My heart swelled a little bit last week when Abby texted me from college saying she had figured out how to concoct a pretty decent vinaigrette using only dining hall ingredients (“oil balsamic a lil soy sauce onion powder pepper salt sriracha and yellow mustard…i’m surprised yellow mustard works”). Not only that, but she was whisking up a batch with a fork and a drinking glass for her whole table: “can’t believe I ever used the pre-made one,” she texted “it’s just a new level.” This is facts. From a previous text I had also learned that she’s excited about “coded variables” from her stats class, which also sounds useful (I think?) but as far as I’m concerned, college has already armed her with an important life lesson: if you’ve got homemade dressing, you’re gonna be in good shape for dinner. Exhibit A: My new favorite ginger-miso dressing that I could drink by the gallon, and when there’s a jar of it in the refrigerator, I swear I feel like dinner is mostly made. It’s a simplified version of a Samin Nosrat recipe, and now (sound the trumpets!) I’m ready to add it to my rotation of go-tos. Drizzle it on top of any greens or vegetables, then toss in a protein…
…like these 8-minute pan-fried tofu cubes and you’ve got a pretty hearty, healthy, umami-packed meal. The salad in the photo is made of spring greens, cucumbers, radishes, thinly sliced red onion, minced red pepper (such boring vegetables! and yet!) I also added some sliced almonds, but wished I had chopped, crushed peanuts. Obviously, you can and should play around with the vegetables, and add an avocado if you’ve got one. I did not.
Greens with Pan-Seared Sesame Tofu and Ginger-Miso Dressing
I love this kind of dinner — I feel both satisfied and weirdly virtuous after eating it. I like to drizzle my tofu with Maggi Seasoning ever since I learned that trick from Andrea Nguyen, but soy sauce is fine if that’s what you’ve got.
Make Ginger-Miso Dressing
Makes 2/3 cup
3 tablespoons sweet white miso
1/3 cup neutral oil (like grapeseed; olive oil is fine too if it’s what you’ve got)
¼ cup seasoned rice vinegar
1 teaspoon brown sugar
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
1 two-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
1/2 small jalapeño, seeded and chopped
Add all ingredients to a mini food processor and whirl until emulsified and smooth. Add water, a tablespoon at a time, if you need to adjust the consistency to be dressing-drizzly.
Make Pan-Seared Sesame Tofu
Makes enough for a salad for 2 (can be doubled)
2-3 tablespoons oil (neutral or olive)
1/2 14-ounce block firm tofu (I used Trader Joe’s super firm brand), cut into 1/2 inch cubes as shown
Drizzle Maggi Seasoning Umami (1-2 teaspoons) or soy sauce
shake or two of roasted sesame seeds
Add oil to a heavy bottomed skillet and turn heat to medium-high. Add tofu and let sit undisturbed for 5 minutes to get a nice sear. Using a spatula or tongs, toss the tofu, flipping and arranging the pieces so they brown on a second side (any side) about 2-3 minutes (again, let them cook undisturbed so they brown). Drizzle the umami sauce over the tofu, toss again, then toss in the sesame seeds. Remove from heat. Let cool for a minute or two so it’s not piping hot, then add to salad, grain bowl, tacos, sandwiches, etc.
Combine your favorite greens with the pan-seared sesame tofu, and any of the following: shredded red cabbage, shredded carrots, edamame, chopped avocado, sliced radishes, cucumbers, minced scallions or red onion, finely chopped red bell pepper, cubed or sliced avocado, cooked, cooled, and chopped broccoli or green beans, crushed peanuts or sliced almonds.
Toss with the ginger-miso dressing.
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