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Asian Spinach Salad with Candied Walnuts and Fried Tofu Croutons

By: 
Tina Wasserman
Asian Spinach Salad
Asian Spinach Salad

This is not an ancient recipe, but it is a good example of how observant Jews in far-reaching areas of the world used the ingredients readily available to build upon the foundation of Jewish dietary laws. 

Makes 4 to 6 servings
Ingredients: 
DRESSING
1/3 cup corn oil
2 tablespoons dark sesame seed oil
3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon cream sherry
2 × 1/2-inch strip of lemon zest
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 scallion, white part and 2 inches of green, sliced 1/2-inch thick
1 teaspoon minced ginger
1 clove garlic, minced
Pinch of crushed red pepper
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon minced fresh basil
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SALAD
10 ounces fresh baby spinach or spinach-mesclun mix
1 cup fresh bean sprouts
1/3 cup julienne-sliced bamboo shoots
1/2 cup blanched snow peas, finely sliced lengthwise
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MARINATED FRIED TOFU
3 ounces extra firm tofu, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 25 cubes)
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon soy sauce
Oil for deep-frying
1 egg white (about 3 tablespoons)
1/2 cup dried panko bread crumbs
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SPICED WALNUTS
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons five-spice powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups walnut pieces
Directions: 
  1. Combine the dressing ingredients in a blender and blend until relatively smooth. Set aside in a screw-top jar until ready to use.
  2. Rinse and dry the spinach and bean sprouts. Place in a large salad bowl with bamboo shoots and snow peas.
  3. Marinate the tofu squares in honey and soy sauce for 10 minutes. Heat oil in a 1-quart saucepan to a depth of 1 inch. Roll the tofu in the egg white, and coat thoroughly with the bread crumbs. Fry the tofu until golden, and drain on paper towel.
  4. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Bring the water, sugar, five-spice powder, and salt to a boil in a 1-quart saucepan.
  5. Add the walnuts and stir for 1 minute. Spread the nuts onto a nonstick jellyroll pan or a pan lined with parchment paper. Bake walnuts for 7 minutes or until they are dark golden and most of the liquid has evaporated.
  6. Remove the nuts from the baking pan and cool on an oiled counter or cookie sheet. When cool, break the pieces up and store in freezer until ready to use.
  7. To assemble the salad, toss the greens with some of the vinaigrette until lightly moistened. Top salad with some of the walnuts and the tofu croutons and serve with remaining vinaigrette on the side.
Tina's Tidbits: 

  • “Blanching” literally means “to whiten,” but with reference to vegetables it means cooking in boiling salted water for 30 seconds to 1 minute and then plunging the vegetables into ice water to stop the cooking process. This is done to set the bright color and heighten the flavor of the food by bringing out the natural sugars in the food. This technique should always be used on green vegetables that are to be served cold in a salad or as crudités with dip.
  • Panko is a type of bread crumb from Japan that is large and irregular in shape and gives food an excellent crunchy coating.
Source: 
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