Hope you have had a good week and are getting some well deserved rest over the weekend. My week has been turbulent but things are slowly settling down and I am grateful as it was a bit of a pressure cooker over here.
Recipe wise although we’ve had a couple of sunny days days this week and I spotted a couple of trees blooming with flowers, it’s really still quite cold and not at all Spring-like. Our heating comes on most afternoons and we still crave warm, comforting food. This warm tofu harissa salad is my transitional meal between winter and spring – I want to eat a little lighter but I’m still not ready for a proper cold salad that I will be craving once it warms up in a few months.
This harissa tofu salad is easy and quick to make – most of the action happens in the oven – tasty and satiating. It’s become our recent go to. It was inspired by a load of good looking cauliflower I stumbled across in our local shop. So while here it’s me thinking that cauliflower season in the UK is over the stores’ shelves tell a different story. Its abundance was in a stark contrast to other staple vegetables that were conspicuously missing or looked half-rotten and sorry for themselves – you might have heard that UK is currently suffering such fresh vegetable shortages that supermarkets have started to introduce rations on certain items – no, I am not kidding!! I wish I was…
MORE ABOUT THE INGREDIENTS
LEMON ZEST & JUICE: I used lemon juice in the marinade and dressing and added zest to the couscous to make it slightly lemony too. It works really well against the spice of harissa paste and the sweetness of maple syrup. In terms of number of lemons you’ll need, it’s 1 large juicy lemon or 2 less juicy/smaller.
HARISSA PASTE: Harissa paste is a Tunisian chilli and spice paste that is used in several North African countries. Different brands have different strengths (I used Belazu smoked chilli one) so when you first make this dish, tread carefully. Having said that the marinade/dressing may taste strong on their own, but once stirred through the salad, it’s not too spicy (at least to me and I don’t like very spicy food). If you overdo the spice, serve with some vegan yoghurt to moderate the heat.
GARLIC CLOVES: Grated garlic cloves add even more flavour. If you want to take the harshness out, submerge them in lemon juice for 20 minutes or so first. Alternatively, coat unpeeled cloves in a little oil and add to the baking tray. The are done once soft.
MAPLE SYRUP: Maple syrup adds a little sweetness that contrast nicely with the lemon flavour. Other neutral flavour sweeteners will work well too. I tried date syrup, but I didn’t enjoy the end result as much as date syrup’s aftertaste was too strong.
OLIVE OIL: Olive oil helps with keeping roasted vegetables moist and the consistency of the marinade/dressing. I used extra virgin olive oil for the dressing and cooking grade olive oil for the rest. If you would rather not use oil, skip the oil in the tofu marinade and use this dressing instead.
FIRM TOFU: Firm or extra firm tofu is what I needed here – the type that is stored in water, not the silken type (that comes in Tetra packs usually). Like for most applications, you need to press it first to get rid of excess water and so it absorbs the marinade better. Coat in the marinade and set aside for as long as you can, one hour at least.
COUSCOUS: Couscous is a North African staple made of semolina – it’s North African pasta equivalent if you like. I chose it for this dish as it meshes with the other flavours nicely and because of ease of preparation. There is no need to cook it, you simply pour some boiling water and set it aside while you get on with other elements. Couscous is not gluten-free so if that’s something that is a problem for you, swap it out for quinoa or rice! I cook both (I use basmati type of rice) using absorption method of 1 cup grain : 1¼ cup water ratio. I cook it covered on the lowest heat. Once all of the water has been absorbed, I switch the heat off but keep the lid on and let it steam for another 10 minutes..
CAULIFLOWER: Roasted cauliflower is one of my favourite winter staples, I find it totally addictive. I like it coated in oil, sprinkled with smoked paprika, nutritional yeast and salt and roasted in hot oven to charred perfection. You could use broccoli instead.
SMOKED PAPRIKA: Smoked paprika is one of my favourite spices and I love using it on roasted cauliflower, please try it. You could also use regular sweet paprika, but smoked variety is so much better.
NUTRITIONAL YEAST: Nutritional yeast, which is a staple vegan seasoning made out of inactive yeast, is an optional ingredient here, but I love using it on roasted cauliflower alongside smoked paprika.
RED ONION: Red onion cut into wedges and coated in a bit of oil gets roasted in the oven alongside the other elements. It adds a bit of colour and flavour to this salad.
ALMONDS: I used slivered (flaked or whole work too) almonds toasted on a dry pan to add a bit of crunch and fragrance to this salad. If you are allergic to nuts, sunflower (or pumpkin) seeds will work just as well.
POMEGRANTE SEEDS: Juicy and tangy pomegranate seeds add beautiful pops of flavour and colour to this simple salad and take it up a notch.
PARSLEY: I stir a generous amount of fresh parsley through the couscous and use some more to decorate too. Coriander (known as cilantro in the US) or/and mint would be my other go to.
