Tofu and Kale Salad With Avocado, Grapefruit, and Miso-Tahini Dressing
1 (14-ounce; 400g) block firm (non-silken) tofu, cut into 1- by 2- by 1/2-inch squares
5 tablespoons (75ml) extra-virgin olive oil, divided
3/4 ounce (about 1/4 cup; 20g) za'atar, divided
1 large grapefruit, cut into segments, juice reserved separately
2 tablespoons (30ml) sesame tahini
1 tablespoon (15ml) white or yellow miso paste
1 tablespoon (15ml) juice from 1 lemon
1 teaspoon (5ml) honey or agave nectar
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 avocado, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
5 ounces greens, such as baby kale, spinach, or arugula (see note above)
Place tofu in a large colander and set in the sink. Pour 1 quart boiling water over tofu and let rest for 1 minute. Transfer to a paper towel–lined tray and press dry. Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large nonstick or cast iron skillet over medium-low heat until shimmering. Add tofu and cook, turning occasionally, until golden brown and crisp on all surfaces, about 10 minutes total. Sprinkle with half of za'atar and toss to coat. Transfer tofu to a paper towel–lined plate to drain. Scrape remaining contents of pan into a medium bowl and set aside to cool slightly
Add 2 tablespoons reserved grapefruit juice, tahini, miso paste, lemon juice, and honey or agave nectar to bowl with reserved oil from cooking. Add 1 more tablespoon olive oil. Whisk until smooth, adding more grapefruit juice or water as necessary to achieve a smooth, pourable consistency about the texture of heavy paint. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Combine tofu, grapefruit segments, and avocado in a large bowl. Add remaining tablespoon olive oil and remaining za'atar, season with salt, and gently fold together.
Add greens and half of dressing and gently fold to combine. Serve immediately, drizzling remaining dressing on top.
I've been making versions of this salad with crispy tofu, avocado, and grapefruit, flavored with za'atar and topped with a miso and tahini dressing, on and off for the last couple of months, each time tweaking the ingredients a bit, substituting different greens, altering the ratio of dressing components, et cetera. I've come to the conclusion that the base is great no matter what you do with it. Add some chopped raw kale and chickpeas? Delicious. Add a splash of fish sauce (for a non-vegan version) and some toasted pita bread croutons? Fantastic. Toasted pine nuts and roasted beets? It works.
I think it has to do with the texture of those three main ingredients. Crisp tofu, creamy avocado, and juicy grapefruit.
The tofu I slow-cook in olive oil using my crispy tofu method* until it's a deep golden brown, before sprinkling it with some za'atar. Za'atar is technically an herb related to thyme, but the word is most often used to refer to a spice blend that heavily features that herb, along with toasted sesame seeds and lemony sumac berries. The za'atar I use is a blend that my Lebanese friend brings to me from back home, but you can find decent versions at spice shops or online. I know, I know—two crispy tofu recipes in one week! But just think about how many chicken recipes your average food website posts in a week, and it won't seem excessive anymore.
This being St Louis, plump, ripe avocados with just the perfect amount of give aren't easy to find year-round ), which means they make their way onto my table with here and thee.
I fold the tofu, avocado, and grapefruit together with some extra-virgin olive oil before adding a bunch of greens (though, like I said, don't feel restricted to any one particular type of green!).
To dress the salad, I wanted to introduce an element that would be rich enough to stand up to the avocado and tofu, but wouldn't be so heavy that the greens would wilt. Tahini seemed like a natural choice to pair with the za'atar. To boost the umami factor, I combined it with miso paste, thinning the thick paste out with the juice I'd reserved after segmenting the grapefruit. Some lemon juice, more extra-virgin olive oil (the leftover za'atar-scented oil in the tofu pan found a new home in the dressing), and a touch of honey for sweetness rounded the dressing out. You can use agave nectar if you're a no-honey vegan.