Tofu Banh Mi Salad


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Heya,

I wanted to try something new this month. Hopefully you’ll like what I would have written, but instead filmed.

I’m going to try to film every week, so if you liked it, please subscribe to my YouTube channel! Or not, that’s cool.

Love you guys. You’re what keeps me writing everyday. And um, posting nearly every month. 🙂

P.S. If my voice is way deeper than you thought it was, glad to have freaked you out. xx

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Quinoa Salad with Lemon Pepper Tahini Dressing

With tomatoes, red onion, cucumbers, yellow peppers and cilantro.

I looked up from my laptop. “Sometimes I really hate Facebook.”

“Why?”

“Couples.”

“Expressing their undying love for one another?”

“I wish that was it,” I said, spinning my laptop around and pointing at my Newsfeed. “Another couple, going at it with passive-aggressive status updates.”

Roo glanced at the screen. “They know people can see this, right?”

“Maybe that’s it? Maybe they’re looking for some kind of justification from friends? Although…” I paused, turning the laptop back around, “I don’t think anyone in their right mind would comment on this.”

“It could be worse.”

“How?”

“Your mom could have finally decided to join Facebook.”

I sighed. “For once I’m thankful my mother is self-proclaimed luddite.”  I said, closing my laptop. “I just don’t understand why couples use Facebook to communicate. Whatever happened to talking?”

Roo shrugged his shoulders and picked up his iPad.  “What’s for lunch?”

“None of your business,” I joked, as I uncrossed my legs and stretched my arms over my head.  I stood up and walked towards the kitchen, mentally going through what we had in the fridge and the cupboard.

I crouched in front of the crisper drawer, pulling out peppers and cilantro when I heard my iPhone vibrate on the kitchen table. “Who’s calling me on a Sunday?” I wondered out loud, picking it up to see Facebook: Roo mentioned you in a comment just before the screen turned off.  “You wrote on my Facebook wall?” I asked, and unlocked my phone to look at my profile page.

You know what I hate? Not knowing what’s for lunch. – with Lys.  Roo wrote.

I laughed and typed back, It’s quinoa salad. Asshole.

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Southwestern Salad with Lime, Cumin and Oregano Dressing

With cherry tomatoes, sweet corn, peppers, cucumbers, black beans, red onion, avocado and tortilla chips


For the past two years, Roo and I would go to a bar near his uncle’s townhouse before climbing Beacon Hill to watch the fireworks.

The first year I may have had too many drinks on an empty stomach; stumbling on seemingly flat cobblestone paths and wondering why the townhouse’s doors were so hard to open.

The second year I learned my lesson and didn’t pass on the appetizers Roo ordered. (While I may have found Jack Williams commentating on the 4th amusing1, most of the guests did not.)

This year the party was canceled, which left Roo and I to debate if we’d go downtown by ourselves or stay home.

“The Fourth is my favorite holiday.”

“Really? Because all this time, I had no idea.”

“Oh stop,” I said, crossing my arms, “you knew.”

“I know. But that doesn’t mean we should go down to the Esplanade at 6 a.m. to fight for a spot, only to suffer from heat stroke by noon.”

“I heard it’s supposed to rain on Wednesday.”

“Even better!”

“Well, what do you want to do, Mr. My-Favorite-Holiday-Is-Christmas-So-I-Shouldn’t-Even-Have-A-Say.”

“One, Christmas is awesome. There are presents, a tree that makes your house smell great, and Irish Coffees to drink in front of the fireplace. And two, we could make our own sangria.”

“I don’t know how a smelly tree can beat fireworks, but you had me at sangria.”

1 Because he acted like he wasn’t wearing pants behind the anchor desk, of course.

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Udon Noodle Salad With Spicy, Peanut Lime Dressing

There are some things you learn about your partner, only when traveling together. For instance, what each other likes to pack for a weekend away.

“Why are there bicycle shorts in here?”

“Why are you snooping in my luggage?” I asked.

“I needed toothpaste.”

“Here,” I said, as I pulled out a tube.

Roo took the toothpaste from my hand, “I still don’t understand why you need bicycle shorts for a wedding.”

“Ok!” I said, turning my back to Roo and shoving the shorts further down the bag, “Ok, you got me….I wear them under my dress.”

“Why?”

“Because Roo, some girls’ thighs rub together and god forbid it’s 100 out and you have sweaty thighs rubbing together. It’s the worst.”

“Oh. Isn’t it supposed to be 97 this weekend?”

