YOUR HEALTHY PLATE: Grilled Tofu & Cucumber Salad

Grilling season—yeah! Here’s something so delicious you’ll probably want to make it even if you aren’t vegan! Of course, if you do want to make something special because your favorite vegan happens to be coming for dinner, then this really yummy recipe is a great choice! And you should plan to make enough for everybody, just in case. The warm and cold; soft and crunchy; sweet, sour and heat all add up to a very pleasing set of contrasts. 

Why avocado oil, you might ask? Avocado oil is a great choice for this recipe because it tolerates high heat beautifully. Buy a small bottle if you don’t have one, and use it whenever you make popcorn or stir fry. And if you don’t happen to have a usable grill, no worries…just pull out your biggest frying pan.

1 pound extra firm tofu
1 medium clove garlic, chopped finely with ¼ tsp. salt
2 tsp. finely grated fresh ginger
2 scallions, thinly chopped (green & white)
1/2 tsp. ground allspice
1/4 tsp. grated nutmeg
4 tsp. avocado oil
2 tsp. tamari
1 English (10-12 inches long, no seeds) cucumber, thinly sliced
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes (optional)
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp. rice vinegar

Prepare tofu:
Slice the tofu width-wise into 8 slices. Remove the slices to a large cutting board that is raised up on one side to drain to the sink, and cover with a layer of paper towels (or cloth). Place the slices on the toweling, cover with another layer of towels, and press gently to absorb excess water. Leave as is, allowing tofu to drain/dry 5 minutes more.

Prepare marinade for tofu:
Mix together garlic, ginger, scallions, allspice, nutmeg, 1 1/2 tsp. avocado oil, and tamari. Transfer the tofu slices in a glass baking dish. Spread half the marinade over the tofu, and set aside remaining marinade for later. Marinate 10-15 minutes.

Prepare cucumber salad:
In a medium bowl, toss cucumber with lemon juice and pepper flakes. Set aside.

Grill tofu:
Heat grill or pan to medium, and add remaining avocado oil. Grill tofu for 7-8 minutes, flip with a thin metal spatula, and repeat on other side.

Plate and serve:
Divide cucumber salad among four salad plates, and cover with two slices of tofu per plate. Mix rice vinegar into remaining marinade, and pour over tofu just prior to serving. Serves 4.

Thank you to Cleveland Clinic and Sara Quessenberry for a prior version of this recipe.

YOUR HEALTHY PLATE: Two Parsley Salads For You

There is a warm and cozy spot in my heart where the parsley goes. Parsley doesn’t usually get people riled up in the same way as basil, thyme, and oregano, but that’s about to change! What’s great about these recipes is that parsley is not the garnish but the main event. It’s the green, the herb, the everything. No competition, no second fiddle. It’s not a decoration, it’s just the parsley, and it’s definitely meant to be eaten this way.

The first time I ever ate parsley this way, as nature intended, it came from the kitchen garden of our old friends Jerry and Sue from Athens, Ohio. I’m pretty sure Jerry considered parsley one of the four basic food groups, which is why he grew an enormous quantity year after year. With the help of some fresh pressed garlic and extra-virgin olive oil, Sue mixed a combination of curly and flat-leaf parsley varieties into a salad all their own. I could easily eat a large bowlful all by myself. That parsley salad was one of the things I most looked forward to whenever an invitation arrived to join them for dinner. So simple, so different, and so wonderful. To this day, I think of them whenever I eat parsley.

Then there’s the parsley salad that our adventurous friend Oded prepared regularly and effortlessly for his beloved wife and four children. Flat leaf only, by the way. After many years of searching, I finally located a recipe that provides me with more specifics than I could ever get out of Oded. This parsley salad, too, is different and spectacular.

2 large bunches of Italian (flat-leaf) parsley, stems removed and chopped coarsely
3/4 cup tahini
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 tsp. salt, more to taste
Several tablespoons cold water, as needed

Whisk together the tahini, lemon juice, and salt in a medium-large mixing bowl until smooth. It will go through a thick, gritty, stubborn phase. Just keep whisking. Add a tablespoon of water, and more if necessary (very slowly, just one tablespoon at a time), as needed to make the dressing consistency thick and substantial, but just shy of runny. Add the chopped parsley, toss well to coat the leaves, and serve immediately. Serves 6-8.

Fourth of July Celebration (almost)!

Here’s one of my all-time favorite posts, reposted from July 4, 2010:
It’s the fourth of July today, and my sibs and I have converged on the family home for the great annual bash. On and off since yesterday evening, five strapping grandsons have been carrying cartons of beer, wine, soda, water, and iced tea up to the deck, where great drums of ice stand ready to receive them all. Continue reading

Curried Lentil, Tomato, and Coconut Soup

Everything Yotam Ottolenghi touches turns to gold. If you don’t already have one of his cookbooks [Ottolenghi (2008), Plenty (2010), Jerusalem (2012)] in your home, prepare yourself. YO takes flavor to the next level. Look at this list of ingredients – I’ve used them all, but never to such glorious effect. And it’s not just flavor. He takes texture to the next level, and color. Surely his kitchen has more than three dimensions. Continue reading

YOUR HEALTHY PLATE: Karen’s Spiced Nuts

My friend and fellow yogi Karen Bush comes up with some of the very best recipes, and this one is guaranteed to make you very popular. You can bring it to a party, to book group, to work to share with your coworkers. You can sprinkle it on your salad and turn a little meal into a spectacular celebration. Guaranteed, everyone is going to love it. Continue reading

Most Manufactured Salad Dressing Isn’t Food

I recently decided that it was time to look at the ingredient lists of salad dressings, whatever that means, so I picked four popular brands to examine. You will be very interested to learn what I discovered. The first ingredient in the first product I picked up, Wishbone Italian dressing, was water. Frankly, that seems like a very expensive way to buy water. And surprising, too, given that Italian dressing consists primarily (and traditionally) of olive oil and vinegar. Not Wishbone Italian dressing, though. Continue reading

YOUR HEALTHY PLATE: Yoga-Inspired Recipes

During the recent holidays past, I was given the gift of a yoga calendar by my beloved friend Lee. Tearing off a page every morning has now become an especially joyful and expectant way to start my days. Most of the pages are filled with beautiful messages (some of which are so very special that they get pinned to the cork board the next day), or sometimes a special yoga-position-of-the-week. Very occasionally, I find an inspirational recipe. What I find most awesome is all the different kinds of spices, and the fact that roasting them brings out infinitely more complex flavor profiles. Here, below, are the recipes I’ve enjoyed most of all (so far). Continue reading