Two Tasty Twists on Tomato Salad
Spin the classic Insalata Caprese with Spicy Miso Dressing and Umeboshi Vinaigrette.
Photo by Leah Lizarondo
It’s tomato season! That much-awaited (yet too-brief) period in the summer where our favorite vege-fruit takes center stage. Pasta primavera, salads, sammiches with just salt and a touch of mayo, tarts, pies, grilled and fried (gasp!). You can make enough pasta sauce to last you all winter, or just pop those grape and cherry varieties in a bag for a ready snack. Endless possibilities!
I also love the tomato’s natural affinity with basil (which by no coincidence also flourishes at this time) — one of my favorite ways is to chop up tomatoes with some basil chiffonade, crushed fresh garlic and a dash of olive oil. Then toss with super hot pasta. Heaven!
Of course, the other classic is Insalata Caprese: Tomatoes, basil, fresh mozzarella, dressed very simply in olive oil. I dare not malign such a classic! BUT I offer you a creamy, light and brilliant spin on it using silken or soft tofu. This salad (with two tangy options for dressings) is an amalgamation of ideas inspired by two Asian chefs I adore – Ming Tsai and (you guessed it!) David Chang. As David Chang puts it, the soft silky tofu “could do the same thing mozzarella does … moderate the acidity of the tomatoes, lend the dish some creaminess, and make it more substantial.”
Years ago, I made the Tofu Napoleon with Spicy Miso Dressing from Ming Tsai’s Blue Ginger cookbook. The dressing is so so good — how can you go wrong with Sriracha? More recently, I had David Chang’s Cherry Tomato Salad with Soft Tofu and Shiso. At home, I make a salad that’s a marriage of the two. And often, I use a very simple, yet high-impact dressing I learned from the same person who concocted what I think is the best salad dressing ever — a simple vinaigrette using sesame oil and umeboshi vinegar. I call these iterations, my Insalata CaprAsian. (Haha. Come on! Give me a break!)
Insalata CaprAsian Salad
Yield: I leave it to you to decide the quantities per person
- Fresh tomatoes, sliced thin
- Soft or silken tofu, sliced thin
- Baby spinach leaves
1. Layer the tomatoes, tofu and spinach napoleon-style or lay slices and leaves alternately on a large plate if serving a crowd.
2. Pour dressing over the salad. Serve.
If you have never had umeboshi vinegar, I command you now to go to your nearest Food Co-op, Japanese store or Whole Foods and get a bottle. It will change your life. The super-tangy and uber-salty vinegar is made from ume plums and taste like no other vinegar you’ve ever had!
This makes about ½ cup and becomes decidedly “brothier” as it mixes with the fresh tomato juices (see photo). I love this dressing on cukes, fresh or blanched green beans and even a rice salad. I guess I love this dressing. Period.
1. Start with a 1:1 ratio then work the oil up to what’s comfortable for you. I typically end up with somewhere like 1.5:1 (in favor of the oil)
- ¼ cup sesame oil (or a combination of toasted sesame oil and olive oil)
- ¼ cup umeboshi vinegar
- fresh ground black pepper to taste
2. Mix together with a whisk to form an emulsion.
Spicy Miso Dressing with Sriracha
Adapted from Ming Tsai
Yield: Makes a scant ¾ cup
- ¼ cup rice wine vinegar
- 1 T tamari or soy sauce
- 2 T mellow white miso
- 1 T sriracha
- ½ T sugar
- 2 T chopped pickled ginger
- 1 t toasted sesame oil
- ¼ - ½ cup olive oil
- fresh ground black pepper
1. Combine all ingredients in a blender to form an emulsion.
2. Season with salt and pepper to taste.