Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Spicy celery tofu salad. Trust me.

A few months ago this salad came up in my blog roll, and it looked good enough that I watched the video and then shared it on Facebook. It just struck me as appealing – very simple and light and tasty.

Now, don't get all weirded out by the presence of tofu in this dish. Or celery, for that matter. Their combination with a spicy infused oil makes it all worthwhile.

Here's what you need:
  • 1 cup of peanut oil
  • Some fat slices of peeled, fresh ginger
  • A stick of cinnamon (I used a piece of really yummy Vietnamese cinnamon from the lovely White on Rice Couple.)
  • Three cloves
  • A teaspoon of coriander seeds (which I ended up skipping because I only had ground coriander. Whoops)
  • A teaspoon of cumin seeds
  • 4 star anise
  • A tablespoon of Sichuan peppercorns (mine are ordered online from The Spice House. Most reputable spice places will have them, and Asian markets. You probably won't find them at Safeway.)
  • 1/4 cup of red chili flakes
  • A couple roughly chopped scallions (optional)
  • 1 bunch Chinese celery, thinly sliced
  • 4 to 6 ounces pressed tofu, thinly sliced
First you'll infuse the oil. Just throw all the spices (and optional scallions) into the oil, bring it to a hearty simmer, then turn off the burner and let the whole thing steep for an hour or three.
You'll end up with a very orange oil. Strain it into a container you can save in the fridge (you'll have more than you need for one dish).

Now slice up your tofu. This is pressed tofu, and you can get it in five-spice flavor if you want a little extra kick, or you can get the plain. If you can't find a package that specifically says "pressed tofu," you can also get baked tofu or a tofu cutlet (I've tried both). Sometimes it's labeled "dry tofu." It's almost meaty, it's so firm. It won't fall apart when you slice it.

(I found a nice blog post that expounds on pressed tofu engagingly: Here.)

The other thing you need to chop up is Chinese celery, if you can get it. If not, you can use regular celery, but it won't be as intensely flavored. Chop it in bite-sized pieces, wash it thoroughly (it can be really sandy) and blanch it (so it's less tough).

Toss the celery and tofu together with a little salt, then drizzle the infused oil over it and enjoy! It's spicy but also light and refreshing. Just the antidote for all that holiday gorging.
Jen at Use Real Butter made this before I did. The scallions are her addition. She varies some other things as well. So you can see it's a pretty forgiving recipe. Once you have that jar of oil, you can drizzle it over other things, too.

I'll warn you, though: Don't try to make popcorn with it. If your pan gets too hot, you'll create your very own tear-gas cloud in the kitchen. Fun!


  1. This sounds yummy. I bet I could use celeriac, thinly sliced. What do you think?

  2. Hmm, that oil sounds good. I may have to give tofu another try!

  3. That sounds really good. Could make me a lover of tofu. I hope you've had a wonderful holiday. Blessings...Mary

  4. Is your advice about not using the oil for popcorn from experience? :) This recipe sounds great, adding it to the 'to-try' list. Happy New Year!!

  5. I'm so glad that I stumbled upon your blog. I'm a Denver area blogger too. After a little bit of reading, I decided I need to get out of Douglas County a bit more often. Love, love, love the poodles and the salad.