Citrus-Ginger Tofu Salad with Kelp Noodles

One of my clients loves soba noodles, so I’m always on the lookout for interesting soba recipes. This week, I came across a recipe for Citrus Ginger Tofu Salad with Soba Noodles on Food52, and I prepared it for my client, pretty much as the recipe is written. It is everything you’d want to eat in the summer — bright, refreshing, full of crunchy vegetables. I highly recommend the recipe as written.

The version I made for myself later in the week had a few modifications. For one, I substituted kelp noodles for the soba because I had them on hand. Why did I have kelp noodles on hand? I’ve been meaning to experiment with them for some time because I’m attempting to incorporate more sea vegetables into my diet. The trace minerals found in sea vegetables — including iodine, which was added to table salt to prevent goiters in the early 20th century — are especially beneficial for thyroid health and other hormonal functions. The noodles have no flavor or color — they look like glass noodles — and they’re crunchy. However, after the salad marinated in the fridge overnight, the texture of the noodles resembled that of rice noodles. Also, they’re a raw food, if you’re into that kind of thing.

I also modified the variety of vegetables in the salad, based on what I already had in the refrigerator. For one, I peeled and grated the broccoli stalk, a sadly underutilized ingredient. It’s sweet and crunchy, and it adds another lovely layer of flavor and texture to any summer slaw. The recipe yields a lot of salad, and I’ve been eating the leftovers for the past few days. (If you know me, you know that I hate leftovers, so the fact that I’m not sick of this salad yet is a big recommendation unto itself.)

Here, I served myself the salad without the baked tofu to accompany some seared sockeye salmon. For breakfast because I love a really savory breafast.

Here, I served myself the salad without the baked tofu to accompany some seared sockeye salmon. For breakfast because I love a really savory breakfast.

Citrus-Ginger Tofu Salad with Kelp Noodles
Serves 4 (generously)

For the Tofu + Marinade:

  • 1 ounce orange juice
  • 1 ounce tamari (or other soy sauce, such as shoyu)
  • 1 ounce toasted sesame oil
  • 1 ounce sunflower seed oil (may substitute: grape seed, peanut, raw sesame oil)
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated ginger
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons maple syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 package extra firm tofu

Preparing the Tofu + Marinade: Preheat the oven to 350º Fahrenheit. In a bowl mix together orange juice, tamari, sesame oil, sunflower oil, ginger, garlic, maple syrup, and cayenne and set aside.

Cut the tofu into 1-inch cubes and place into a small baking pan without overlapping. Pour the marinade over the tofu. Put the tofu into the oven and bake for 15 minutes, stir, and bake for 15 minutes more until browned. With a slotted spoon, scoop out the tofu and place onto a plate and allow to cool. Pour the remaining marinade into a bowl and set aside.

For the Salad:

  • Leftover marinade
  • Zest of 1 lime
  • Juice of 1/2 lime
  • 1 ounce orange juice
  • 3 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar
  • salt to taste
  • 1 (12-ounce) package kelp noodles*
  • florets from 1 bunch of broccoli
  • stalks from 1 bunch of broccoli, peeled and coarsely grated
  • 3 small carrots, peeled and coarsely grated (I used a variety of rainbow carrots)
  • 2 cups shredded red cabbage
  • 1/3 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 8 basil leaves, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted

Preparing the citrus vinaigrette: Add the lemon zest and juice to the remaining marinade. Continue to add the orange juice, rice vinegar, maple syrup, and sea salt to taste. Set aside.

Preparing the salad: Rinse the kelp noodles in cold water and drain. Set aside. Meanwhile, bring a small pot of water to a boil, and blanch the broccoli florets for 30 seconds. Immediately strain the florets and rinse with cold water. Put the blanched broccoli florets, shredded broccoli stalks, carrots, cabbage, cilantro, basil, and sesame seeds into a large bowl and toss. Dress the salad with the citrus vinaigrette. Serve the salad topped with baked tofu and garnished with sesame seeds.

*You can find kelp noodles at Whole Foods and most health-food stores.

A Well-Appointed Kitchen

Many cooking blogs have lists of their kitchen essentials. Well, I’ve decided to give you a peek into my well-appointed kitchen. Here’s a list of equipment — in the form of an Amazon wish list — that I have stocked my own home kitchen with — and it’s the equipment I ask my clients to keep in their kitchens, as well. I have a hodge-podge of brands in my kitchen because I bought things as I needed them. I encourage you to try out different brands and find the equipment that feels right for you.

Some day in the future, I hope to blog about how I organize my small Manhattan kitchen. In the meantime, here’s a quick glimpse of where I put all my stuff (spoiler: I hang most things on the wall).

Duck Tales: My Very First Cook-Off

I have fallen deeply, madly in love with duck. It might just be my second favorite protein, behind lamb, so I’m always looking for new duck recipes. Several months ago, I came across a recipe for Duck Breasts with Fennel and Rosemary. The description said that the duck is prepared in the style of porchettaroasted suckling pig highly seasoned with aromatic herbs and garlic. The recipe was solid, but not spectacular: good enough to hold onto until I had time to tweak it.

