Kitchen 101: Salad, Tofu, and Onions

Molly Patrick shows you how to cut an onion without tears, some DIY salad dressing, and some wonderful things you can do with tofu.

November 1, 2014

HomesteadIssue 9: November/December 2014Kitchen 101

DIY Salad Dressing

You wouldn’t know it by looking at the ingredient labels of store-bought salad dressings, but a good dressing should only have around five or six ingredients, tops. Vinaigrette is the most basic dressing, and once you see how ridiculously easy and versatile it is to make, you can take salad dressing off your grocery list permanently.


A good vinaigrette is made up of three parts extra virgin olive oil, one part acid, a pinch of pepper, and a generous pinch of salt. (It’s worth the splurge to buy good quality olive oil.) You can choose whatever acid you like. Balsamic vinegar, red wine vinegar, lemon juice, lime juice, or grapefruit juice are good options.

Add oil, acid, salt, and pepper to a jar, screw on the lid, and shake until combined. Consider this your base. You can leave it as is, or you can customize it from here. Maybe add a touch of agave to balance the acid, a little mustard to thicken it up, or throw in some fresh herbs and spices to give it some pizazz. Fresh chives, fresh basil, fresh mint, green onions, dried thyme, and garlic granules are all great ideas. Have fun and play around with it. You can make as little or as much as you want as long as you follow the three to one ratio.

Tofu Three Ways

Tofu is like a sponge. It soaks up whatever you offer it. Offer it a few shakes of salt and little pepper and you are destined for boring tofu, only to encourage the stereotype that tofu is tasteless. Marinate tofu in a yummy sauce with lots of spices and flavor, and it’s a different story.

For extra flavorful tofu, freeze the tofu first and then thaw it before you add flavoring. The texture will be even more sponge-like after it’s thawed and it will soak up even more flavor. Also, make sure to rinse your tofu and extract as much liquid as possible before cooking or marinating. You can use a clean kitchen cloth, a paper towel, or a tofu press, or you can set the tofu in a colander and cover it with something heavy for 30 minutes.

Pan Fry

Slice or dice tofu and marinate overnight in the fridge. You can marinate it almost anything, but make sure it is has a ton of flavor. One idea for a yummy marinade is soy sauce, sesame oil, rice vinegar, lemon juice, and some chopped garlic and ginger.

In a skillet, sautÈ some green onions, chives, or shallots (or all three) in a little olive oil. Add marinated tofu to the pan and cook until all the sides are browned. Drizzle the extra marinade over the tofu as it cooks. Cook until the tofu is firm and brown on the outside.

Serve hot alongside rice and veggies, add it to a sandwich, or refrigerate and toss it on top of a big green salad.


Seaweed makes for a fishy flavor that you wouldn’t expect from tofu. When done right, even cold tofu dishes can pack a serious flavor punch.

Place a couple of tablespoons of dried Wakame seaweed (or any other variety of dried seaweed) in two cups of water for about 10 minutes, or until the seaweed becomes hydrated and soft. Strain the water from the seaweed and place the seaweed in a large mixing bowl. Take a package of firm tofu and cut it into bite-sized pieces. Place the tofu in the same bowl as the seaweed along with a few tablespoons of soy sauce, a couple of teaspoons of sesame oil, juice from a lime, a couple of cloves of minced garlic, half of a finely diced red onion, a teaspoon or so of peeled and grated ginger and a couple of chopped green onions. Gently mix everything together and place in the fridge for about an hour. Serve cold.


There’s a theme here, and it’s all about marination. For a lick-your-lips, “I need more now” tofu scramble, place your tofu in a large bowl, mash it with a fork, add a bunch of seasonings, and leave it in the fridge overnight.

A good start to a basic scramble marinade is nutritional yeast, garlic powder, dried basil, sea salt, white pepper, balsamic vinegar, green onions, and fresh parsley. And don’t be skimpy; remember, tofu is like a sponge. In the morning, sautÈ some onions, garlic, peppers, mushrooms, and whatever other veggies you like, add in the tofu, and scramble for about five minutes, until everything is combined and heated.

Once your tofu scramble is cooked, heat up a whole wheat or corn tortilla, add some avocado and tomato, throw in the scramble, and you’re good to go!

Molly Patrick blogs at

How to cut an onion

  1. Here’s a fast, thorough, and easy way to perfectly dice an onion every time – without the tears.
  2. Slice the onion in half longways.
  3. Chop off the stem end and peel the onion. Leave the root end on (the root end contains those tear-inducing chemicals).
  4. Place your hand flat on top of the onion with your palm pressing down and slice 3 to 5 horizontal slices into the onion.
  5. Slice vertically from one end to the other, making sure not to slice all the way into the root.
  6. Turn the onion and slice in the other direction.
  7. Watch the onions pieces gently fall off the onion before your nonwatery eyes.
  8. Discard the root end and chop finer if needed.

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