In these dog days of summer, everyone likes to eat a little lighter and keep hot indoor cooking to a minimum. With the farmer's markets full of stunning produce, entree-sized salads are an easy option and will leave you feeling energized. Fire up the grill for the zucchini, tofu, and poblanos in this dish, and roast some corn while you're at it. Sit out on the deck with a beer, and you've got a perfect mellow summer evening.
Generally I think tofu works best in Asian cuisines, where it is treated as a beloved ingredient in its own right, not a meat substitute. But I do enjoy this dish where simply pan-frying it allows it to develop that nice brown crust. All this talk of marinating tofu is crazy. The flavor doesn't really sink in and makes the surface so soggy, you can't brown it properly. Cook the tofu plain and sauce it after for the best results.
I find that putting tofu directly onto the grill is asking for a sticky mess, so I've developed a technique. I put my small cast iron skillet on the grill grate, which allows me to keep all the cooking outdoors.
- For the dressing
- 1 medium or 2 small ripe tomatoes or a handful of cherry tomatoes
- 3 tablespoons cider vinegar
- 1/2 clove garlic
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- For the salad
- 8 very small or 4 small zucchini, halved lengthwise
- 2 poblano peppers (you might want to do extra to save for another dish)
- 1 pound extra firm tofu, cut into 8 slabs and patted dry
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 1 large or two small heads tender lettuce (butter, red leaf, etc), washed and thoroughly dried
- 2 medium cucumbers (I used lemon cukes), sliced
- 1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1/2 small sweet onion, thinly sliced
In a blender, combine the tomatoes, vinegar, garlic, and salt. Blend until smooth. Stop and add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, and blend. Add the rest of the olive oil in two increments, blending in between. Taste and adjust seasoning; it may need more salt or vinegar.
Prepare a medium-hot grill (preferably with hardwood charcoal). Grill the poblano peppers, rotating occasionally, until black and blistered. Remove to a bowl and cover until cooled. Peel, seed, and cut into strips.
Brush the zucchini with oil and grill on both sides until tender. Season with salt.
Place a small cast iron skillet on the grill. Let it heat up for a few minutes. Add two tablespoons of oil. Add the tofu in a single layer, making sure it is patted dry. Cook until quite crispy on one side, then flip and cook the other side. Remove to paper towels. When it cools a bit, make several diagonal incisions in each slab without cutting all the way through. Brush a bit of dressing into the cuts.
To assemble the salad, divide the lettuce among 4 plates. Top with the zucchini, poblano strips, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes onions and the tofu. Spoon on more dressing and hit with a final sprinkle of salt and pepper.