I know.

Sometimes you discover that your partner cannot be trusted to drink any fluids while traveling. At all.

“I need to pee.”

“We just stopped ten minutes ago. There is no way you have to go right now.”

“It was the iced coffee.”

“That you drank two hours ago?”

“Yes.”

“Lys, we can’t stop. We have five more hours of driving. If we keep stopping every ten minutes we’ll never get there.”

I crossed my legs, “I read there’s a service area in ten miles.”

“We are not stopping.”

“This is ridiculous!” I said, uncrossing and recrossing my legs again.

“Are you really saying that by not stopping at a rest area, because we just stopped at one ten minutes ago, is ridiculous?”

“I really need to pee.”

And sometimes, you learn that your partner does not have the same opinion as for what counts as snacks for a road trip.

“So what did you bring for food?”

“I packed a super yummy udon noodle salad.”

“Wait, what?”

“Don’t worry. I packed real forks.”

“How am I supposed to eat that? While driving.

“I see you drive with one hand all the time!” I replied, taking the tupperware container out of the cooler.

“It’s a noodle salad. A salad you once described as super slurpy.”

“That’s what makes it so good!”

“Lys, how am I supposed to eat a super slurpy noodle salad while driving?”

I stopped shaking the ziploc bag filled with dressing and looked at Roo, “More for me I guess.”

“Why do I feel like this was your plan all along?”

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Buckwheat (Soba) Noodle Salad with Chili Lime Dressing

“Did you ever have rules when you were first dating someone?”

“No. No, I don’t think so.”

“Really? Because I feel like all girls have rules. Especially when we’re younger, in our 20s.”

“Like what?”

I paused, wondering if I should tell Roo all the ridiculous ‘rules’ my friends and I had while in undergrad. “Well…” I decided to start off slow, “Never display any sort of bodily function in front of them, like burp or fart.”

“Right, because girls don’t poop.”

“Yes.  And we also don’t cry while looking in the mirror.”

Roo nodded as he scooped up a piece of broccoli with his fork.

“Also, don’t laugh so hard that you snort or God forbid fart.”

“Didn’t you once -”

“No.”

“When we were walking back from Thai Red Pepper -”

I grabbed a napkin to blot my mouth, “No. That never happened.”

Roo stifled a laugh, “Ok, what else?”

“Don’t sleep with someone before the third date,” I replied, half focused on getting a few sunflower seeds onto the tines of my fork, “And if you do sleep with that person -”

“After the third date of course.”

I smiled, “Yes.  If you sleep with that person you must wake up before they do so you can freshen up.”

“Like get rid of swamp mouth?”

“And that oily mess you call your face, yes.”

“Well, what about dinner? You went from talking to that person to sleeping with them. Makes me think you were a bit -”

“Hey! Hey now. Alright, dinner. Well, never order noodles because no one wants to see you slurp and sputter sauce everywhere.”

Roo raised an eyebrow.

“I know, I know. They were ridiculous.”

“No, it’s not that.”

“What?”

“That last bite you took of soba. I think you got some dressing on your shirt.”

I glanced down to see a giant stain on my right breast.  It looked like I was lactating.  “Great. See? This is why we have rules.”

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Massaged Kale Salad with Mango, Avocado, Cranberries and Toasted Cashews

“I think you’re worried that I’m going to fall of the wagon while you’re in Japan.”

I looked up from my salad, mid-chew, mouth too full to reply.  Roo timed this intervention just right.

“You just seem stressed about leaving next week.”  Roo continued.

Swallowing the last bit of kale, “Well, I’m not worried.”

“You’re not.”

“No, you were never really on the wagon full-time anyway.”

“What are you talking about?  I’m eating this delicious kale salad; a sentence I never thought would ever leave my mouth.  I mean, I’m eating kale. And liking it.”

I put down my fork, “Burger King receipt.”

“What?”

“A Burger King receipt. You left it on the center console.”

“Oh that…that was just snack I got on the way to my mother’s house.”

“A Whopper is a snack?”

“Correction, it was a Whopper Jr.

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Escarole Salad with Grapefruit and Pistachios

Three years ago I dated a pilot, a doctor doctor, a musician and a researcher.

Maybe at the same time.

Two and a half years ago, I met a bartender.  He told me about his novel.

I didn’t stand a chance.

Two years ago, I suggested that the bartender and I break up, because I realized I loved him.

Alcohol may have been involved.

One and a half years ago I moved in with the bartender, who then became a school teacher.