Create a marinade and dressing mixture, then use a third of it to marinate the tofu. Coat well pressed tofu in the marinade for as long as you can – at least one hour, but a few hours is better. Keep the rest of the mixture to baste the tofu with once baked and to dress the salad with.
Making couscous could not be easier. All you need to do is season it and then pour the exact amount of boiling water over it, cover and set aside. It will cook in the boiling water and its own steam while you crack on with the rest of this dish. To give it more flavour, stir lemon zest, chopped parsley and optionally chopped olives through it once it’s cooked.
The rest of this harissa tofu salad happens on a baking tray. Chop your cauliflower into same size florets, slice the onion into thick wedges and isolate interior cauliflower leaves. Coat everything in a bit of olive oil and arrange on a baking tray alongside marinated tofu. Bake in a hot oven until everything is cooked through and nicely charred. Be sure to check up on the status of these items while they are baking to make sure you are ready to remove the bits that are done and make more room for the elements that need a little more time.
Once your oven has done its magic, you are ready to assemble the salad and plate it. Drizzle some dressing on it and scatter toasted almonds, pomegranate seeds and chopped parsley for extra layers of flavour and texture, or more pazazz in other words 🙂 .
CAN I MAKE THIS DISH WITHOUT OIL?
If you want to use less oil or no oil, this dish can be adapted to your dietary needs. You can roast vegetables in stock, omit the oil in the marinade and make this oil-free dressing instead.
CAN I MAKE THIS DISH GLUTEN-FREE?
Yes, it’s actually really easy to do that. Instead of couscous, use quinoa or rice. I cook both of these (basmati rice is what I use) using absorption method of 1 cup grain : 1¼ cup water ratio. I cook it covered on the lowest heat. Once all of the water has been absorbed, I switch the heat off but keep the lid on and let it steam for another 10 minutes.
- 60 ml / ¼ cup lemon juice + zest of 1 lemon
- 2 tbsp harissa paste*
- 2 garlic cloves, finely minced
- 30 ml / 2 tbsp maple syrup
- 45 ml / 3 tbsp olive oil*
- salt & pepper, to taste
- 400 g / 14 oz firm tofu, well pressed
- 270 g / 1½ cup couscous (or rice/quinoa* if GF)
- 15 ml / 1 tbsp olive oil
- 350 g / ½ large cauliflower
- ½ tsp smoked paprika
- 1 tbsp nutritional yeast, optional
- 1 small red onion
- 10 large green olives (I used Halkidiki olives), chopped
- a large handful of fresh parsley, chopped small
- seeds from ½ pomegranate
- slivered or flaked almonds, to serve
TOFU, MARINADE & DRESSING
- Zest and juice the lemon. Set the zest aside.
- In medium bowl, combine harissa paste, minced garlic clove, lemon juice, maple syrup and olive oil. Pour a third of this mixture into a flat dish (I use my lasagne dish), add ½ tsp of salt and 1 tbsp (15 ml) of water to it. Mix well.
- Cut the tofu into same size pieces (I went for 0.75 cm / 0.3″ tall triangles), place in the dish with the marinade. Use a spatula to gently toss them in the marinade. Leave to absorb the flavours for at least 1 hr – the longer the better.
- Season the rest of the mixture to taste and set aside – this will used to baste the tofu once more and to dress the salad.
- Place couscous in a bowl and stir 1 tsp salt. Pour 450 ml (2 cups minus 2 tbsp) of boiling water over it then immediately cover with an upside down plate. Move on to the next step.
- Heat up the oven to 225º C / 435º F and grab a large baking tray. Place marinated tofu on half of the tray.
- Cut cauliflower into same size florets and save the tender interior leaves for later. Coat cauliflower in 2 tsp of olive olive oil, sprinkle with smoked paprika, nutritional yeast and salt. Add to the baking tray.
- Peel the the onion and cut into thick wedges keeping the root end intact, coat in olive oil, season and add to the tray. Bake for about 20 minutes.
- After 20 minutes, remove the onion (it should be done) and check on the cauliflower – some pieces will be done ahead of others so remove them from the tray. Brush tofu with a little dressing from step 3 add cauliflower leaves coated in olive oil. Bake for another 5-10 minutes, until everything in knife soft and charred in places.
- While the veggies are baking, roast almond on a dry frying pan until golden. Use low heat and toss frequently.
- Fluff couscous up with a fork, stir lemon zest, chopped parsley and olives (if using) through it. Arrange on a platter, top with baked tofu, roasted onion, cauliflower florets and leaves.
- Decorate with pomegranate seeds, toasted almonds and more parsley.
*OIL: If you would rather not use oil, roast the veggies in stock, skip the oil in the tofu marinade and use this dressing instead.
*QUINOA: if you want to keep this salad gluten-free, use quinoa or rice instead of couscous. I cook both using absorption method of 1 cup grain : 1¼ cup water ratio. I cook it covered on the lowest heat. Once all of the water has been absorbed, I switch the heat off but keep the lid on and let it steam for another 10 minutes.