In Which There is Tofu

Now this – this is a successful recipe. A successful recipe that was approached with some trepidation, as it required a whole three components – sauce, salad, and crispy tofu – and was intended to be a midweek meal. It was also a use-what-we’ve-got recipe, leading to a few substitutions here and there that gave me greater fear for the outcome. But the outcome was good, so here we go…

First off, we made the salad, a day in advance. We chopped up beets and butternut squash (the Boy noting that a small drop of beet juice looks like a small drop of blood. Thank you, boy.)…

Such lovely vegetable colors.

Put the quinoa in our beloved rice cooker and the veggies in the oven…

Jewels.

And then stored the whole thing in the fridge. Credit to the Boy for like 90% of the salad. Maybe 95%. We then made the sauce, a delicious sweet-salty Asian-style concoction:

Sauce bubbling away!

That went into the fridge, too. Which may have been a mistake, as it became rather glutinous when chilled and didn’t really liquify out when reheated. Still, it meant that all we had to do day-of was bread and fry the tofu, toss it (with some struggling) in the sauce, and plop the whole yummy mess on top of the quinoa salad. Good deal for two working kids (ok, ok, or “young adults.” Or “adults.” Or adults. Geez.).

The finished mess – it had great color.

Crispy Glazed Tofu with a Warm Quinoa, Beet, & Sweet Potato Salad
Adapted from crepesofwrath.net.

Although it took two batches of tofu to perfect my technique, the dish as a whole was a great mix of crispy and creamy and nubby, and full of beautiful color and flavor. Our substitute of butternut squash for the sweet potato worked well, though it cooked a little slower than the beets, which took a bit of finessing. The sauce was the standout, if a bit glutinous from sitting (I would make it to order in the future), and there was enough extra salad for a side dish or light lunch the next day. It seems a little time-intensive, but it’s really not that hard.

Total Prep and Cooking Time: 1 hour

Yield: 4 servings

For the Quinoa
1 package quinoa, cooked per package instructions
3 candy beets, cleaned, peeled, and diced into small cubes
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and diced into small cubes
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon honey
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

For the Tofu
1 block of tofu, cut into bite-size pieces (about 1 inch cubes)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup panko crumbs
1 teaspoon Chinese 5-Spice
1 egg (or equivalent egg replacement)
1 tablespoon water
vegetable or canola oil, for frying

For the Sauce
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 large shallot, minced well
3 cloves garlic, minced well
1 2-inch piece of ginger, minced well
3 tablespoons honey or agave nectar
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 teaspoons Sriracha or hot chili paste/sauce
1/4 teaspoon sesame oil
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
1/4 cup water mixed with 1 tablespoon cornstarch
toasted sesame seeds, for garnish
scallions, for garnish

1. First, get your quinoa going. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Clean, peel, and dice your beets and sweet potatoes. Place them on a lined and/or greased baking sheet, then drizzle with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 tablespoon of honey, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and toss together. Place in the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes, tossing halfway through. When they are fork tender, remove from the oven and set aside. Cook your quinoa according to its packaging’s directions, then toss together with the cooked beets and sweet potatoes. Add a bit more olive oil, salt, or pepper to taste, and set aside until ready to serve (you can cover with foil to keep warm, or heat back up before serving, whichever you prefer).

2. Now it’s time to cook your tofu. Make sure that your tofu is completely dry by pressing it between some paper towels to soak up any water. Dice into bite sized pieces, about 1-inch cubes. Mix together you egg and 1 tablespoon of water in one shallow dish and mix together your flour and panko crumbs in another. Dip the tofu pieces in the egg mixture, then in the panko mixture. Heat 1/2 inch of oil in a large pot or pan over medium-high heat, and when the oil is hot, add in the tofu pieces in batches, frying on each side for about 2 minutes, until crispy. Move the tofu to a cooling rack lined with paper towels to drain, and continue frying until all of your tofu is done.

3. Make the sauce by first heating your 2 teaspoons of olive oil in a pot, then adding in the minced shallot. Cook for 5 minutes or so, until translucent, then add in the garlic and ginger, and stir until fragrant. Add in the honey, soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, Sriracha, sesame oil, and red pepper flakes. Cook over medium-high heat until bubbling, stirring frequently, then mix together the cornstarch and water and add to the sauce. Reduce the heat to medium, and stir until thickened. Keep the sauce on low, stirring every so often, until ready to use.

4. When your tofu is cooked and your sauce is ready, place the crispy tofu in a large bowl and pour half the sauce over it. Gently toss, and add more sauce if desired. Serve over the warm quinoa and garnish with scallions and sesame seeds.

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