One of the weird side effects of blogging and avidly reading others’ blogs is that I often find myself with a strong case of produce-induced jealousy. It usually follows the same storyline. Another blogger – usually in a climate that is currently much sunnier and warmer than mine – posts a recipe or a photo featuring some variety of swoon-worthy local vegetables or fruit that is still long from being in season in my part of the world. This time it was Celine over at Have Cake, Will Travel. Her post featured a stunning photo of sliced strawberries, the first of the season for her.
It will be at least a couple of weeks before they show up in my corner of the world (Though the Green City Market goes back outdoors for the first time this season tomorrow, which I am deliriously excited for.) but I simply couldn’t help myself. I had to buy a carton for myself, even if they were from the West Coast and not the Midwest.
Admittedly, they were not quite as juicy and sweet as they would have been if they were local, but they were still fruity and delicious none the less. While these strawberries were plenty good on their own, I felt inspired to give them a savory spin. I’ve been seeing strawberries incorported into a lot of main dishes lately (like Jessica’s Crispy Margarita Tacos with Strawberry Avocado Salsa and her equally unexpected and tempting tempting sounding Warm Strawberry Bacon Orzo Salad) and felt compelled to do the same in my kitchen.
My inspiration was a salmon dish I had all the way back in August of 2009. I was in Burlington, Vermont for the Vermont Cheesemakers Festival and while on my mini-trip I had the Strawberry Balsamic & Cashew Salmon at Leunig’s Bistro & Cafe. It was easily one of the most memorable meals of the trip and my plan was always to recreate it, but over a year later I still hadn’t done so.
It was clearly high time, but I decided to do so with a twist. Instead of making a salmon dish I decided to pair these flavors with tofu, since I discovered a block in the back of my freezer that I needed to use up.
My favorite way to eat tofu is lightly breaded and baked so I opted for that preparation here. For my crust, I went with a simple mixture of panko bread crumbs with chopped cashews for a little crunch.
But to change things up, I opted to make a strawberry honey mustard to dip my tofu in and help the crust adhere to the tofu. I pureed together strawberries, Dijon mustard, and honey in the food processor. What I love about this is that it really does help the crumbs stick and it packs a lot of flavor. The sweetness and fruitiness of the strawberries and the honey work incredibly well to offset the pungent, briny flavor of the mustard.
While the tofu was baking off in the oven I created a simple sauce to go over the tofu. I wanted to play up the strawberry flavor in the mustard so I went for some strawberries simply simmered in balsamic vinegar and honey.
I love that much as they do with the vinegar, the berries and honey also take the edge off the vinegar.
I served my perfectly crunchy tofu over broccoli.
And of course, I made sure to add a very generous spoonful of the strawberries over the top.
In the end, I loved my recreation. The mixture of panko and nuts give a lovely crunchiness to the tofu. I also loved the extra flavor that came from dipping the tofu in the strawberry mustard prior to coating it. It gave it a lovely fruity-savory taste that was beautifully echoed by the balsamic strawberries on top. I know I’ll be making this again once strawberries are actually in season, but perhaps with a change of nuts in the breading to switch things up.
-1 14-ounce package extra firm tofu
-3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
-1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons chopped strawberries, divided
-1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons honey, divided
-1/2 tablespoon panko bread crumbs
-2 tablespoons finely chopped cashews
-1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper
-2/3 cup balsamic vinegar
Wrap the block of tofu in a clean, lint-free towel, place it in a colander, and place the colander in the sink. Place a plate over the towel-covered tofu, them a heavy can or other weight on top, and leave to press for 30 minutes.
Remove the tofu from the towel. Cut the tofu crosswise into 4 slices and then cut each diagnonally so you have 8 triangles. Set aside. Preheat an oven to 400 degrees F.
Add the Dijon mustard, 3 tablespoons of strawberries, and one tablespoon of honey to a food processor. Process until smooth. Pour mixture into a shallow plate.
On another plate, combine the bread crumbs, cashews, and salt and pepper. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or spray lightly with cooking spray.
Dip each tofu slice into the mustard mixture, coating well on both sides. Then place in the bread crumbs, again taking care to make sure it is well coated. Place on the baking sheet.
Bake for 10 minutes per side, until crispy and golden. While tofu is baking, add remaining ingredients to a saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat and then reduce to low and allow it to simmer for 5 minutes, or until strawberries are soft.
Serve tofu by spooning strawberries on top.