Cook the Book: Pineapple, Greens, and Tofu with Roasted Chile-Coconut Dressing

Cook the Book: Pineapple, Greens, and Tofu with Roasted Chile-Coconut Dressing
  • Yield:4
  • Active time:25 minutes
  • Total time:25 minutes

[Photograph: Ellen Silverman]

It seems like The Splendid Table and Cook the Book are always on the same schedule, cookbook-wise. Oftentimes host Lynne Rossetto Kasper will interview cookbook authors the same week we're featuring the same newly released cookbook on Cook the Book, making the radio show even more fun and timely.

Being so on top of the latest in cookbook news, it's not surprising that many of the recipes in The Splendid Table's How to Eat Weekends are adapted from past cookbook author guests of the program.

This Pineapple, Greens, & Tofu with Roasted Chile-Coconut Dressing is inspired by Su-Mei Yu's fascinating The Elements of Life, a Thai cookbook that incorporates the tradition of eating for one's home element—earth, water, wind, or fire. It's a gloriously fresh salad that incorporates the hot, sour, salty, and sweet that make Thai flavors so satisfying.

Sweet comes in the form of juicy pineapple and coconut milk, and the salty-sour-hot is a dressing of fish sauce, chiles, and lime juice. The salad is tossed with bitter greens, bright basil and cilantro, and mild cubes of tofu (or chicken or seafood, your choice, of course). All together, the elements of this salad are explosive and exciting in a way that tofu never gets credit for. Served on its own, this makes for a thrilling light lunch or pair it with spring or summer rolls for a more Thai-inspired substantial dinner.

As always with our Cook the Book feature, we have five (5) copies of The Splendid Table's How to Eat Weekends to give away this week.

Adapted from The Splendid Table's How to Eat Weekends by Lynne Rossetto Kasper and Sally Swift. Copyright © 2011. Published by Clarkson Potter. Available wherever books are sold. All Rights Reserved


  • Roasted Chile–Coconut Dressing
  • ½ cup expeller-pressed canola oil
  • 4 generous teaspoons coarsely ground Aleppo chile or other flavorful medium-hot to hot ground chile
  • 4 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1¹⁄³ cups coconut milk, or to taste
  • 2 to 2½ tablespoons Asian fish sauce
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • Juice of ½ large lime
  • Salad
  • 3 large handfuls mixed tart greens, such as the tender yellow hearts of escarole, arugula, frisée, curly endive, mizuna, watercress, purslane, lamb’s ear, and baby spinach
  • 8 to 10 leaves of napa cabbage, cut crosswise into thin slivers
  • 4 scallions (white and green parts), thinly sliced
  • 1½ cups bite-sized pieces fresh pineapple, or canned in pineapple juice and drained
  • ½ cup roasted, salted, and broken cashews or peanuts
  • 1½ to 2 cups diced firm tofu or cooked and diced tempeh, chicken, or seafood
  • ½ lightly packed cup fresh mint, cilantro, or basil leaves, torn
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Juice of 1 to 1½ large limes


  1. 1.

    Make the dressing: In a 12-inch straight-sided sauté pan, combine the oil, chile, and garlic. Heat slowly over medium heat so the flavors will open up but nothing will burn, about 2 minutes. Stir with a wooden spatula until the garlic begins to sizzle, but do not let it brown.

  2. 2.

    Quickly add the coconut milk, raise the heat to medium-high, and boil the coconut milk for 30 seconds, or until it’s a deep red-gold. Stir in 2 tablespoons  
of the fish sauce, or more to taste. Then mix in the sugar and salt and boil for  
30 seconds, or until the dressing is thickened with glossy bubbles and is the  
color of light caramel.

  3. 3.

    Immediately scrape the dressing into a bowl to stop the cooking. Add the juice of half a lime. Rinse and dry the pan and keep it handy for reheating the dressing.

  4. 4.

    Make the salad: Toss the greens and cabbage and divide them among 4 dinner plates. Divide the scallions, pineapple, cashews, tofu, and mint among the plates, scattering them over the greens. Season the salads with salt and pepper to taste.

  5. 5.

    Warm the dressing in the pan to a bubble, then stir in the juice of ½ lime. Drizzle the warm dressing over each serving. Squeeze generous amounts of fresh lime juice over the salads and serve. 

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