It’s the end of January, and usually by this point we’ve either abandoned our resolutions or doubled down on keeping them. I don’t like to choose sides, but tell that to my heart, Taylor Dayne, because by Martin Luther King Jr. Day, you can find me in the same holy t-shirt I’ve been wearing since eighth grade, wondering how many cookies constitutes a nutritious breakfast and whether I can fit all of said cookies into my mouth at once.*
But I like the idea of renewal and reinvention—waking up on New Year’s Day as a person who buys a planner and actually uses it, who embraces moderation and her “inside voice” effortlessly. This is a noble pursuit and perhaps one we’ll work on our whole lives, not just in the weeks following Christmas (when it’s easy to write shame-fueled resolutions based on your ham-to-fudge holiday ratio).
For this reason, I occasionally make and eat salads. This quinoa number with lemongrass tofu will satisfy even the most healthful of appetites—it’s easily made vegan by substituting agave nectar for the honey; it’s gluten-free if you use a GF soy sauce; and, most importantly insofar as this little club is concerned, it’s froggin’ delicious (See—I’m swearing less too).
The small brilliance of this salad is in the marinade for the tofu, which after a few hours, will then act as the dressing. The recipe packs the marinade with flavor, featuring an ingredient I’d never worked with before but am accustomed to slathering all over my body in the form of a lotion—that’s right, I’m talking about lemongrass. The ingredient can seem a little intimidating because the flavor component is not commonly found in traditional American cuisine. You’re much more likely to find it in Southeast Asian recipes. But folks, it’s easy and versatile, aromatic and mouthwatering. And if one of your resolutions this year** was to try new things or to eat your way through the Bath & Body Works line of scents, then this salad will hit the spot. Hell, it’ll hit all the spots—the spots will be bloody and bruised.
It’s that good.
*Three, and of course I can.
**For the record, mine was to pronounce “quinoa” correctly. Keen-wa, nerds. I’m nailing it.
- 2 lemongrass bulbs
- 1 large garlic clove, minced
- 1 tablespoon minced shallot
- 1 tablespoon grated or minced ginger
- ¼th cup soy sauce
- ¼th cup honey
- ¼th cup vegetable or canola oil
- Juice of 2 lemons
- 1 package of extra firm tofu
- 1 tablespoon vegetable, canola or olive oil
- 2 cups quinoa, cooked and chilled
- 1 8-ounce can sliced water chestnuts, drained
- 1 red bell pepper, chopped
- 8 ounces button or cremini mushrooms, sliced
- 2 tablespoons fresh mint, minced
- 2 tablespoons basil, julienned
- Trim both ends of the lemongrass bulbs. Only the last third of the stalk is really useable, the part closest to the bulb. Discard the rest.
- Slice the remaining lemongrass bulb in half lengthwise, and then thinly slice into half rings. Add to a large bowl.
- Next add the garlic, shallot, and ginger. Then add the soy sauce, honey, oil, the juice of one lemon, and whisk until thoroughly incorporated.
- Separately, remove the tofu from its packaging and drain. Using paper towels or a dish towel, press firmly on the tofu, soaking up as much water as possible.
- Cut the tofu lengthwise into approximately 4-6 large pieces. Add the tofu to the bowl and ensure all the pieces are properly covered in the marinade.
- Ideally, let the tofu marinate overnight, but it may be removed after 4 hours.
- Remove the tofu to rest on paper towels. Strain the marinade into a separate bowl with a colander or sieve. Add the juice of the other lemon. Salt and pepper to taste.
- In a large sauté pan, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high heat. While that heats, pat the tofu dry again and then cut into ½ inch cubes. Working in batches to ensure you don’t crowd the pan, add the tofu to the sauté pan and cook for 5-8 minutes, stirring and tossing occasionally so that as many sides can brown and crisp as possible. Once cooked, let tofu cool on a plate.
- Using the same sauté pan, sauté the mushrooms for 7-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until browned and cooked. Let the mushrooms cool while preparing the fresh herbs.
- Place the cooked quinoa in a large bowl, and add the tofu, mushrooms, and red bell pepper. Add the fresh herbs. Pour the marinade over the salad, and toss it lightly to distribute the marinade and ingredients. Serve immediately or chill in the fridge until ready to serve.