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Nut-Crusted Tofu Spears with Sauce Pistou and Arugula, Tomato and Watercress Salad

Image of Nut-Crusted Tofu Spears with Sauce Pistou and Arugula, Tomato and Watercress Salad
This dish is great for anyone on the fence about eating tofu. Or if they have issues with gluten. The sprouted extra firm tofu (food-sensitive people sometimes find sprouted tofu easier to digest than other forms of tofu) is breaded in a mixture of Italian-herb flavored nut crumbs (I use cashews, pecans and almonds) that’s then fried in a neutral, non-GMO canola oil, which creates a shatteringly crisp crust that rivals the Italian-style fried mozzarella sticks served in Manhattan. While you can sub in olive oil, canola’s decidedly more neutral flavor allows the spices and nuts to shine in this dish. Served with a heady basil Sauce Pistou on the side as a dipping sauce, and a lightly-dressed arugula, watercress and tomato salad, this meal delivers big summer flavors without much effort.

Pistou is an uncooked basil–based sauce originating in the Provence region of France. Although similar to its Italian cousin, Pesto, the Gallic rendition uses no pine nuts. Or… any other kind of nut. Bright, kelly-green colored sauce Pistou contains fresh basil, garlic, salt and olive oil—that’s it. Modern takes on this addictive condiment include minced chiles, parmesan cheese and chopped ripe tomatoes. If any Pistou is left over, cover and refrigerate, then drop a hefty dollop on top of your next homemade vegetable soup right before serving—it’s a game changer!

Nut-Crusted Tofu Spears with Sauce Pistou and Arugula, Tomato and Watercress Salad
Serves: 2 as a main; 4 as an appetizer

Image of Ingredients on kitchen counter
For the Sauce Pistou:
2 cups packed, fresh Melissa’s basil leaves, stems removed
3 medium cloves garlic, peeled and micro-planed to a paste
2 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan
Freshly ground Melissa’s Rainbow Peppercorns, to taste
½ teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon dried red chili pepper flakes
½ cup extra virgin olive oil

Image of sauce Pistou
In a food processor, add basil leaves, garlic, Parmesan cheese, pepper, salt and chile, then pulse several times to combine. With the motor running, slowly add oil in a thin stream until combined. Stir and place in a bowl and set aside.
Image of Ingredients on kitchen counter top
For the Nut-Crusted Tofu Spears
1 block of organic sprouted extra-firm firm tofu or Melissa’s Organic Pressed Tofu, cut into 6 slices
1 cup organic cornstarch
2 eggs
1/3 cup finely grated, good-quality parmesan cheese
2 cups Italian-style nut crumbs (I recommend Appel Foods)
2 cups non-GMO canola oil (suitable for a 450 F cooking temperature)

Drain tofu, rinse under water and pat dry with a paper towel. With a sharp knife, cut the tofu block into 6 slices and lay on a paper towel. Place another paper towel over the top and gently press down to remove excess moisture.

Prepare the breading station: Place a 12-inch-long strip of foil on the counter and pour cornstarch on top. Smooth out with your fingers into a 12-inch circle. Place 2 eggs into a medium bowl and whisk with a fork until blended. Add the parmesan cheese and whisk until combined, then set next to cornstarch.
Place a second 12-inch strip of foil on the counter next to the egg mixture and seasoned nut crumbs on top and spread with your fingers to about ¼-inch thickness.

Place 1 tofu spear into the cornstarch and gently push into starch, then turn over and push the second side to coat. Shake off excess cornstarch, then dip into beaten egg and cheese mixture. Let excess egg drip back into egg bowl, then roll eggy tofu spear into nut crumbs, coating both sides. Place nut-crusted tofu spear on a parchment paper-lined baking dish, then repeat with remaining tofu spears.
Image of fried tofu
To Fry: Place 2 cups of organic, non-GMO canola oil into a deep skillet or wok, and heat on medium-high heat till oil shimmers but is not smoking. Carefully add breaded tofu spears to hot oil and fry until crust is golden brown and crispy—about 3 minutes. Using tongs, turn over tofu spears and continue to fry until golden brown and crispy—about 2 minutes more.
Image of fried tofu spears on grid
Remove fried tofu spears to a baking grid that covers a baking dish, and lightly sprinkle with salt.

For the Watercress, Arugula and Chopped Tomato Salad:
1 bunch watercress, washed and stemmed
1 cup arugula, washed and spun dry
1 Roma tomato, chopped
2 limes, juiced
½ teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoon canola oil
½ fresh lemon, seeded and cut in half (optional)

Place lime juice in a large salad bowl, add salt and pepper, then whisk until salt dissolves; slowly whisk in oil, and add greens. Toss several times, then place on plate. Add chopped tomatoes to the remaining dressing, toss and place over greens.
Image of Nut-Crusted Tofu Spears with Sauce Pistou and Arugula, Tomato and Watercress Salad
Place fried tofu spears on a serving plate and add sauce Pistou as a dipping sauce on the side. Add lime-dressed salad with a wedge of fresh lemon, and serve immediately!
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