Sunday, August 4, 2013

Thai-Style Radish and Watermelon Salad with Sizzling Ginger-Lemongrass Tofu

Clearly I am fickle because I just found my new favorite watermelon salad.  And I think I declared my previous favorite (Hugh Acheson's Watermelon-Feta-Arugula Salad with Serrano Chili Vinaigrette) about two weeks ago.  So it had a short but well-deserved reign.  Both watermelon salads have a wonderful balance of sweet, spicy and savory, but this one won by a nose.  I think it was the addition of the Thai basil and radishes.  I really liked the crunch and the slight peppery flavor of the radishes, as well as the peppery fragrance of the Thai basil.  And the fish sauce.  I don't know.  It just works so well.  I wasn't sure how I was going to feel about the radishes with the watermelon, but it worked.  It's light and refreshing, but full of punch Asian flavors.  And Asian flavors beat feta cheese for me 9 times out of 10.  I really enjoy feta cheese but I love fish sauce.  After eating a fairly heavy meal at The Marrow last night (duck schnitzel, crispy kale with scallops and bone marrow with uni anyone?) and greasy Chinese at my desk for lunch, I really needed something light for dinner.  This salad couldn't have been more delicious.  Note to those who don't love spice - you're going to want to cut back on the amount of sambal oelek and chili or seed your chili prior to throwing it in.  Just like Hugh Acheson's recipe, there is some fairly serious kick to this dish.  Another note, if you're a Top Chef nerd like I am, it's kind of funny to compare recipes between Tom Colicchio and Hugh Acheson since they are both judges on the show and Hugh was a contestant on Top Chef Masters a few seasons ago.

We served the watermelon salad with sizzling ginger-lemongrass tofu.  We had a block of handmade firm tofu from The Bridge that I picked up at Fairway that I wanted to use and I wanted something different.  So we went with another recipe from Food & Wine that sounded like it would be a good pairing with the watermelon salad.  If you can find tofu from The Bridge in your local Whole Foods I would highly recommend it.  It had a really nice firm, but still creamy texture and it had more flavor than your average block of supermarket tofu.  It was really good.  I can't wait to try it in other dishes.  As for this dish, it was good.  I'm always surprised how much flavor a dish can pick up by just sizzling some aromatics.  And it did go very well with the watermelon salad.  I would totally make them together again in the future.

Recipes after the jump!
Thai-Style Radish and Watermelon Salad
Available at Food & Wine
INGREDIENTS: 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice 1 tablespoon Asian fish sauce 1 tablespoon sambal oelek or other Asian chile sauce 2 teaspoons finely grated fresh ginger Kosher salt Freshly ground pepper One 5-pound watermelon—rind and seeds removed, flesh cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks (8 cups) 12 radishes, very thinly sliced 8 scallions, thinly sliced 2 fresh hot red chiles, such as Holland or cayenne, thinly sliced crosswise 3/4 cup lightly packed mint leaves, coarsely chopped 3/4 cup lightly packed Thai basil leaves, torn

In a large bowl, whisk the lime juice, fish sauce, sambal oelek and ginger. Season with salt and pepper. Add the watermelon, radishes, scallions and red chiles and toss. Fold in the mint and basil, season with salt and pepper and serve right away. 

Sizzling Ginger-Lemongrass Tofu

Available at Food & Wine

1 stalk of fresh lemongrass, tender inner bulb only, minced
One 1/2-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and minced
1 tablespoon minced cilantro
2 teaspoons minced mint leaves
2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds
1 scallion, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
Pinch of crushed red pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons rice vinegar
2 1/2 tablespoons canola oil
One 14-ounce package firm tofu at room temperature-drained, halved lengthwise and sliced crosswise 1/2 inch thick

In a small, heatproof bowl, combine the lemongrass with the ginger, cilantro, mint, sesame seeds, scallion, garlic, crushed red pepper, soy sauce and rice vinegar.

In a small saucepan, heat the oil over high heat until almost smoking, about 2 minutes. Meanwhile, arrange the tofu slices on a plate. When the oil is hot, pour it over the lemongrass mixture; it will sizzle. Immediately spoon the hot ginger-lemongrass sauce over the tofu and serve.

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