Cold soups are not appealing to everyone. I totally get it. I was one of them! But I soon realized it was because I had never enjoyed one that worked for me. On my recent visit to Kaua’i, I devoured a mind shifting gazpacho. It was tomato based but not at all like the watered down salsa I was used to in cold soups. It had hints of sweet (from pineapple), fresh herbs, smooth binding textures of avocado, and the right consistency of tomatoes. I was inspired to create my own gazpacho shortly upon returning.
My gazpacho is pretty simple. Here on the East coast, we’re not quite in tomato season yet, so I cheated a bit by using chopped Pomo tomatoes (with fresh tomatoes mixed in). Instead of red or yellow onion, I used scallions which are a bit more mild and pair great with tomatoes. I added avocados and mangos to impart some creaminess. Cucumbers are in there to reign in even more freshness. Also, a purée of yuzu, honey, sesame seeds, and water meant to balance out the acidity of the tomatoes. Then I went out on a limb and added some extra firm tofu (finely cubed) to give it a Japanese fusion twist.
The end result was a gazpacho that far exceeded my expectations!
When you order mapo tofu at Sichuan restaurants, you’ll get a dish largely composed of ground meat or chicken basking in an oyster sauce-based broth. A mighty tasty and comforting dish but not friendly for non-meat eaters and those who are trying to avoid un-natural ingredients (read: the ingredients on a bottle of oyster sauce).
The other night, my husband requested an “Asian dish.” I could have gone a number of directions but my mind raced to something comforting and not super complex. I somehow landed on mapo tofu .
The biggest challenge is recreating the broth. The other ingredients – tofu (easy) + mushrooms (easy and takes the place of meat/chicken) – are a breeze. It’s that sauce… I basically thought about what the sauce means to me, and I came up with tangy, spicy, mostly savory with hints of sweet lingering in the background. Oh, and the oyster extract. Hm.
Then it hit me. Bonito flakes! By adding just a little bit of bonito flakes, I can essentially recreate that subtle “oyster-y” sensation. Success.
The result is a much lighter, healthier, silkier mapo tofu but still true to the original concept and über comforting.
Organic Soft Tofu (12 oz)
Japanese Mushrooms (Large Handful)
Ginger (1-inch knob)
Garlic Clove (1)
Sweet Green Peas (1/2 cup)
Soy Sauce (2 tbsp)
Sake (1/4 cup)
Organic Ketchup (2 tbsp)
Miso Paste (2 tbsp)
Bonito Flakes (2 tbsp)
Togarashi (1 tsp)
Drizzle the sesame oil into a wok.
Peel and grate the ginger. Add to the sesame oil. Turn the heat on a low simmer.
Chop up the scallions, thinly slice up the garlic and add to the oil as well.
In a small bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, sake, ketchup, miso paste, bonito flakes, and togarashi until well combined.
Rinse the Japanese mushrooms and set aside.
Cube up the tofu and set aside.
Raise the heat on your wok to medium-high. Add half of the whisked sauce.
Add the mushrooms and toss with the wok ingredients.
Add the tofu to the wok and continue toss. Use a slotted spoon to gently break up the tofu.
Add the sweet green peas, pour in the rest of the sauce and continue stirring. Season with white pepper. Serve alone or with a side of brown rice.
Hijiki and tofu go hand in hand like… peanut butter and jelly! Okay, that’s going out on a limb a bit, but they sure do complement each other well. The best part about this dish is that it requires very little stove top cooking; perfect for summer. Hijiki “cook” (i.e. softens) in plain water and the sprouted extra firm tofu is delicious eaten raw. Keeping the carrots raw also adds to the bounty of nutrients and minerals dancing in this dish.
I made a side of miso-glazed sweet potato because this was our main dish vs. appetizer. This is totally optional but definitely brought in added flavors.
Hijiki (1/2 cup)
Extra Firm Sprouted Tofu (12 oz)
Scallions – Green Part (2)
Sesame Oil (1 tbsp)
Brown Rice Vinegar (2 tsp)
Soy Sauce (1 tbsp)
Honey (1 tsp)
Prep the hijiki in advance by soaking it in water for at least 15 minutes. Once done, drain, rinse well, and squeeze out excess water. Place the hijiki in a large bowl.
Wrap the tofu in paper towels and place on a plate. Microwave for one minute.
Finely cube up the tofu and add to the hijiki.
Peel the carrots, cut in quarters horizontally, and slice thinly into matchsticks. Add to the hijiki and tofu.