Tofu doesn't get much respect from omnivores. It's been used in a whole host of crappy meat-substitute products, like the Tofurkey (TM, probably). That's a real shame, because it's extremely versatile and it can be absolutely delicious. One of the keys to using firm tofu is to remove the excess water. One of the best ways to do this is to press it under weight, so the water is forced out. 

 

In most cases, your next step is to flavor the tofu aggresively. Here, we go in a different direction. In this salad, we'll simply salt it and add a bit of basil flavor. The result is tofu that is texturally pleasing and mild in flavor. Honeslty, it's reminiscent of mozzarella, making this a vegan take on the classic caprese salad.

 

While these flavors are classic, and great on their own, why not add some umami to jack up the flavor? With some type and a grill/smoker, you can turn mushrooms into tiny flavor bombs.

 

This salad won't make a meathead swear off of steak, but it's delicous...and that's all that really matters. 

 

Tofu and Tomato Salad (Vegan)

  • 8 oz Block Firm or Extra Firm Tofu

  • 2 large tomatoes

  • half cup balsamic vinegar

  • half bunch basil

  • extra virgin olive oil

  • salt

  • pepper

  • 1 pound mushrooms, button or cremini

 

 

Make Ahead

1.  Place tofu on a rack set inside a sheet pan, cover it with a paper towel, and place another sheet pan on top of it. Put 3-5lbs of weight on top of the second sheet pan, centered (a medium/large cast iron pan works well here). Let tofu drain at room temp for 4 hours, periodically re-centering the weight as-needed.

 

2.  Roughly chop of the mushrooms and place half of them in a food processor. Pulse until you have small mushroom bits. Put a large frying pan or wok over medium-high heat and coat with a bit of canola oil. Empty the processor into the hot pan and process the second half of the mushroom. Add them to the pan, as well.

 

Your goal here is to drive all of the moisture out of the mushroom bits. This takes time, because there is a lot of water in mushrooms. Keep cooking, stirring occasionally, until all of the water is released and them steams off. Next, you want to get some good deep browning on the shrooms.

 

Add a bit more canola oil and allow the mushrooms to cook, untouched, until the bottom layers starts to brown, about 2-3 minutes. Give the shrooms a stir and repeat. Continue cooking them like this until they all have a bit of golden or deep brown on them.

 

Remove the pan from the heat and add salt and pepper to taste. Spread them onto a piece of parchment paper or sheet pan. You can stop there, or you can go the extra step and smoke them.

 

Get your smoker going at about 200 degrees with your favorite variety of wood and smoke the mushroom bits for about 2 hours. Remove from the smoker and let them cool at room temp.

 

3.  Remove your tofu block, pat it dry with a paper towel, and cut it into ¾” thick slabs. Chop up 4-6 basil leaves. Sprinkle a light dusting of kosher salt (like you’re pre-salting meat) and basil over one side of all of your tofu pieces. Flip them over and dust the other side. Place all of your tofu in a Tupperware, lexan, or Ziploc bag. Seal and place in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours.

 

4.  Place a small saucepan over medium heat and add the balsamic vinegar. Bring to a simmer and reduce the vinegar by half. It should be thick and syrupy. Pour into a small heat-proof container and set aside to cool at room temp.

 

To Serve

1.  15-30 minutes before you’re ready to serve the salad, remove your salted tofu from the fridge and let it sit at room temperature.

 

2  Slice the tomatoes into ¾” slabs. Salt both sides of each tomato slab (again, like pre-salting meat) and put them all in a colander set over a bowl. Let them drain for at least 15 minutes.

 

3. Taste your tofu. Add salt to taste, if necessary. Add tofu and tomato slabs to each plate, alternating each like a caprese salad. Drizzle extra virgin olive oil over the tofu and tomatoes. Chop 4-6 basil leaves and top the salads. Sprinkle a small pinch of black pepper over everything. Drizzle the salads with your balsamic reduction, then top it all off with your smoked mushroom bits. 

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