Sunday, July 14, 2013

Seared Tofu with Thai Mango Salsa Fresca

We all should know that diversity makes for a rich tapestry, and we must understand that all the threads of the tapestry are equal in value no matter what their colour. – Maya Angelou

It’s supposed to be a full week of hot temperatures and sun in Nova Scotia. Time to get out of the kitchen, fire up the barbecue and invite friends to visit.

For grilling, it's best to marinate the
heck out of tofu to add flavour.
There’s one challenge many of us face when BBQ season arrives. How do we include our vegetarian friends? It can be difficult, notwithstanding the array of tofu this and soy that available in grocery stores. I don’t even know many vegetarians that like tofu hot dogs.

Here’s a dish that will satisfy your hungriest non-meat eaters. It's a great way to welcome non-carnivores over for a BBQ evening and may even convert a few carnivores to the “dark side.” Or perhaps I should say “light side.” There’s not a whole lot dark going on with tofu.

Tofu is a strange thing. People either love it or hate it. I believe that's because of the "blandness" it often has as opposed to a dislike of the flavour. For some people it’s a texture thing, but it’s not that much different than scrambled eggs, at least for me...

If you’re frying, searing or grilling, the secret is to impart as much flavour as possible into the tofu before you cook it. Luckily, since it has little distinctive flavour of its own that job is easily accomplished.

Tofu "steaks."
Most seared or grilled tofu recipes will use a marinade. My marinade has garlic and soy as its main flavours. The two hour marinating time is to ensure that the tofu is well permeated.

You can certainly try other combinations to flavour it. If desired you could use ginger, five spice powder, fish sauce, oyster sauce, etc. It’s quite easy to tailor your tofu flavour to complement whatever else you are serving.

This “salsa fresca” has the traditional two peppers/tomato/onion combo, but adds mango and a hint of fish sauce and lime to shunt it toward more Thai flavours.

I have a confession to make. This tofu was pan fried. I was going to grill the tofu but our Weber barbecue hadn’t made it through the winter in a shape I would trust. It was getting old.

Now buying a barbecue has moved closer to the top of the list. Sigh.

The salsa would be equally tasty served with grilled or broiled chicken or firm white fish such as halibut. So if you have a mix of veg/non-veg diners you can pass it around with the rest of the side dishes.

When making acidic foods, use a non-reactive bowl.
Seared Tofu with Thai Mango Salsa Fresca
Prep: 2 hours (includes marinating)  | Cook: 12 minutes  |  Serves 4
Tofu marinade:
2 blocks of extra firm tofu (454 g)
3 garlic cloves
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 ripe mango
1 medium tomato
1 small sweet red pepper
1 medium jalapeño pepper
3 green onions
1/4 cup cilantro
1 tbsp fish sauce
juice of 1 lime

Cut each block of tofu horizontally into 2 thin “steaks.” (4 in total)

Chop the garlic and place it in a baking dish with the soy sauce and oil. Whisk with a fork. Nestle the steaks into the marinade. Pierce the top and bottom of each steak with the tines of a fork. Flip the tofu over so it is coated well the marinade.

I made coconut rice as an accompaniment.
Cover the tofu with plastic wrap and let marinate for 1/2 hour on the counter. Uncover, pierce the top side of each steak and flip. Cover and marinate for another 1/2 hour, then flip again. 

Marinate the steaks for a further 1 hour, flipping once more. Total marinating time is 2 hours with 4 flips.

While the tofu is marinating make the salsa. Peel and cut the mango into 1/4 inch pieces and place in a (non-reactive) glass, ceramic or plastic bowl. 

Chop the tomato into similar size. Seed and chop the red pepper to similar size. Repeat with the jalapeño, but chop the flesh very finely. Add to the mango.

Chop the green onions in thin rings. Add them, with the fish sauce, chopped cilantro and lime juice to the mango mixture. Toss well to mix. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit to combine flavours.

After the tofu has marinated, pour the marinating liquid into a frying pan large enough to accommodate all four steaks. Heat the pan until the garlic begins to sizzle. 

Add the steaks to the pan or grill and let cook until browned on each side. (If using a BBQ grease the grill well so they don't stick.) Cooking time should be about 5-7 minutes per side, depending on heat.

To serve, slice each tofu steak and arrange in a fan – or other artful display – on the plate. Place some hot coconut rice across from the tofu slices and spoon 1/4 of the salsa down the centre of the plate and on the tofu slices. Decorate with a cilantro sprig if desired.


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