Archive | May 2014

Spinach Salad with Tangerine Vinaigrette

Tangerine Vinaigrette

Hello summer! Okay, so technically it’s not summer yet, but Ottawa has been on fire these last few days and even those of us who don’t like the summer, can’t help but get excited with a change in scenery. My farmers’ market is open and though not in full bloom yet, the early local produce is promising and builds much anticipation.

To celebrate, I made this salad. The inspiration comes from a prepared salad that my husband and I enjoy from my local grocery store. I have switched up some of the key ingredients to suit my tastes and have paired it with a tangerine vinaigrette instead of their lemony one.

I love everything about this salad. Baby spinach is definitely the star and it gets a little help from the red cabbage, red onion, and carrot. For substance, you’ll find toasted pecans, black sesame seeds and sesame sticks. If you’ve never had sesame sticks in a salad, you must absolutely experiment. They act like croutons providing a nice crunch, but with a depth of flavour that far surpasses any bread crouton. Then, for the crowning glory, there’s the wedges of tangerines. Ensure that you include enough tangerines to suffice for every bite; the tangerines really do make the salad. Tangerines and spinach were made for each other with the tangerines providing juiciness, sweetness and citrus. The vinaigrette, which includes my secret ingredient, sesame paste, is both creamy and light and it tickles my tongue.  It’s such a beautiful salad. I pair it with pre-marinated tofu skewers for a light, but substantial dinner.

I have provided some rough estimates, in terms of ingredients intentionally. Play with the dimensions and build something that works for you. In general, my rule is, it’s a spinach salad, so spinach should be the most abundant ingredient. I include about half as much of shredded red cabbage and a quarter as much of carrot. I go minimal with the red onion, but add just enough for taste. Then the fun part begins. I play with decorating the salad with the remaining ingredients: black sesame seeds, tangerine wedges, pecans, and sesame sticks.

It’s a play of textures, tastes, consistencies and colour, so you are in a for a treat. I like this salad so much that when I make it, I double the vinaigrette and freeze it in batches for future use. Yes, you can freeze vinaigrettes; this one happens to freeze very well. I always have spinach in the house, so this is my back-up salad for the week. I can’t think of a more exciting salad that I make. Here’s to the long awaited summer season.

Serves 2 (with vinaigrette leftover)


 Spinach, baby  140 g
 Cabbage, red, shredded  1:2 (cabbage:spinach)
 Carrot, shredded  1:2 (carrot:cabbage) Approximately half a carrot
 Onion, red, thinly sliced
 Pecans, whole, toasted  1/4 cup
 Seeds, sesame, black
 Sesame sticks  1/4 cup
 Tangerines, peeled, skins removed from wedges  1-2
 Juice, tangerine  3 tbsp (1-2 tangerines)
 Juice, lemon  2 tbsp
 Olive oil  6 tbsp
 Salt  1/4 tsp
 Black pepper  1/4 tsp
 Garlic, clove, minced  1
 Mustard, Dijon  2 tsp
 Sesame Paste  1/2 tbsp

1. For the vinaigrette, combine all the ingredients in a small jar/bowl and mix well.

2. To toast the pecans, heat a small pan over medium heat. Add pecans and toss gently every couple of minutes until toasted. Note, you should not be walking away from the stove. Nuts brown quickly and can burn easily.

3. In a medium bowl, combine the spinach, shredded cabbage, carrot, and sliced red onion.

4. Add dressing and mix well. Check seasoning. You may need to add salt.

5. Divide salad onto two plates. Garnish with toasted pecans, tangerine wedges, sesame sticks, and black sesame seeds.

Mustard Tofu Sandwich

Mustard Tofu

I’m on a mission to develop fast and delicious marinades for tofu, in time for the barbecue season. Now, the weather is still relatively cold for this time of year (as evidenced by the mitts I still carry in my work backpack), but I remain hopeful.

The first of the series was my BBQ tofu wrap. Grilled or baked mustard tofu is the second. It consists of three simple ingredients: dijon mustard, tamari, and canola oil. If you want to get fancy, you may add some garlic and a shallot, but they are only embellishments, not requirements.

I marinade overnight, but all you need is a minimum of an hour. The longer you marinade, the more seasoned the tofu will be, which works really well with the blander, grilled zucchini slices.

Instead of a dressing, I spread a couple cloves of roasted garlic on the bottom slice of thick, whole grain bread. The flavour abounds and it adds no additional fat to the dish. I normally place the garlic on the same baking dish as the tofu, but give it a half hour head start.

On top of that goes the golden tofu that doesn’t taste like mustard at all, just savoury good. Then the sweet zucchini follows topped by a generous handful of fresh sprouts. It’s a lovely combination of distinct, bold flavours that just work together.

This is my go-to marinade for when I don’t have a lot of time, but don’t want to compromise on taste. I cook extra because mustard tofu cubes compliment most of my salads for an easy add-on protein.

Here’s to the much anticipated BBQ season.

Serves 4


Mustard, Dijon 1/2 cup
Tamari 1/3 cup
Canola oil 1 tbsp + more for drizzling
Shallot, chopped (optional) 1
Garlic, clove, minced, large (optional) 1
Tofu, firm (sliced width-wise into 12 equal square pieces) 450 g (1 lb)
Bread, whole grain, sliced  8 slices
Garlic, bulb, roasted 1
Zucchini, sliced, roasted 3
Olive oil
Black pepper

1. Drain and slice tofu width-wise into 12 equal slices, about a quarter of an inch wide.

2. To prepare the marinade, combine well all the marinade ingredients in a rectangular dish. Place sliced tofu in baking dish (avoiding, if possible, stacking the tofu). Once tofu slices are coated on one side, flip so that they are coated on the other side. Cover dish with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator for at least an hour and up to overnight.

2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Wrap garlic bulb in some foil paper. Place on a baking tray and roast in the oven for approximately 45-60 minutes until garlic is caramelized and soft.

3. Slice zucchini diagonally about half an inch thick and toss in a little bit of olive oil, salt and black pepper.

4. Heat grill, grill zucchini turning once when zucchini slices have grill marks on one side. Zucchini slices take approximate 3-4 minutes on each side to cook.

5. Scrape marinade off tofu slices, drizzle tofu slices with a little canola oil on both sides and place on the grill. Grill for a couple of minutes on each side.

Alternatively, line a baking dish with parchment paper and drizzle with canola oil. Place tofu on baking dish. Drizzle with more canola oil. Place in a preheated 375 degree oven and bake for 30 minutes turning once halfway through.

6. To assemble the sandwich, spread 2 cloves of roasted garlic on bottom slice of bread. Top with 4 grilled zucchini slices. Follow with 3 grilled tofu slices. Finish with a generous amount of sprouts. Top with second slice of bread.