Almost a year ago, we celebrated our first Valentine’s Day; complete with homemade cards stating how much we hated it.

Half a year ago I revealed to the school teacher my biggest guilty pleasure, the reality (and makeover!) show, The Biggest Loser.

Now he watches it with me every Tuesday.

Don’t tell him I said that.

And this week,

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Wheatberry, Corn, Red Onion, Tomato and Arugula Salad

If you’re like me, this may be one of the first times you’ve heard of wheatberries.

It’s ok.  It’s not your fault.

If I repeat that ten more times will we have a moment?

I just don’t want to be Robin Williams.  The body hair alone will give me a complex.

Body hair aside (gross), I’ve never heard of wheatberries until I started perusing creeping the aisles of Whole Foods.

It’s becoming an odd hobby of mine, looking at items in a store that I can afford little in.  And when I got to the “whole grains,” section I learned that I also didn’t know about the majority of what they had in stock.

Spelt. (That just sounds wrong.)

Kamut. (What?)

Millet. (Isn’t that for birds?)

Teff. (No seriously, this one sounds the worst of them all)

You get the point.

I honestly have never seen some of the items, nor knew how to use them in dishes.  I’ve dabbled with quinoa, and I love white whole wheat flour, but actual, “ancient grains?” Clueless.

So I got brave. I grabbed the most innocent sounding of them all: wheatberries.

What, that doesn’t sound innocent to you?

Perv.

I kid, I kid.

What I was actually going to do with the wheatberries, kind of threw me for a loop.

I thought about it on the drive home.  Nothing.

I thought about it while I brushed our cats. Again, nothing. And, I got clawed.

I thought about it while prepping for an experiment, and realized, I shouldn’t be doing that.

So last night, I decided I should just go for it.

I made a salad.  (How anti-climactic.)

The wheatberries soaked up the lovely lime and balsamic dressing, and added an interesting, but welcomed chewy texture.  Raw, fresh picked corn, sweet red onion and juicy, almost bursting with ripeness, tomatoes are some of my favorite components of a “summer salad.”  And with it still being summer (although lately it hasn’t felt like it), I figured why not celebrate these flavors before winter comes with its sad sad warehouse veg that makes me wonder why supermarkets even supply produce that tastes like that.  Paired with a peppery bite from arugula, this dish made me incredibly happy to welcome Roo back from 8th Grade Parent/Teacher night with something refreshing and somewhat hearty.

Serves Two Generously

Adapted from Oh She Glows

Ingredients

For the salad

Half cup wheatberries, cooked according to package’s instructions

One ear of raw fresh sweet corn, with the kernels cut off (you can use grilled, or boiled corn, if the corn in your area isn’t very sweet)

One large beefsteak tomato, cut in half, then into quarter slices (or whatever fresh tomatoes you have on hand)

Half a large red onion, sliced thinly

Two to three big handfuls of arugula, washed and dried well

For the Dressing

Juice from 2 limes

2 tablespoons of good balsamic vinegar

1 teaspoon dijon mustard

1 teaspoon agave (or maple syrup)

1 large garlic clove, minced

3 tablespoons good olive oil (I used extra virgin)

Salt and pepper to taste

Equipment

A salad spinner (if you have it)

A sharp knife

A small mixing bowl (to whisk your dressing)

A whisk (or a fork will do)

Two plates (to plate your salad with)

Cook your wheatberries according to directions on the package.

While they’re cooking, take your washed and dried arugula and create the first layer of your salad on the two plates.  Scatter the tomatoes, slices of red onion and kernels of corn about on top.

When the wheatberries have finished cooking, drain them, and allow them to cool.

While they cool, add all the ingredients of the dressing in a small mixing bowl.  Whisk them together until combined.

By now your wheatberries have hopefully cooled.  Add a quarter to one third of a cup of wheatberries on top of the arugula, per person.

Dress the salad and serve.

Cherry Tomato Quinoa Salad

This past weekend Roo and I spent the day at Peggotty Beach in Scituate to celebrate a friend’s birthday.  Leading up to that point had been a bit worrisome as the birthday girl wanted to spend it at a roof deck pool.  I didn’t have the heart to tell her that we were not cast members of The Hills and didn’t have access to such amenities.  Suggestions were thrown about via email for a few days, as well as a trend of useless facts (“40,000 Americans are injured by toilets each year,”), but thankfully we found a desirable destination due to Roo.

