Thursday, July 5, 2012

Time Flying + Tofu Taco Salad

The last month-plus has truly been a blur.  Since our move, we've had visitors in town or been traveling for all but just a handful of days, and suddenly I find myself feeling pregnant enough that keeping up with the rest of my crew is a bit of a challenge.  Keeping the little man well-run and largely outdoors takes up most mornings, and I've been totally ready to fall asleep in the afternoons when he does to gear up for some fun and unusually active evenings.  With the fourth of July holiday passed, I'm only just now starting to catch my breath and feel like we actually live here.  Did I mention we found out we are having another BOY?  Crazy!  It has been a big month to say the least...

In addition, we've had lots of things to celebrate... sisters in from out of town, birthdays, engagements... so, meals have been heavy on festive meats, cheeses, and sweets.  June was largely a blur of burgers and ice cream.  Ironically, most of my pregnancy cravings have fallen on the vegetarian end of the spectrum, so on the rare recent nights when we've found ourselves home alone, I've made a big effort to focus our meals around light, vegetable based entrees with a little kick of protein.  This plan, as well as disjointed grocery shopping in new-to-me stores, resulted in this new recipe for Tofu Taco Salad.

Our family-favorite taco salad recipe comes from a tennis pro my parents took lessons from at an Oregon resort in the seventies, and reads exactly like it came from some mustachioed, sun-kissed fellow hitting balls around with tourists for a living: the recipe is heavy on mayo, cheese and nacho-flavored tortilla chips, and it is flipping delicious in a naughty, retro-recipe kind of way.  Over the years, I've worked on lightening it, and my current version replaces turkey for ground beef, halves the cheese, ups the veg, and uses light mayo in the dressing... all in all a pretty good compromise, and one of the husband's favorite and most oft-requested dinners.

In the midst of the last heat wave, we were home one evening in the middle of a burger-bender kind of a week, and I realized that I had almost everything to pull together a quickie taco salad for dinner, except for the ground meat.  I did, however, have a block of extra firm tofu, and two ears of corn + a red pepper that were about to expire.  I asked the husband to grill all of these things, draining the tofu very well first, then squeezing lime juice over it and spicing it liberally.  I prepared the rest of the taco salad per usual.  The result was so incredibly delicious, and even lighter than our beloved Lightened Up Tennis Pro Taco Salad.  This was one of those dinners that was totally filling and energizing without being the least bit heavy... an instant classic.

If you want to try some old-school tennis pro goodness, simply omit the peppers and corn and substitute a pound of ground turkey or beef (sautéed with a taco seasoning packet per package directions for the tofu).  I should add that my mom used to double, triple, or even quadruple this recipe for parties and it was always a huge hit.  It is one of those great all-in-one-bowl meals that a easy to prep ahead of time and a huge crowd pleaser.  Try it for your next gathering! Then put on some Abba and get down.  That's an order.

Tofu Taco Salad
Serves 4
For the salad:
1 block extra firm tofu, well-drained, and sliced into eighths
2 ears of corn, shucked
1 red pepper, halved and seeded
1 head lettuce, shredded (the original recipe calls for iceberg, I used a beautiful head of local red leaf lettuce for this one... take your pick)
1/4 of a red onion, finely chopped
4 green onions, sliced
2 large, ripe tomatoes, cubed
8 ounces of sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (or try a pepper jack if you are feeling saucy)
1 15-ounce can of red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 bag of flavored tortilla chips, crushed (back in the day we'd use Nacho Cheese or Cool Ranch Doritos, but these days I like using anything from the Food Should Taste Good company, especially their lime or multi-grain chips. All the natural chip brands make great flavored options... try a few until you find what you love!)
Juice of 1 lime
salt, pepper, paprika, cayenne pepper

For the dressing:
1 cup of light mayo
1/3 cup green taco sauce or salsa verde
Juice of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar

1) Drain and slice the tofu.  Arrange on a platter and squeeze lime juice evenly over the slices, then sprinkle with salt, pepper, paprika and cayenne.  I used about a teaspoon of salt, pepper and paprika, and a quarter-teaspoon of cayenne, but feel free to spice to your own taste and preference.
2) Prepare the dressing.  I like to add all of the ingredients to a jar and shake vigorously until they are blended, but whisking them in a bowl would also work.
3) Light a grill and grill the tofu, corn and red pepper until done.  All should have grill marks, and the tofu will be firm to the touch.
4) Remove corn kernels from ears, and chop the pepper, removing the most charred pieces of skin with a paring knife (a little char is good, a lot is nasty).
5) Add all of the salad components to a large bowl, top with the dressing and toss.

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