It has been a very good summer for tomatoes; we eat them at least three times a week. But after a while the classic combination of tomatoes, mozzarella, basil, and olive oil acquires a numbing sameness. Looking for a way to do justice to two pints of beautiful cherry tomatoes, I turned to my go-to cookbook, Momofuku, and found this recipe, Chang’s take on the classic flavor profile:
Tofu, we realized, could do the same thing mozzarella does in a traditional caprese salad: moderate the acidity of the tomatoes, lend the dish some creaminess, and make it more substantial. Shiso and basil are like long-lost cousins: they have totally different flavors, though they share a sort of mintiness, but they’re used in a lot of the same ways. And the touch of sesame oil in the vinaigrette echoes the nuttiness of good olive oil.
The recipe is simple: start with two pints of mixed cherry tomatoes, a twelve-ounce block of silken tofu, a quarter cup of sherry vinegar, a tablespoon of light soy sauce, a quarter cup of canola oil, a teaspoon of sesame oil, and some fresh shiso leaves.
I prepared two thirds of the tomatoes by cutting a slash in the bottoms, dropping them into boiling salted water for ten seconds, then shocking them in ice water.
Once cold, I peeled the tomatoes, then sliced the remaining third in half.
While the tomatoes rested in the fridge, I drained the tofu and sliced it in half through its length.
I punched out tofu rounds using a two-inch biscuit cutter.
To make the vinaigrette, I combined the oil, vinegar, soy, and sesame oil and whisked it together. I also chiffonaded the shiso leaves.
I added all of the tomatoes to the vinaigrette and tossed to coat. For the final assembly I placed two slices of the tofu in each serving bowl, sprinkled with a pinch of salt, topped with the dressed tomatoes, added another pinch of salt and some freshly ground pepper, and finished with the shiso chiffonade (there’s a tongue-twister for you: shiso chiffonade).
This dish was a much-needed variation on the summer formula. The textures were the same as a caprese salad, but the flavors were a real surprise: minty shiso and smoky vinaigrette (from the sesame oil) took the dish in a different direction. It was a perfect compliment to a simple pan-roasted halibut. She Who Must Be Obeyed has already demanded that I make this again. And who am I to refuse?