The New Best Salad Ever (Roasted Garlic Tofu Salad with Cilantro Rice, Black Beans and a Mango Salsa)
Hi! It’s Rob again. I know that I haven’t posted here in a while. A few months ago I was worried about Janet’s blog when she was going through a really busy time at work. I’ve realized, however, that Janet has many dozens of recipes on deck waiting to be posted and she always had things well in hand. I knew that The Taste Space would forge on boldly without my extra help.
I’m back, though. A couple days ago I made a salad which both Janet and I agreed was the best salad we’d ever had in our lives. It was simply amazing. There was a cacophony of bold flavours bursting with every bite. There were so many things going on. Every portion was enhanced for extra action and pleasure. I knew that I had to share it here.
The salad is the Uptown Salad, adapted from Radiance 4 Life by Tess Challis. Janet suggested it to me as something that was up my alley. It only took me a few seconds of looking at the recipe for me to decide that I had to make it. It hit many of my ingredient buttons: mangoes, coconut, tofu, cilantro, citrus, and chilies. And that’s the just the beginning.
The recipe suggested that it would take 30 minutes (or less!) to prepare the recipe. No way. It took me an hour and a half of chopping, shredding, soaking, slicing, and frying. I was getting cranky by the end. This salad was more work than advertised. The verdict was going to come when we finally got to try it.
Janet occasionally uses some swear words. She’s generally a good girl, though, and restrains herself. However, when she tried the Uptown Salad there was a foul concoction of some four swear words in a row. These words were not uttered in anger. They were the stunned response of a girl eating the best salad she’d ever had in her life. These words were an emotional response of extreme awesomeness. This is a salad with the power to move you.
Hi! It’s Rob again for one last item in my short series of posts here on the taste space.
After crafting the delicious avocado chutney last week, I was left with a couple of leftover avocados. I was perplexed. What should I do with them? I didn’t want to make guacamole. I wasn’t prepared to produce a salad with them. In Australia I learned how amazing avocado is in sandwiches or hamburgers, but that wasn’t the direction I wanted to go either.
I KNOW! I would devise a new variation of everyone’s beloved overnight oats! I was very excited. Overnight oats are great, but wouldn’t they be better if they were filled with tropical fruits?
I’ll be honest with you. I hold tropical fruits in very high regard. As such, I pine to travel to the tropical regions where these fruits are cheap, fresh, and plentiful. I’ve been to a few of these places, but my yearning to go to more is unceasing…
I still think fondly of the Cook Islands where I enjoyed the best papaya I ever had, topped with grated coconut and lime juice.
I still remember the glee I felt when I arrived in Fiji at the height of mango season. They were so ripe that they fell from the trees and landed at my feet, begging to be devoured.
I still recall the wonder I felt while roaming the streets of Bangkok and marvelling at the carts of the street vendors showcasing pineapples, artfully cut and ready to take away with little packets of salt and chili.
Several years ago, back when I lived in another city and worked at a different job, I was just beginning to discover many types of international cuisine. There was a while where my coworkers and I would take lunch every Friday “off-site” to go to a nearby Indian restaurant with a buffet. It was an exploratory process for me: samosas, mulligatawny soup, this kind of curry, that kind of curry, basmati rice, and kulfi, to name a few. Not only did I expand my newly-found appreciation of foods outside my normal “comfort zone”, but I expanded my comfort zone to encompass them. It did wonders for my vocabulary, too!
Of particular interest were the several varies of chutneys available. I found that the tamarind chutney and the mango chutney particularly tickled my taste buds. I had never tried tamarind or mango before. Now they are counted among my favourite flavours. I was so excited that I told an Indian friend of mine, “I had chutney for lunch!” She was amused, but told me it was the same thing as saying that, “I had ketchup for lunch.”
Wikipedia defines chutney as “a class of spicy preparations used as an accompaniment for a main dish.” I can see how something like ketchup might fall under that categorization, but your typical chutney is so much more! It’s like an explosion of flavour you can enjoy bite, by bite, by bite!
This recipe comes from 660 Curries which Saveur lent me several months ago and I’ve been studying intently. I’ve already posted a couple of the these recipes on my own blog (which isn’t a proper food blog, per se, but just a place where I post many photos and write about whatever is interesting me at the time).
This recipe did introduce me to a new ingredient; an ingredient that I approached with some trepidation: curry leaves. These leaves are not the kind of leaves that curry powder is made from. Much like Europeans chefs use bay leaves to add flavour to dishes they are making, Indian chefs (especially in the southern regions of India) would add curry leaves to theirs to impart a characteristic flavour to their dishes. Like bay leaves, people generally remove the curry leaves as they eat the meal. Unlike bay leaves, their flavour is subtle and many need to be added to the dish.