Roo and I drove down to Scituate together, parking the car at his mother’s house.  J was the first to arrive, and we were able to catch up a bit before the birthday girl – driving the rest of the group – showed up.  And she did not disappoint.  She was actually still in party planning overdrive; spending the day before at KMart and The Christmas Tree Shop, buying practically everything one could think of to bring to the beach.  There were beach chairs, towels, coolers filled with drinks, snacks (including a vegetable and a fruit platter) and even an easy-up tent.  Hours before we were to leave for Scituate, she called me with concern, wondering if I had a boom box to keep everyone entertained as we lay there in the sun.  It kind of made me love her more.

Sunbathing, rummaging through the coolers and not talking about work was how we spent our day.

No boom box necessary.

Only when the sun started to go down and the shore nearly cleared out, that we began to pack everything up.

(photo taken by B)

Today I couldn’t help but think of the salty air, pebbly sand beneath my feet, and the hiss and pops of bottles being opened from wonderfully overflowing coolers.  Our third floor apartment is once again hot – and air stubbornly stagnant – despite three fans blowing full blast in the kitchen.

I made another salad.

Like all salads I make, it may not be the prettiest, but it had what I was craving for the day.  A salty bite from feta, juicy, just picked tomatoes, and crunch, with a bit of sweet, from toasted almonds, only to be balanced by a lemony herbaceous oregano vinaigrette.

If you’re run down from this heat – that seems more and more inappropriate, like creepy Uncle Stan when he puts his hand on your knee – then take the day off from the kitchen.  Salads are the new spa day.  Maybe.

Ok, not really, but they’re delicious.

Adapted from Simply Recipes

Serves two generously

Ingredients

One cup cooked quinoa, cooled to room temperature

Quarter to half a head of lettuce (how hungry are you?), washed and dried well, torn or cut into easily edible pieces

A pint of cherry tomatoes, or three beefsteak (or whatever you have on hand that’s ripe) tomatoes, cut into easily edible pieces

1 cucumber (about the length of your hand, from the tip of your middle finger to the wrist), peeled and chopped

3 scallions, thinly sliced (not terribly necessary, just trying to use up my CSA)

One handful of slivered almonds, toasted and cooled to room temperature

Juice from one lemon

Quarter cup of olive oil

1 teaspoon of dijon mustard

1 tablespoon of dried oregano

Sea salt to taste

Cracked pepper to taste

Equipment

A very sharp knife

A small pan

A salad spinner, if on hand (but it’ll make your life so much easier for only $30!)

A rice cooker or a medium sized pot (can hold up to four cups)

A small bowl that can hold up to a cup of liquid

A whisk

I find that cooking a half cup of quinoa yields about two cups of quinoa.  In a pot add half a cup of quinoa and one cup of water to a boil.  Reduce the heat so that the contents simmer for around 20 minutes or until the quinoa opens up.  The quinoa will reveal a little curly cue tail (like a spiral) and it will be soft to chew (softer than cooked barley).  Drain any remaining liquid and set aside to cool to room temperature.  If you have a rice cooker, throw the quinoa in, adding the water to the “white rice” 0.5 cup level, and press quick cook.  If you and your dinner guest are absolutely famished, you may want to eat a cup of quinoa each over your salad.  I typically serve half a cup of quinoa per person.  With the leftovers you can always make quinoa patties.

While the quinoa is cooking, prep the veg.  Make sure that your lettuce is absolutely dry so the vinaigrette will adhere to it to make a properly dressed salad.

In a small bowl, juice one lemon.  Slowly drizzle in the olive oil into the bowl as you whisk.  You should use about a quarter cup for the two to come together, but not all lemons yield the same amount of juice, so keep adding until the mixture is emulsified.  Add the oregano, whisk together and add salt to taste.  Set aside.

Put a handful of slivered almonds into a small pan over medium heat.  Toast the almonds, shaking the nuts in the pan about twice a minute until lightly browned.  Keep an eye on it as it can burn quite quickly from the toasted stage.  Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.

To plate up your salad, put down the lettuce as your base.  Then add the diced cucumbers, quartered tomatoes, cooled quinoa, and top with the toasted almonds.  Sprinkle a bit of feta on top.  Serve with cracked pepper.

Marinated Chickpea and Red Onion Salad

The heat has been pretty unbearable this week. Our cats have been found in the tub, sprawled out against the white tile, trying to tell us that the air conditioning in our uninsulated apartment is insufficient. The fact that Roo and I can’t even sit on the same couch together without sweating, with the a/c on 60 degrees and the fan blowing full speed is kind of ridiculous.  Then again, living on the third floor of a triple decker that hasn’t had any work done to it since the beginning of time is also pretty ridiculous.

