Photo: Kimberley Hasselbrink
This is a perfect catch-all for your summertime produce surplus. Use it as a template: make the tofu and the dressing, and add or subtract any type of sweet and crunchy vegetables you prefer. I happen to adore okra in all of its forms, but I realize that it's a polarizing vegetable. Try jicama or a sweet red pepper instead. And take advantage of summer's beautiful, bright salad greens: try Little Gem, a sturdy romaine, or baby oak leaf lettuce. Don't be shy with the herbs, either -- this is a great place to feature gorgeous purple basil, heirloom mint varieties, or a smattering of flowering herb tops, such as those from basil, cilantro or mint, for a garnish. Look for Thai Kitchen brand for the roasted red chili paste.
- 1 (16-ounce) package extra-firm tofu, drained
- 1/4 cup low-sodium tamari
- 2 tablespoons brown rice vinegar
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus additional oil for broiling
- 2 tablespoons roasted red chili paste
- 2 teaspoons natural cane sugar
- 2 heaping cups small okra, sliced into 1/2-inch rounds
- 2 cups sliced green or purple snap beans
- 2 cups halved cherry tomatoes
- 2 cups cubed cucumber
- 1/4 cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves, plus more for garnish
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves, plus more for garnish
- 2 small heads Little Gem or butter lettuce, rinsed and torn
- Cilantro leaves and blossoms, for garnish
- 1 small Thai red chile, seeded and thinly sliced, for garnish
- Juice of 2 limes, plus zest of 1 lime
- 3 tablespoons fish sauce
- 3 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
To prepare the tofu, place the tofu on a plate and weight it with another heavy plate on top. Set aside to press for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, to make the marinade, in a medium bowl, whisk together the tamari, brown rice vinegar, olive oil, red chili paste, and sugar until smooth. When the tofu is ready, dry it with a paper towel and cut into 1-inch cubes. Add to the bowl with the marinade and toss gently to coat. Cover, chill, and allow to marinate for at least 1 hour, or overnight.
Preheat the broiler. Arrange the tofu in a single layer on a lightly oiled, small baking sheet, discarding the marinade. Broil about 6 inches from the flame for 15 to 18 minutes, turning every 3 minutes or so, until deeply browned. Set aside.
While the tofu broils, make the dressing. Whisk together the lime juice and zest, fish sauce, brown sugar, and red pepper flakes until the brown sugar has dissolved.
To prepare the salad, combine the okra, beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, mint leaves, and basil. Toss with about two-thirds of the dressing, serving the remaining dressing on the side or reserving for another use. (Use it with any simple salad for bright flavor.) Serve atop a bed of lettuce, topped with the tofu and garnished with fresh cilantro leaves and flowers and sliced Thai red chile.