Although this salad is light, it's far from one-dimensional. Layering it with so many textures – ruffle-y Napa cabbage leaves, matchsticks of radish and pear, chewy baked tofu, crunchy nuts and seeds – keeps each bite lively and satisfying. I used the same mandarin orange-based sauce to marinate the tofu and dress the salad. This saves preparation time, and more importantly infuses the entire dish with tangy-spicy-sweet flavor.
I'll certainly return to this dish whenever I'm craving something bright and fresh – mixing and matching ingredients depending on what I have on hand, such as carrots, celery root, and other crunchy fall and winter vegetables. The tofu alone could be made in a big batch and tossed into other salads throughout the week, as well.
1 (16-ounce) block extra firm tofu
Zest of 1 mandarin orange
1/4 cup mandarin orange juice
1/4 cup rice vinegar
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 teaspoon hot chili oil
1/2 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1-inch piece fresh ginger, grated
1 garlic clove, crushed
6 cups thinly sliced Napa cabbage
1 cup julienned Asian pear, tossed with juice of 1/2 lemon
1 cup julienned French breakfast radishes
1/4 cup sliced or slivered almonds, toasted
1 tablespoon mixed black and white sesame seeds, toasted
Rinse and drain tofu. Cut tofu into 1/2-inch thick slices and place between clean kitchen towels (or paper towels). Place a heavy object such as a skillet or cutting board on top to press out excess liquid. Let sit 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the dressing: In a bowl, whisk together the mandarin orange zest, mandarin orange juice, rice vinegar, sesame oil, hot chili oil, soy sauce, sugar, ginger, and garlic.
Cut tofu into 1/2-inch cubes, place in a shallow dish, and cover with half of the dressing. Let marinate for 15 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly oil a baking sheet and spread the tofu cubes evenly on the sheet. Bake tofu for 15 minutes and flip over. Continue baking for about 10-15 minutes until tofu is toasted and chewy. Remove from oven and let cool.
Toss Napa cabbage, pear, radish, and tofu with the remaining dressing and sprinkle almonds and sesame seeds on top.
(Images: Emily Ho)