Saturday, 24 March 2012

Snow pea, mango and golden tofu salad with peanut-lime dressing

Spring is definitely on its way. The weather is warming, the rain is diminishing and daffodils are blooming. I am extremely excited to put away my winter coat and toque and to don my spring jacket and shoes that are not required to be completely water resistant. 

Mike and I spent the entire day walking around outside, in the sunshine, along the water, across the bridge, to the island market, through some parks and then back home before the sun could set. I am not exaggerating when I say I feel moderately sun burnt. I think it has been months since I have had more than an hour or two of consecutive sunshine.

Despite how excited I am to have winter come to an end I am just slightly anxious and even a little sad to have to move on from my comfortable routine of winter cooking and to delve into a whole new array of cooking ingredients.

Over the past five months I have really come to love cooking with winter produce like squashes, beets, potatoes and leeks. I know that in no time all sorts of spring vegetables are going to be popping up at the farmers market and then soon after that the plethora of summer options will be available. 

Of course it will be fun to have all sorts of new recipes to try but I have a hard enough time deciding what to make when the options are limited. I cannot imagine how I am going to cook all of the things I want when the options are endless. It will be a challenge but I am sure I will manage.

The first sign of spring for me was the appearance of packaged bundles of fresh sugar snap peas and snow peas at Whole Foods. I could not resist buying into the first appearance of something new in months so I grabbed a small bag of snow peas. I had the idea to make a peanut dressing-based salad for my seventh salad and thought that these peas would fit right in.

You may have noticed that I only posted six salads (when I proposed to do seven in a row) and then disappeared for a week. I do not really know what happened. I have been cooking but have lost time to take pictures and to write. I made this salad version of my peanutty noodle bowl during the week and enjoyed it so much that I made it two days in a row. 

Using a lot of lime juice in the peanut sauce made it tangy and more like a dressing then a thick peanut sauce. Noodles and also crispy tofu made this salad filling. I found that the tofu was best served warm so prepare it last or keep it warm in the pan until ready to serve. I used instant noodles here because they are Mike's favorite but I am sure soba noodles or rice noodles would also work.

Snow pea, mango and golden tofu salad with peanut-lime dressing
Spring seasonal: snow peas

4 tbsp peanut butter
juice from 1 or 2 limes (depending on how juicy)
1 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp honey (agave or maple syrup for vegans)
1 tbsp neutral oil
Spring mix lettuce
1 cup snap peas (ends trimmed)
1 mango
1 red pepper
1 avocado
1 block tofu (drained about 30 minutes)
sesame seeds
Chopped cilantro 

1 - Start by making the dressing. Mix the first 5 ingredients in a food processor until smooth. If necessary thin out with water or extra lime juice.
2 - Slice up all of the salad ingredients (mango, avocado and red pepper) into matchstick sized slices. Chop snow peas in half.
3 - In a cast-iron pan, heat 2 tbsp grape seed oil to medium heat.
4 - Cut drained tofu into long thin slices and lay side-by-side in pan. Season tofu with sea salt and cook until golden on one side.
5 - Flip tofu after about 5 minutes and season again with salt. After another 5 minutes, sprinkle in sesame seeds. Toss tofu around a couple of time while cooking until somewhat evenly cooked; until golden brown on all sides.
6 - Meanwhile cook noodles in boiling water until tender and rinse with cold water.
7 - Assemble salad by first laying lettuce on a plate and drizzle with dressing. Top with noodles and all of the chopped vegetables. Drizzle with more dressing then finish by topping with warm tofu slices.

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