If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know I usually start with a story of some sort, but this time let me just jump right in with the virtues of this salad:
- It has strawberries, and it has sugar snap peas, the two crops that make June a truly magical time.
- When you roll up to a cookout with a salad full of fruit, vegetables, lean protein, and grains, you look like some kind of nutritional genius.
- Complete vegetarian meal that carnivores will still adore because they think it’s a side? Check.
- Sweet strawberries combined with salty-savory tofu: sweet-salty is the best.
- Did I mention the strawberry + sugar snap pea combo?
If that’s whetted the appetite, and you’re not interesting in me being rather earnest, scroll on down to the recipe. Really, it’s fine.
Because I do want to be a little earnest. I threw together this salad on a whim last Saturday. I’d just been to the market and bought a lot of sugar snap peas and strawberries, and I was playing around, thinking of interesting flavor combinations. I also, coincidentally, had a number of friends in the backyard building a float. Jarod and I sing with the Columbus Gay Men’s Chorus, and tomorrow we’re marching in Columbus’s Gay Pride Parade. Jarod ended up in charge of float construction, so while I was in the house cooking and cleaning, he and other Chorus members were out back transforming a pile of lumber and plywood into something worthy of rolling down High Street.
After they were done for the day, they came inside and I served them this salad alongside a giant bowl of rigatoni with meat sauce. The whole meal was well-received, everybody went home tired but proud of a good day’s work, and I went to bed ready to write this up in the morning.
Except that overnight someone went into Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, and shot and killed 49 people, injuring 53 others. It was, and is, horrific. I honestly wasn’t sure I’d post anything this week — it seemed callous. Who cares about a salad when over a hundred people had been physically assaulted, and untold numbers more mentally wounded? How could I possibly go blithely off to Facebook and advertise this new recipe, when Latinx, POC, and GLBT communities had been so deeply wounded?
But every morning this week when I opened the fridge, there was this tub of leftover salad looking at me. And as Jarod and I would eat little portions of it for breakfast, or bring it for lunch at work, it took on new meaning for me. Somehow this salad, sweet and salty and savory, a hodge-podge really, came to represent my own prayers. And so I’m putting it out here, despite my misgivings, in the hope that when others make it, my desires for healing and a society bound by mutual respect, not fear, will be magnified — I’m enough of a believer in mystical woo to really think this might happen.
So: whether you’re with me in mystical woo-land, or you just want a damn fine summer salad, I hope you enjoy the recipe. All I ask is that you eat it with friends. Even better, share it with people who aren’t yet friends, but soon will be. Be it so.
Strawberry-snap pea salad with quinoa and tofu
I know, this recipe looks a little long. But essentially all you’re doing is marinating stuff unattended for an hour or so, microwaving some snap peas, cooking some quinoa (again, mostly unattended), and then tossing it together. That’s totally doable! And you get a bright, fresh, filling salad that you can eat for lunch. (Or you can serve it alongside rigatoni with meat sauce, like I did. Carbs for life.)
1 block firm tofu (about 14 oz.)
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp sugar
1 lb strawberries
2 Tbsp sugar
1 to 2 Tbsp minced fresh basil (from about six sprigs)
1/2 lb sugar snap peas
1 c quinoa
2 c water
Remove the tofu from its packaging, draining off any liquid, and set on a plate lined with a double thickness of paper towels. Set another plate on top, and weight it with a can or two.
While the tofu is pressing, trim and quarter the strawberries. Toss them with the sugar and basil, and let sit.
Cut the tofu into half-inch cubes and toss with the soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, black pepper, and sugar. Let the tofu and strawberries sit for about an hour, tossing occasionally.
Meanwhile, prepare the quinoa. Bring the water to a boil in small saucepan, add the quinoa, and immediately cover and reduce heat to low. Cook for 20 minutes or so, until small dimples appear in the surface of the quinoa and the water has been absorbed. Spread the quinoa on a baking sheet or a couple of plates to cool.
Also prepare the snap peas. You’ll want to snap off the stem end, and most varieties have one or two tough strings running down their seams. At least one seam can be removed by snapping off the stem end toward the flat side, and peeling off the upper string. You should also snap the peas in half so they’re bitesized; if there is a lower string, you can remove it in this process. Combine the trimmed snap peas in a microwave-safe bowl with a couple tablespoons of water, cover, and microwave on high about 2 1/2 minutes, till they are bright green and crisp-tender. Run them under cold water to cool them, then drain.
After the tofu has marinated for an hour, pour it and its marinade into a nonstick skillet and cook over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until all the liquid has been absorbed and the tofu has browned slightly.
Combine everything in a large bowl and toss. You probably won’t need to adjust seasoning, but add more sugar or salt if it needs it. Salad can be served immediately, but I like it chilled.
No microwave? Blanch the snap peas in boiling water for a couple minutes, then run them under cold water to cool.
Yes, you can make the quinoa in a rice cooker, though I often find it just a touch mushy that way. But it’ll be fine.
I added in the tofu so this salad could stand on its own as a light lunch, but if you’d like a proteinless salad you could omit it. You’ll want to mix together the marinade and add it, to taste, to the combined salad.
If you’re seeing this post outside of strawberry season, you know what else would be good here? Stone fruits. Peaches, nectarines, plums… mm, mm, mm.
A little chopped onion might be nice, too. Just marinate it with the tofu to temper some of its sharpness.