Last year Washington Post food editor Joe Yonan came to my home for an afternoon of tofu. We made tofu from scratch and I prepared a little snack of Indonesian tofu and egg pancakes. A bachelor, Joe was working on a vegetarian cookbook for single folks. Eat Your Vegetables, which just released, is a follow-up to Joe’s earlier work, Serve Yourself. Joe celebrates the single diner but his work isn’t just for bachelors and bachelorettes. Many of the recipes (like the one below) are for regular quantities of food that you can keep for days, or weeks. Other recipes can be doubled or quadrupled for more people; we are a household of two people so the math is simple. I was intrigued by the book because as a writer and recipe reader, I’m always wondering about scaling up or scaling down things. I also enjoy many solo lunches when my husband is at work.
Joe’s message is that single people shouldn’t be limited to an eating life of bad tasting or unhealthy food. Eat Your Vegetables helps cooks to create a system of home cooking and eating, something that many people used to learn from their mothers or grandmothers. While Joe’s books are for the single person, he encourages people to cook for others too. (Maybe you won’t be single forever?!) There are recipes for entertaining, pantry items, as well as the freezer.
Joe is an astute journalist and charming Southerner. He writes with wit and his smart recipes aren’t fussy. When I perused Eat Your Vegetables, I was looking for tofu recipes and realized that he’d incorporated my work and recipes in a couple of spots. One recipe was for a vegetarian ma po tofu (he discussed the need to find good chile bean sauce) and the other was for the fried tofu and egg pancakes, which he enjoyed with massaged/softened raw kale. I was very flattered to get recognition from a friend and colleage.
The tofu-centric recipe that wasn’t so obvious was for “Basil Goddess Dressing,” which featured silken tofu as a canvas for absorbing the other ingredients. Was that a hippie, throwback take on classic green goddess salad dressing? No, Joe’s recipe was inspired by a salad dressing from a Japanese restaurant in New Hampshire. The idea was as brilliant as the green color of the dressing. He'd been gathering ideas over the span of many years and there are many Asian-inspired concepts in this cookbook.
Green goddess can be made from many kinds of fresh herbs so I harvested what I had in the garden – a blend of Thai, lemon, and Italian basil. Feel free to use other herbs, as long as the leaves are tender; rosemary or kaffir lime leaf may not fly right. To create a super green color and herby flavor, I used a packed cup of herbs and substituted garlic/Chinese chives for half of the garlic originally employed.
I snuck in a little fish sauce since the original green goddess salad dressing included anchovies. If you want to remain vegetarian or vegan, stick to the kosher salt only; if you prefer sea salt, halve the quantity. The lime juice and vinegar add tartness and help to preserve the green color. I just made the dressing but imagine that the color will fade a tad over time; that shouldn’t affect the flavor much.
If you use silken tofu that’s molded in the tub, not floating in water like Wildwood’s, use 16 ounces (450 g), i.e., the entire container as that tofu is softer and contains more water than Wildwood’s. Joe crams his recipe introductions with tips and for this one, he says that you can blend in one or two slices of crustless bread to arrive at a thick dip suitable for scooping with raw vegetables and crackers. The versatility of this recipe reflects the nimbleness of Eat Your Vegetables.
Basil Tofu Green Goddess Dressing
Yield: 2 ½ cups
- 1 (14-oz / 420 g) silken tofu, Wildwood brand preferred
- 1 cup packed (1.4 oz / 40 g) basil leaves
- 1 large clove garlic, or 1 medium clove garlic plus 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped garlic chive
- 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (1 lime)
- ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 ¼ teaspoons kosher salt, or 1 teaspoon kosher salt plus 1 teaspoon fish sauce
- Cut the tofu into large cubes and put atop several layers of paper towel. Set aside to drain for 10 to 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, wash and rinse the basil leaves well. Pat dry with paper towel, then transfer to the bowl of a food processor. Add the garlic (and garlic chives, if using), lime juice, cider vinegar, oil, and salt (and fish sauce, if using). Add the tofu.
- Run the machine until the mixture is vivid green and creamy. Taste and tweak with salt. Transfer to a jar and refrigerate up to 2 weeks. Let sit at room temperature for 10 minutes to remove some of the chill before using. Season lettuce leaves and other vegetables with a light sprinkling of salt and pepper before tossing with the dressing.
Adapted from Joe Yonan’s Eat Your Vegetables (Ten Speed Press, 2013)