Tuesday, December 4, 2007

A Salad Craving

‘Tis the season for lots of baking but how about giving your oven a little break and whipping up a delicious salad this week?
Yes, I know the month of December isn’t a popular month for salads, but in Southern California where the sun shines strong and the temps today peaked at around 80 degrees Fahrenheit (really, I’m not bragging), it could just as well be the middle of summer. Which is why eating something cool, refreshing and light makes perfect sense (at least until the predicted rains come later this week)!
I made one of my favorite tofu salads to go with some flounder I prepared for dinner last night. This is a salad that comes from a cool, little Japanese noodle restaurant in Los Angeles called Mishima. Whenever I ventured out to Mishima for a big bowl of udon or soba, I would also treat myself to their signature tofu salad, happily devouring every last tasty bit of it. Seriously, I think I could have eaten that salad every day! Well, I was quite pleased when, about 10 years ago, the Los Angeles Times food section ran the recipe for Mishima’s Tofu Salad. I clipped it, saved it, and made it over and over again. Don't worry if you cannot find all the ingredients listed for the salad. I didn't have everything on hand myself and added a few extra things like sugar snap peas and even a few black olives into my salad. Be creative and have fun with it. Since I think the creamy dressing is what makes this salad so special and delicious, I'd recommend that you follow the directions exactly and not substitute on the components. So now, I share with you something that may not be so holiday-ish but for me, is one thing I could eat any time of the year.

Mishima Tofu Salad (LA Times)
Ingredients for the dressing:
2 tablespoons sesame seed paste or creamy peanut butter
2/3 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1 and 1/2 teaspoons grated ginger root
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 and 1/2 teaspoon mirin (sweet rice wine)
1 tablespoon water
Combine all the above ingredients and mix well until smooth. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
Ingredients for Salad
1 (14 ounce) package medium-firm tofu
2 Japanese cucumbers, sliced thin
2 tomatoes, sliced thin (I used cherry tomatoes)
Radish sprouts (optional)
Dried bonito flakes (optional)
Dried seaweed (nori), minced (optional)
drain excess water from tofu and cut into 2/4 inch cubes. Divide tofu, cucumber and tomato slices among 6-8 plates; garnish with sprouts and bonito flakes. Chill 20 minutes. Just before serving, pour dressing over salad and sprinkle with dried nori.

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