Originally created 06/14/06

Spicy, Crisp Tofu on Mint-Avocado Salad



There's no end to the enterprising twists cooks give to tofu, intent on finding tasty new roles for this wonderfully versatile, virtuously healthy ingredient.

"What to do with tofu" is a question confidently posed by someone who's already got the answer. Six answers, actually: that's the number of recipes food writer Elizabeth Germain has lined up in Body and Soul magazine's June issue, ranging from stir-fries to desserts.

This one, a spicy, crisp tofu salad dish, is a main-course study in contrasts. It has crunchy and smooth textures, as well as hot and cool flavors. You create a really crisp and flavorful crust by cooking the tofu with two Asian grocery-store items: chili sauce and panko, a flaky bread crumb with a light, coarse texture.

Spicy, Crisp Tofu on Mint-Avocado Salad

(Preparation 30 minutes, total 40 minutes plus pressing time)

14-ounce package regular tofu, firm or extra-firm, drained

½ cup spicy Asian chili sauce plus ½ teaspoon for dressing

½ teaspoon grated orange zest

2 tablespoons fresh orange juice

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Coarse salt

1 cup panko

3 tablespoons canola oil

2 heads butterhead lettuce, washed, dried and torn into bite-size pieces

1 cup fresh whole mint leaves

1 avocado, halved, pitted, peeled and thinly sliced lengthwise

Cut the tofu in half horizontally (slicing parallel to work surface). Keep the tofu stacked; cut crosswise in half to make four rectangles. Cut each rectangle into two triangles. Press tofu (see note).

In a large bowl whisk together ½ teaspoon chili sauce, orange zest, orange juice and olive oil. Season the mixture with salt to taste. Set aside.

Pour the remaining 1/3 cup chili sauce into a shallow bowl. Place the panko in a separate shallow bowl. Piece by piece, gently coat the tofu in the chili sauce and then the panko, patting it on each piece to coat.

In a large, nonstick skillet, heat half the canola oil over medium heat. Gently place half the tofu in skillet. Pan-fry the tofu, turning once, until outsides are crisped and brown, about 3 minutes per side. Remove from heat. Repeat the process with remaining oil and tofu.

Add lettuce and mint to bowl with dressing; toss to coat. Place equal mounds of salad in center of four plates; fan avocado slices on top. Arrange two tofu triangles next to the avocado and serve immediately.

Makes 4 servings.

Nutrition information per serving: 471 cal., 19 pro., 34 g fat, 29 g carbo., 7 g fiber.

Note: To press tofu, lay cut tofu flat on a baking sheet lined with a double layer of paper towels. Place 2 more clean towels on top of the tofu and add another baking tray. Place a heavy skillet or another weight on top to press out excess liquid, 20 to 30 minutes.