Hot Summer Day Salad

Whenever you land at the airport in New Orleans, you walk outside and are immediately hit by the thick air. You wade your way through the tangible, wet heat from the terminal to the waiting area, letting the moisture soak into your skin while you take it all in.   Although I left New Orleans over ten years ago, I regularly visit my family and steep in air while I wait to be picked up.

So, last week when I stepped out of my well air-conditioned office building into this summer’s mid-western heat wave, I was hit by a familiar humidity.  Like New Orleans, Chicago’s air was wet and tangible, soaking into my skin.  It was the kind of heat that had my fellow office workers in uproar.  The people that complain about weather year-round had something to say about this.  But for me, it was rather comforting and comfortable, reminding me that I live in a city with four distinct seasons.

This evening, standing at the stove is the last thing that I want to do.  Instead, I pull all of the vegetables out of the fridge to assess the situation.  I decide to make an entree salad–filled with as many vegetables as I can fit or that make sense together.  I have discovered that Andy doesn’t mind eating salad for dinner, as long as I make it substantial enough to be filling.  Through trial and error, I realized that we need to have at least two proteins, such as avocado and black beans,  in the salad to make it an entree fit for a dude.

Tonight I made two hard-boiled eggs and added a tin of oil-packed albacore tuna to the greens–making a really substantial meal.  I also included chopped cucumber, heirloom tomato from Henry’s Farm at the Evanston Farmer’s Market, roasted red pepper, and red onion.  At the last minute, I threw in some goat cheese.  I think that there is some rule that says that you aren’t supposed to eat cheese with fish (except perhaps for lox and cream cheese), but I disregarded that rule tonight.  I had picked up some herbed focaccia at the French Market at lunch and thought the cheese would pair nicely.  I was right.  But they key to making my salad “fantastic” (to quote Andy) is the homemade salad dressed.  I read an article in today’s Slate about the importance of  homemade salad dressing versus store bought–there is just no discussion on which is better.  The homemade dressing wins by a long shot–I always make my own if I have time.

Easy vinaigrette makes the salad

Simple Vinaigrette

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

3 tablespoons vinegar (can use White Wine, Red Wine, or Balsamic)

1 clove garlic, chopped finely

fresh herbs, such as oregano, thyme, or rosemary

Really really good extra virgin olive oil (quality makes a BIG difference)

1. Combine the mustard and vinegar.  Whisk together.

2. Season with garlic and herbs.

3. Add enough olive oil to cut through the vinegar, about 1/4 cup.

Plated salad + Focaccia bread


Farmer’s Market Tofu

One of my favorite activities each weekend during the summer is wandering around our local Farmer’s Market in Evanston.  Since we moved to Evanston five years ago, the market has gotten larger and more developed.  This year there are even some tasty prepared foods–crepes, tamales, and smoothies in addition to several bakeries.  We now have our favorite farms and usually know exactly where to go.  This past week, we strolled by a booth that we had never stopped at, selling a range of organic micro-sprouts and this homemade tofu.

I like tofu for a quick weeknight meal–it doesn’t make a mess, requires very little cooking time, and melds well with any flavor.  I usually like making my own sauces, so when I stumbled on this Hot and Sweet Marmalade Glazed Tofu on Veggie Belly I thought it would be perfect for this fresh tofu.  One thing that really interested me with this post, is that Veggie Belly linked to a previous version of the same recipe from 2008 called Stick Orange Tofu Thins.  Veggie Belly is a lovely blog, filled with a variety of Asian-inspired vegetarian recipes that fill my “one day I’ll make this” list.  This post allowed me to see that not all food blogs start out as masterful pieces of art filled with sexy-beautiful-mouth watering-succulent-tempting food photography.  Based on the images, writing, and layout from 2008 I can see that Veggie Belly has evolved tremendously.  It gave me faith in my own efforts that one day this blog will evolve into something much better.  Everyone has to start somewhere, right?

As a new blogger, there are so many things that I have to think about as I post.  Do I need to show you all my ingredients used in my post?  (I decided no, because I never pull everything together before I start cooking and I put things away as soon as I finish with them.)  Do I need to show you a play by play of every cooking step?  Am I permitted to type out someone else’s recipe as long as I attribute it to them or do I need to get permission from them?  So many things to think about and learn…I feel like I’m in kindergarten again.

Hot + Sweet Marmalade Glazed Tofu

From Veggie Belly

1. Cut tofu into triangles.  Since my tofu was quite moist, I decided to drain it for a few minutes on a paper towel.

2. I mixed up Veggie Belly’s delicious Hot + Sweet sauce while the tofu drained.  This included:

4 tablespoons soy sauce

4 tablespoons orange marmelade

1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 tablespoon sriracha sauce

cilantro for garnish

3. I browned the tofu in a pan.  Unfortunately, I didn’t follow the instructions to use a non-stick pan, so my tofu stuck to the pan and did not get quite as crispy as it was supposed to.

4. I added the sauce as soon as the tofu seemed crisp enough and let it bubble and get a little bit thick.

5. I served with brown rice and a salad from the CSA farm box–lettuce, radishes, cucumber, and red onion.  I whipped up an Asian inspired salad dressing with sesame oil, rice vinegar, garlic, ginger, and chunky peanut butter.

WOULD I MAKE THIS AGAIN? Yes

TIPS FOR NEXT TIME: Remember to use a non-stick pan so that the tofu can get crispy.  Use less hot sauce if you do not want it to be too spicy.