I found dried curry leaves at a health food store in Ottawa several weeks ago. I knew that 660 Curries had many recipes that asked for fresh curry leaves. There aren’t any stores near me that sell fresh ones, so I took the opportunity to buy the dried ones. Saveur warned me that recipes usually need far fewer dried leaves than fresh ones and I needed to research the proper ratio to use. Did I need to use half as many dried curry leaves? One third as many?
After some quick online research, I discovered that opposite holds true for curry leaves: the dried ones have less flavour and I need many many more dried ones… perhaps as many as ten times as many! Raghavan Iyer, the author of 660 Curries, even goes so far as to say that the flavour of dried curry leaves is “insipid” and to avoid them completely!
I was somewhat disappointed. Since the ingredient was still new to me, and I wasn’t willing to put 120 dried curry leaves in my chutney (it was unlikely that my tiny bag of them even had that many leaves in it), I simply put in 12 dried curry leaves in the hot oil at the end of cooking the mustard seeds to allow any of their flavour to transfer to the oil. I then removed the leaves myself.
The chutney was simply packed with flavour! The subtle taste of the avocado was the dominant flavour, with the motifs of roasted mustard coming a close second. The tamarind was not overpowering at all. I was careful with the chili flakes so the result was not too spicy.
Sadly, by the second day, the avocado on the surface had become discoloured and turned brown. The chutney still tasted fine, though. I served mine on toasted pieces of pita bread.
Go for it!
Here’s another guest post by me, Rob, enthusiast of the tempeh and the tamarind… and this blog!
One day, not too long ago, Saveur told me about a certain dish she was planning to make. This dish featured one of my favourite ingredients: tamarind! She was making it for this blog. I’m sure that you will see it soon. This dish was right up my alley and I wanted to make it for myself, too. She told me that I could borrow the cookbook so I could transcribe the recipe for myself… as long as she got it back the next day. She needed it!
She was very excited about this cookbook. It was Radiant Health, Inner Wealth by Quintessence C. Challis. It was full of many vegan recipes that were designed to be as healthy and fulfilling as possible. I think she has big plans for this cookbook. I can see why she needed it back.
When I took the book home I began to leaf through it to evaluate its potential. The photograph on the cover was simply entrancing: pineapple, mangos, kiwifruits, shredded coconut, fried cubes of tofu, peanuts… these are some of my favourite things! It’s not just tamarind and tempeh that get me all wobbly in the knees, after all. Was this cookbook designed for me? Did the author know that I would be starting at this cover and be hypnotized?
As my interest was piqued, I continued looking through the book. One dish, the Lemon-Ginger Miso Medicine asks the reader, “How exactly will this soup give you the superpowers?” That’s liberal use of the definite article! The cookbook has the good style! And who wouldn’t want some superpowers?
However, neither the tamarind recipe nor the miso medicine were the recipes that caught my attention that night. It was the Red Lentil, Spinach, and Lemon Soup. The description of this recipe commented that red lentils are “one of those foods that proves life is good!” I agree! That’s one of my mantras: life is good! It’s short and you have to make the most of it.
It was a sign. I had to make this. The various tamarind dishes could get in the queue and wait for later.
Unlike many soups, this one doesn’t have much fat or salt. It was full of healthy lentils. The spinach and garlic are added at the end and cooked only a little bit, helping to preserve any good stuff inside them. I made it, ate the leftovers for days, and just made it again the other day. One good soup deserves another round, right?
Hi, I’m Rob.
Saveur is busy focusing on other stuff this week, so I’ve stepped into help her out. I’m in the privileged position to be the frequent benefactor of some of her cooking exploits, so it’s only fair that I step in to give her a hand.
Don’t be alarmed! It would be inaccurate to say that I haven’t already had some input here in the past. I’ve helped make some of the dishes on here and done the photos for a couple of them, too.
I’ve written a guest post, too. I introduced tempeh to Saveur a few months ago when we made the CAT food sandwiches together prior to a picnic. I had extra tempeh left over and wondered what I could do with it. Saveur suggested the Jamaican Jerk Tempeh Wraps she saw on fresh365. These looked PERFECT! We would make them together. It would be a team effort.
The Jamaican Jerk Tempeh Wraps required some Worcestershire sauce. Neither of us had any, so I dutifully picked some up at the supermarket. It’s a wonderful sauce that I’d like to try with more recipes. It has tamarind in it, which I’ve decided is always the secret in making pad thai taste better. After making this recipe, though, I lent my Worcestershire sauce to Saveur and eagerly await the day when it can come back.
These wraps really are delicious. They’re not too spicy, but are full of many other bold flavours. Citrus, sour, sweet, and warm; they’re all there. The allspice and nutmeg provides the flavours associated with Jamaican jerk cooking. I would be a jerk if I said any terrible things about these wraps.
I do need to give one warning about these wraps, though. They’re better fresh than they are as leftovers. The tempeh will absorb any extra juices like a sponge and make them a bit dry the next day. Why would you have leftovers, though? They’re so tasty that you want to eat them up right away!