A perfect no-cook dish for hot weather

The Japanese equivalent of the Caprese salad? (Joe Yonan/The Washington Post)

There is a glass half empty/glass half full way of looking at tofu. The first is that it’s too bland to be interesting. The latter is that it is a versatile backdrop for powerful flavors.

Consider this: have you ever heard someone say they found fresh mozzarella cheese too bland and boring for a Caprese salad? Rather, it’s celebrated as the soothing counterpoint of sour tomatoes, herbaceous olive oil and peppery basil. There are also many other possibilities, including balsamic vinegar and crushed red pepper flakes.

I consider this tofu recipe to be the Japanese equivalent of Caprese, with a few exceptions: it’s constructed from a single block of silken tofu, which you may never have eaten this way, but trust me. me, you should. You top it with a riot of herbs, aromatics, spring onions, peanuts and high quality soy sauce, serve it cold and let your guests spoon their servings, eating it as appetizer as is or perhaps with rice as a main course. The tofu is almost like a pudding, and its subtle nutty flavor and smooth, creamy texture play off the crispy, savory fillings.

In some Asian cuisines, silken tofu is not served as a block but in a shallow bowl or stock pot, and it is sometimes prepared fresh. I remember the shock and delight the first time I ate it this way in Tokyo, where for breakfast in a traditional ryokan, a small iron pot sat over a flame and the waiter was pouring freshly made soy milk into it. The jar already had a coagulant in it – probably gypsum – and after a few minutes of being covered, the lid was lifted and I poured in the most ethereal tofu I’ve ever eaten.

You can do this at home; Andrea Nguyen has a great recipe for it in her book Asian tofu.

But every weeknight, especially in the summer when I want something that doesn’t require any heat, I riff on a recipe from Harumi Kurihara’s 2020 book, Harumi’s Japanese cuisine. I start with store-bought silken tofu — I like to use the shelf-stable kind in aseptic wrap made by Mori-Nu — then top it with whatever I have on hand. (This tofu has a slightly confusing label, in that it’s labeled silken but also soft, firm, or extra firm. Any of these will work for this recipe, but I prefer soft, which is the most creamy.)

Kurihara calls it gochiso-dofu, or decorated tofu, which gives you an idea of ​​how delicately she puts the toppings together. She wraps a paper towel around the edges of the tofu, letting it extend a few inches above the surface (much like how you make a paper collar for a soufflé), then after arranging the toppings , she removes the towel to expose a perfectly clean edge. Then she carefully pours the dark sauce along this edge, so that it coats the sides of the tofu without disturbing the toppings.

With all due respect, but I don’t have time for this. Also, I love the look of dropping some of the herbs, nuts, and spring onions onto the serving platter and then slathering it in the sauce, leaving the off-white flesh of the tofu clean against the black. This dish is all about contrast – dark and light, crunchy and creamy, intense and sweet – and you don’t want to show it?

Gochiso-dofu (decorated tofu)

Creamy, neutral silken tofu meets tangy, crunchy, and colorful toppings in this take on a traditional Japanese no-cook dish that’s perfect for hot weather. Think of tofu as a blank canvas, and feel free to substitute your favorite nuts, seeds, and herbs with those listed here. If you have a garden, this is a great use for herb flowers or other plants. It’s a wonderful starter for four people, but you can also serve it as a main course for two, with rice. Use tamari instead of soy sauce to make the dish gluten-free.

Storage Notes: Tofu is at its best, to taste and look at, when freshly prepared, but you can refrigerate it for up to 3 days.

Or buy: Mirin, the Japanese wine for cooking sweet rice, can be found in well-stocked supermarkets or Asian markets.

Total time: 15 minutes, plus any cooling time

Serves: 2 to 4

Ingredients:

One package (340g) silken tofu, drained

1 tbsp chopped fresh mint, basil, shiso or a mix, plus small leaves for optional garnish

1 spring onion, trimmed and thinly sliced

1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh ginger

2 tablespoons chopped roasted peanuts, unsalted

1 teaspoon white and/or black sesame seeds

Chive blossoms, for garnish (optional)

60ml low sodium soy sauce or tamari

2 tablespoons mirin

Method:

Place the tofu on a serving platter. If it was in a shelf-stable package and at room temperature, refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 8 hours before garnishing and serving.

Sprinkle the top of the tofu with the chopped herbs and spring onion, then with the ginger, peanuts and sesame seeds. Garnish with the small whole herb leaves and chive blossoms, if desired.

In a small measuring cup with a pour spout, combine soy sauce or tamari and mirin. Pour the sauce around the tofu on the serving platter and serve.

Nutritional information per serving, based on 4 | Calories: 109; total fat: 5g; saturated fat: 1 g; cholesterol: 0mg; sodium: 536mg; carbohydrates: 11g; dietary fiber: 1g; sugar: 4g; protein: 6g.

This analysis is an estimate based on the available ingredients and this preparation. It should not replace the advice of a dietitian or nutritionist.

© The Washington Post