Friday, April 3, 2009

Gingered Tofu and Seaweed Salad with Shiitake Mushrooms and Sesame Seeds Recipe

Last week's ingredients cost me only $47.39. For this week's vegetarian dishes I spent $31.60, not including some pantry ingredients and spices I already had. I added bread, some fresh and dried fruit, some nuts of various sorts, a chunk of cheese, maybe a little granola, and I had a week's worth of fresh and healthy food for under $70 dollars. That is less than ten dollars per day! I try to eat a diet of fresh, whole food, with lots of fruits and vegetables, not only because I feel good and have more energy, but because it is less expensive, and better for my health and the environment than the meat-based diet filled with processed foods that it's so easy to gravitate toward. Sometimes I find it difficult to coordinate when I will shop and cook, but after it's done, I can come home late to a ready-to-heat complete meal, and not have to worry about cooking during the week, when I am busiest.

Continuing with the Asian theme, and noticing I'd been neglecting the seaweed area of my pantry, I planned a tofu seaweed salad. Wakame, the seaweed I usually use in miso soup, is rich in vitamin A, one of the omega-3 fatty acids (EPA), and lots of minerals. Mixing it with sesame and tofu adds calcium and protein, and shiitake mushrooms contribute antioxidants and immune system boosters. I took this salad to work with me a few days during the week; it makes a great light lunch. I love the play between the pop of the sesame seeds and the slippery seaweed, and knowing how nutritious it is makes its savory umami deliciousness, well, even umamier.

Gingered Tofu and Seaweed Salad with Shiitake Mushrooms and Sesame Seeds

For the salad:

1/4 cup dried wakame seaweed, reconstituted in warm water, and drained
1 container firm tofu, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
15 shiitake mushrooms, sliced
1/4 cup sesame seeds
2 scallions, chopped, including the green tops

For the dressing:

1 tablespoon grated ginger
2 tablespoons brown rice vinegar
2 tablespoons tamari
1 tablespoon mirin (or more to taste, it adds sweetness)
1 teaspoon spicy sesame oil (or plain, toasted sesame oil, if you don't want the spice)

(You may need more dressing for the salad than this, but these proportions should be correct.)

For the salad:

I pan fried the tofu in a little olive oil until golden brown, but I think the salad might be better with raw tofu. Try it either way.

Place the shiitake mushroom slices in a bamboo steamer (or metal steamer, whichever you have), and steam, covered, over a little water until soft, approximately 3 to 4 minutes.

Place the sesame seeds in a small pan and toast over medium high heat, tossing all the while, until golden brown.

In a medium bowl, combine the wakame, tofu, steamed shiitake mushrooms, chopped scallions, and the toasted sesame seeds.

For the dressing:

Grate the ginger on a microplane (or mince with a knife), and place in a small bowl. Add the liquid ingredients, and mix.

Pour the dressing over the salad and chill for a while. Serve cool.