Several years ago I picked up a generic vegetarian cookbook in a discount store. While flipping through my new cookbook at home, I came across a striking dish of pan-seared tofu on a bed of sauteed bok choy all atop a ginger-orange-carrot puree. Though I now make my own sauce (recipe below), and substitute whatever greens I have on hand, the carrot puree and overall inspiration of the dish still remains a credit to the cookbook, which I have unfortunately been unable to locate online.
This dish has become a favorite in my house, with my husband dubbing it “Tofu Island” (the carrot puree is the water, the greens are the land, and the island is inhabited by the pan-seared tofu). When cooking, have two dinner plates on hand so that you can plate after cooking each portion of the meal. When eating, make sure each bite contains each layer of the dish.
Ingredients (serves two generously)
1 package of tofu (450 grams)
2 servings of greens (ex: bok choy, spinach, or mallow)
2 large carrots, washed and chopped
1 cup orange juice + more if needed
2 teaspoons oil or ghee
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup dark soy sauce
1 inch piece grated ginger
2 tablespoons rice vinegar (plum vinegar works well, too)
1 tablespoon sesame oil
A splash of mirin (1 or 2 tablespoons)
Green onions to garnish
Begin by removing the block of tofu from its packaging. Slice the tofu block in half, then take each half and slice it in half again. You should have 4 equally-sized rectangles. Carefully fold the rectangles in a kitchen towel to drain the excess water and set aside.
To a saucepan over medium heat, add the carrots, grated ginger, and the orange juice; cover and cook until tender. Once tender, puree the carrots, using a little more orange juice if needed. Divide the puree between two dinner plates.
Heat the two teaspoons of ghee or oil in a pan over medium heat and add the minced garlic. Add the greens and cook until just wilted (just tender for bok choy). Remove from the pan and divide the greens between the two dinner plates, setting them on top of the carrot puree.
In a small bowl, mix together the soy sauce, rice vinegar, and sesame oil (feel free to also add minced garlic and grated ginger to the sauce if desired). Heat the sauce in a pan over medium heat and add the tofu. Cook for 3-4 minutes before flipping over and cooking 3-4 minutes on the other side. During this time, the sauce will thicken and the pan will become a little messy. Add a splash of mirin around the pan and flip the tofu as needed to ensure both sides are crispy around the edges. If at any point the tofu sticks to the pan, add a bit of high smoke point oil such as grapeseed to the pan.
When the tofu is done, finish each dish with two slices of the tofu placed artfully on top of the greens, and garnish with green onions. Serve immediately.