Then, last month, I received an email from Food Systems Network NYC announcing their 3rd Annual Duck-Off at Jimmy’s No. 43. A duck cook-off! I’ve never participated in a cook-off before, but Hudson Valley Duck Farm was donating the duck, so I was in! I decided to revisit the duck porchetta recipe, figuring that it was simple enough to scale up the recipe for a large crowd, and it was the perfect opportunity to finally play around and perfect it.

The first (and best) porchetta I’ve ever tasted was at Sara Jenkins’ shop, Porchetta, so I decided to begin experimenting with her recipe, which you can find on the shop’s website. This meant I had to procure fennel pollen. FENNEL POLLEN! This is a key ingredient to the porchetta herb mixture, as Chef Jenkins explains on her website:

the wild fennel pollen: comes from the small dried petals and pollen of the wild fennel flower which grows everywhere in the Mediterranean. This powerful flavor is so closely connected to Porchetta in Italy that other meats using fennel pollen are said to be Porchetta style.

Okay, this was already getting interesting. After some snooping on the internet, I decided to order the fennel pollen directly from Pollen Ranch. And then I had to wait a few days.

Fennel pollen acquired, I made a small batch of duck breast following Jenkins’ herb-mix recipe exactly. It was good, but duck has a gamier flavor than pork, so I needed to play around with it a bit. I decided I needed more garlic and the sweet, citrusy flavor of orange zest. Also, I decided to season the meat directly with salt and pepper, rather than adding those ingredients to the rub. Et voilà! After just a couple of small tweaks, I had my recipe. I decided to serve the duck simply — an open-faced sandwich on ciabatta bread, similarly to how Ms. Jenkins serves her porchetta sandwiches. The meat is flavorful enough that you really don’t need much more to accompany it. Besides, this competition was all about the duck.

I had eighteen pounds of duck breast to prepare! So, I seasoned and tied all 18 breasts together the night before the cook-off and let them sit in the fridge overnight. I’d never let the breasts marinate so long before cooking them, but I figured it couldn’t hurt. In fact, I think it only improved the outcome because . . .

I ended up winning 2nd Place — People’s Choice! I won a very nifty Wüsthof knife, and I may be hooked on this cook-off lifestyle. The whole experience was a lot of fun and I met some great cooks and duck enthusiasts. For a list of all the winners, click here.

Big thanks to FSNYC, Hudson Valley Duck, and Jimmy’s No. 43 for such a fun experience! And a special thank you to Sara Jenkins for inspiring my prize-winning recipe!

Now, without further ado, here’s the recipe for my prize-winning Duck Breasts “Porchettata”.

Roasted Duck Breasts “Porchettata”
Adapted from Sara Jenkins’ Porchetta recipe
Serves 8

4 boneless duck breast halves (approximately 4 pounds, total)
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
20 fresh sage leaves
3 leafy sprigs fresh thyme, leaves removed
3 leafy sprigs rosemary, stemmed
4 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
2 tablespoons fennel pollen*
zest from half an orange, grated

Heat oven to 400ºF.

Pat duck breasts dry, and with a sharp knife score skin in a one-inch crosshatch pattern (be careful not to cut into the meat). Place duck breasts, skin side down, on work surface and season generously with salt and pepper.

Finely chop sage, thyme, rosemary, and garlic together (you can do this in a food processor or by hand). Place the mixture in a small bowl and add fennel pollen and orange zest. Mix well.

Press the herb mixture over duck breast meat. Place one breast atop another, meaty sides together. Tie breasts together with kitchen twine so that you have 2 duck breast bundles.

Place tied duck breasts in a 12-inch, heavy-bottomed ovenproof skillet. Place skillet (with the duck breasts in it) on the stovetop over medium heat. Cook until well browned on all sides, turning occasionally, about 10-15 minutes. Discard fat from skillet. Transfer skillet with duck to oven. Roast about 25 minutes, flipping the breasts midway through cooking. Transfer duck to cutting board and let rest 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, pour pan drippings into glass measuring cup. Spoon fat off top. Remove string and cut each breast into half-inch slices. Drizzle any pan juices over and serve immediately.

*Fennel pollen is available at Kalustyan’s,,, and select specialty food stores.


Mighty Duck Cracklings

Today, I braised duck legs for one of my clients. Before doing anything else with them, I had to trim the excess skin and fat from the legs — and ducks are fatty, fatty animals. I had 6 legs, so I decided to render the fat from the copious trimmings. Rendering fat is a fairly simple process. I put about half an inch of water in the bottom of an oven-safe saucepan, and to that I added the chopped up fat and skin from the duck. I put it in a low oven (300ºF) and let it do its magic for a couple hours, as I went about my business making celery root purée and braising short ribs in addition to the duck legs. The water is there to prevent the skin and other solids from burning in the beginning, and it evaporates out as the fat renders. After taking it out of the oven, and straining out the solids, I was left with pure golden duck fat

This is not where the story ends! I hope you don’t think that I threw out the precious skin. The skin is where the true magic lies, my friends. I put the skin back into the saucepan with about a tablespoon of the rendered fat and fried it up until it was crispy, crunchy cracklings! Also known as gribenes in Yiddish.Gribenes

I salted them and added them to some of the celery root purée referenced above for my “family meal” for one!