlic, paprika, sesame seeds
4 cups romaine lettuce, washed and chopped
4 cups baby spinach or spring mix, washed and chopped
3 large carrots, peeled and chopped
2 Roma tomatoes, chopped
½ fresh red onion (old onions become overly bitter/spicy) halved width-wise and sliced
½ head broccoli, chopped into small florets
(proportions borrowed from bonappetit.com)
1 garlic clove, minced
½ cup tahini (sesame seed paste)
Juice from 1 lemon (about ¼ cup)
¾ tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. smoked paprika
¾ cup water
You will need to set aside 30 minutes to an hour before sautéing the tofu to press out the extra liquid. I made the mistake of not doing this the first time I made tofu, and it became an oily, tasteless mess! Lay a thick stack of paper towels on a plate, and place the block of tofu gently on top. Put another thick stack of paper towels on the tofu, and top with another flat plate, so that no edges or corners are pressing into the tofu and weight is distributed evenly. The plate will be the platform for a heavy object, such as a large cookbook or two, to help press down the tofu.
When the tofu is ready, it will be less prone to breakage and will be slightly more flexible when picked up. Just be careful not to be rough with it – tofu can be a delicate one!
Carefully slice the tofu lengthwise through the side, and then lengthwise through the top, and then in 6ths, making bite-sized cubes. Coat each cube with a sprinkling of each of the spices on one side.
Heat the 2 T. oil over medium heat in a nonstick or cast-iron pan. When the oil is hot (about 2-3 minutes + “shimmering,” not yet smoking) gently use tongs to transfer the tofu slices into the pan with the seasoned side down. Once in the pan, you can coat the other side with spices.
Allow the tofu to cook about 10 minutes per side, until the tofu is browned and cooked through. You can check for doneness on the inside by cutting into one of them to see if it is cooked enough for your taste.
When these are done, transfer to a plate to cool (unless you prefer the tofu on your salad to be hot!), and set aside until your salad is ready.
While the tofu is cooling, you can do all the washing and chopping. I usually prefer finely-chopped salads, but when juicy tomatoes are involved, chunky is just fine!
Toss all the ingredients together in a large bowl and set aside.
For the yummy tahini dressing, put all the ingredients in a medium bowl, and use a whisk to blend them together. Suzie had a clever little bottle for dressings that we put it in. I need to get me one of these!
Finally, the assembly. I think you probably know what to do, but anyway – salad mixture on plate, tofu on top, cover in dressing. Enjoy! In the company of good friends, whenever possible. :)