I felt especially bad when Monkey laid down on a Target bag that previously held a pint of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. The cool condensation trapped against a plastic bag was just too much temptation for our furry little ferret.

I was totally snarfing down ice cream as I took this photo. Bad owner.

Despite my previous protest of not making salad after salad this summer, I caved. I’ve been making salads for the past couple of days and Roo hasn’t said a word. He actually commented, “this is really good,” on several occasions, and my paranoia of him leaving me over lettuce has actually subsided. He’s even mentioned that he would definitely eat some of them again; this salad being one of them.

The key to this dish is the marinade and the almost pickling effect it has on the ingredients. Another positive is that this salad contains loads of protein, and many, many delicious components (don’t worry, it’s still simple, and easy to adjust what you want in it), that aren’t the usual horror show that’s the American salad seen in chain restaurantsIceberg lettuce, unripe, mealy tomatoes and cucumber slices that taste like raw wet cardboard?  No thanks.

Again, this was a ploy to use up a lot of what I received from my CSA.  But you know what?  It worked.  I really do love it when the stir-fry approach to dumping everything into a wok works when applied to chopping everything up and throwing it onto a plate for a salad.

Adapted from Saveur

Serves two to three generously

Ingredients

8 tablespoons olive oil

4 tablespoons red wine vinegar

half teaspoon of dried oregano

half teaspoon of dried thyme

1 teaspoon of dijon mustard

1 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes (I like things spicy, if you don’t start with a quarter teaspoon)

1 clove of garlic, minced

1 cup of dried chickpeas, soaked overnight and drained or 1 can (12 – 15 ounces) of chickpeas drained, rinsed and drained again

1 cube of sharp cheddar cheese, two inches by two inches, cut into even smaller cubes *this is your salad, if you hate cheddar, go with something else, like provolone, and cut the pieces into what you’d like to have speared onto your fork along with the other veg*

1 large ball of fresh mozzarella, cut into half, then cut into even smaller pieces (save the other half for a caprese salad or whatever your fancy)

1 red onion, sliced thinly (we love red onion and love lots and lots of it on our salad)

Half a head of lettuce, leaves torn into easily edible pieces (be sure to make your lettuce leaves as dry as possible!)

1 cup of fresh basil leaves, torn into easily edible pieces *you MUST use fresh basil! It really makes the salad special*

1 ear of cooked corn (either from the night before, or that day), cooled, and kernels cut off the cob

1 cucumber, about the length of your hand (from tip of middle finger to wrist), chopped

2 carrots, peeled and cut into easily edible pieces (I prefer stick form)

1 red bell pepper, chopped

Equipment

A very sharp knife

A small mixing bowl (if you have a set of three for mixing bowls, I use the smallest one for this recipe)

A whisk

A spatula

*Maybe a small pot (for chickpeas that have soaked overnight)

Whisk in your small mixing bowl the oil, vinegar, dried thyme and oregano, dijon mustard, garlic and crushed red pepper flakes.

If you are using chickpeas that have been soaked overnight, make sure they’re soft enough.  If they’re not, throw the chickpeas in a small pot with water over a burner set on medium heat.  Bring the chickpeas to a boil, then back down to a simmer.  Sometimes I have to cook them for 30 minutes, sometimes an hour.  Check them periodically, and when they’re soft enough, drain the chickpeas, rinse them with cold water to cool them down a bit, and throw into your dressing bowl.

If you are using chickpeas from the can (or your overnight chickpeas are soft enough), after they have been rinsed and drained, throw them in your dressing bowl.  Add the mozzarella, sharp cheddar and onions.  Stir to combine everything so that it’s all coated with the dressing, with a spatula.  Let the mixture marinate at room temperature for about an hour, stirring once or twice in the meantime.

While you’re waiting, plate the (please be dry) lettuce, basil, cucumber, red pepper, carrots and corn on two (or three) plates for your meal.  I like the lettuce to be at the very bottom, topped with the basil, and then the other veg just thrown about on top.

When it’s time to eat (!) top the plates with the chickpea mixture.  I love to add cracked pepper on top, I can’t say why, but it just makes it so much better.

Try to pick up everything with your fork, or at least some basil, chickpea, cheese and <insert other veg here>.  Devour.  Like a lady of course.