Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Crispy Kale-and-Tofu Salad with Coconut

I generally have a meal plan for the week and shopping list when I hit the farmers' market, but I still always allow myself to pick up an item (or two or three) on impulse, and on a recent trip, I impulsively bought a beautiful bunch of kale with no culinary destiny. While I love kale simply roasted with olive oil, salt, and pepper until crispy or as part of a hearty soup, I wanted to try out something new. With a package of tofu that had been lingering in my fridge for a while, I put tofu and kale into the recipe search at Food and Wine, my favorite website to search for recipes, and lucked upon this incredible recipe by Heidi Swanson, the author of one of my current favorite cookbooks, Super Natural Everyday.

Cripsy kale is a perfect textural contrast to the slighty chewy rice and tender tofu with the nutty brown rice perfectly complementing the beautiful toasted flavors of the sesame oil and coconut; the whole dish is made just fortifying enough by the perfectly browned tofu. I know many people think of tofu as merely something to carry flavor (which it does exceptionally well), but I have come to enjoy the inherent taste of tofu, which is a nice subtle complement to the rest of the flavors in this recipe. If you'd like to serve this to people who aren't crazy about tofu, I recommend eliminating the tofu and serving this as a side, cooking up the tofu (and another protein, like chicken, for the carnivores), separately. This dinner is surprisingly filling, and although the kale isn't quite as crispy, any leftovers will delight for lunch the following day.

Crispy Kale-and-Tofu Salad with Coconut
from Food and Wine
serves 4

1 cup short-grain brown rice 
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil 
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil 
2 tablespoons soy sauce 
1 1/2 pounds kale—stems and ribs removed, leaves chopped 
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes 
1/2 pound extra-firm tofu, cut into 1/4-inch cubes (about 2 cups) 

1. Preheat the oven to 350° and position racks in the lower and upper thirds of the oven. In a saucepan, combine the rice with 2 cups of water and a pinch of salt; bring to a boil. Cover and simmer over low heat for 35 minutes, until the rice is tender.

2. In a small bowl, whisk the olive oil with the sesame oil and soy sauce. Transfer two-thirds of the dressing to a large bowl. Add the kale, coconut and tofu; toss to coat, then spread on 2 rimmed baking sheets. Bake for 25 minutes, until crispy. Stir once or twice and shift the pans halfway through baking. Return the mixture to the large bowl and toss with the remaining dressing and rice. Season with salt and serve right away.

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