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Cooling Salads for Hot Days

Warm greetings to my gentle readers who have patiently awaited a new recipe while I took some time off this summer. I’d like to reward you with a quick and easy dish to cool you off during these hot summer days—a satisfying and totally yummy Tofu Salad that even omnivores will enjoy (much to their surprise)!

You can serve this as a side dish to a summer soup, on a bed of salad greens, or as the added protein on a colorful vegetable plate. Hmmm…I’m envisioning sweet potato fries, quick asparagus or green beans, and corn on the cob with a half-cup of tofu salad in the center. If you love a sandwich for lunch, pile some tofu salad on your favorite bread. (The salad’s moisture will be a good balance to bread that has become dry, making it easier to digest.)

Summer guidance from Ayurveda

When the “dog days” of summer arrive in August (or, sadly, much earlier across the globe this year) it is important to eat cooling foods that help your metabolism avoid overheating. You’ll also feel cooler on hot days if you choose cooling foods over those that are naturally heating.

Did you know that symptoms such as irritability, headaches, itchiness and sleeplessness (if you wake 2 to 4 a.m. and have difficulty going back to sleep) are often linked with too much heat in the body? This is the ancient wisdom of Ayurveda, which may also be your intuitive understanding. Fortunately, food is our friend when we pay attention to a food’s qualities and the ways these impact our bodies, minds, and emotions.

What are cooling foods?

As you may know, Ayurveda classifies foods in several ways, including whether a food is inherently heating or cooling.

You shouldn’t be surprised to see Ayuveda’s list of cooling foods because we turn to them instinctively when the weather turns hot. Some of the most cooling foods include these:

  • Lettuce, cucumbers, celery, fennel
  • Summer squash, zucchini, asparagus, kale, and spinach
  • Coconut, apples, red and black grapes, and all melons
  • Mint, cilantro, coriander, cumin, and rosewater.
  • Tofu

Balanced cooking

Yes, on its own, tofu is naturally cooling. Combine it with other cooling foods such as fennel or celery, cilantro, and mint and you’ll create a perfect summer dish loaded with protein. However, this combination of foods is so cooling that I added some garlic to the recipe, not only for flavor but for a little balancing heat to aid digestion.

Other foods like dates, figs, cruciferous vegetables, and avocado may not seem to be obviously cooling. This is especially true of avocado because many people make guacamole by adding intensely heating ingredients such as raw onions and jalapenos to avocado—making most guacamole something to avoid during the summer! Certain legumes are also cooling, but they are more easily digested when they’re cooked with generous amounts of warming herbs and spices such as fresh garlic, fresh ginger, turmeric, and other Indian spices including fenugreek and black mustard seeds.

Just as warming spices can balance overly cooling foods such as legumes, you can enlist the help of cooling herbs and spices any time you cook foods that are inherently heating. For instance, Ayurveda classifies carrots as heating, so I serve carrots with lots of cilantro, mint, and a drizzle of coconut milk to make a perfect summer soup.

Enjoy this cooling Tofu Salad throughout the summer, and always feel satisfied at the end of your vegan meal.

PS Looking for more summer dishes? Try these summer soups: Summer Sweet Potato Soup, Corn and Avocado Soup, Broccoli Carrot Soup over basmati rice, PeanutButter Cucumber Soup, Beet and Fennel Soup, Creamy Zucchini Soup in 20 minutes or less.

 

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TOFU SALAD

Preparation time: About 20 minutes active plus 30 minutes to press the tofu

Serves 6 to 10

Although it’s not necessary to press tofu, your dish will have more flavor if you take that extra step. Pressing tofu releases its excess water, which allows the tofu to better absorb other flavors—and avoids having too much water in the final dish. You can use celery instead of fennel stalks, although if you do, you’ll miss out on fennel’s unique flavor.

For the tofu
2 16-ounce cakes of firm tofu
2 to 4 fennel stalks
1 small red pepper (optional)
2 tablespoons avocado oil
1 large leek bulb (about ½ cup when sliced) divided
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
1 small to medium cucumber
½ cup cilantro or fresh dill
3 to 5 mint leaves
1 teaspoon mineral salt

For the dressing
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons Bragg Liquid Aminos
1/8 to ¼ cup fresh lime juice
1 clove garlic

Cooks Tip: If you don’t want to take 3 minutes to make a fresh dressing, try a good lime- or lemon-based vinaigrette, or even a tahini-based dressing. Of course, I prefer fresh, and this recipe is quick, easy, and delicious!

1. Press the tofu blocks by placing them on a heavy dinner plate; then cover the blocks with a second plate. Place a heavy object such as a cookbook on the top plate. (I even add a couple sweet potatoes on top of the book.) Let the tofu sit in this “press” for 30 minutes or more, and then pour off the water and place the tofu blocks in a medium or large mixing bowl.

2. While the tofu is being pressed, prepare the vegetables: Rinse the fennel stalks and slice thinly. Mince the red pepper. Wash and slice the leek. Heat the avocado oil in medium-sized sauté pan over medium-low heat. Once the oil is warm, sauté the fennel and red pepper for about 5 minutes. Now add half of the sliced leek and cook another five minutes, just enough for all the vegetables to partially soften (which makes them easier to digest). Add the cumin, coriander, and turmeric, and stir the spices into the veggies for 30 seconds to 1 minute, when you can smell the spices. Turn off the heat and set aside.

3. Slice the cucumber in half and scrape out the seeds (if you wish, for easier digestion). Chop into bite-sized pieces. Wash and mince the cilantro or dill. Roll the mint leaves together and slice them simultaneously.

4. Make the dressing.

5. Once you’ve moved the tofu to a mixing bowl, mash it with a potato masher. (If you prefer to slice the tofu into cubes, go for it.) Add the dressing, sauteed veggies, and salt and stir well. Add the uncooked leeks and cucumbers and stir again. Add the cilantro or dill and mint and toss gently. Add salt to taste, if needed, and give the salad a final toss before serving at room temperature.

Ayurvedic Note: This dish is very cooling, so it is ideal in the summer months for most people—especially for pitta types and people with pitta problems. If you suffer from arthritis, it’s best to avoid nightshades, which is why the red pepper is listed as “optional.”

 

 

 

 

 

Add 1 to 2 teaspoons of fresh ginger if you have difficulty digesting tofu or cucumbers.

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