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After a rainy Sunday at home Sune and I took a break in the storm as an opportunity to wander out in the rice fields in front of our house. These rice fields seem to expand forever and give an instant feel of humble insignificance in comparison with the mountains and the sky.  This evening we were alone in the fields, save for the bats and the millions of frogs croaking in the paddies, the air was dense and shockingly warm. We were surrounded by low, swirling, mischievous clouds that threatened rain in all directions. It was quite atmospheric as we twisted around and watched the sky turn from black to pink. By the middle of the walk fat rain drops began to plop-plop in the rice paddies as we ran back to our house, smiling ear to ear, we got our first taste of the monsoon season to come.

As the temperature rises, my diet changes. I want refreshing flavors with minimum time spent standing at the stove. After our run in the rain we came home and wanted something fast, light and nourishing. Monsoon Salad was invented on the spot and we know it will become a favorite during the summer months.

miyoga, or japanese ginger

This is a meal in a salad sort of dish with simple ingredients and minimal time given to the stove.

Recipe: Monsoon Salad

the dressing: 

juice of half a lime

2-3 tablespoons olive oil

a few torn mint leaves (or any fresh herb really)

1 clove garlic, minced

2 teaspoons rice vinegar

salt, pepper and sugar to taste

(put it all in an old jam jar and shake-shake-shake!)

the tofu:

4,  1/2 inch thick “slabs” of firm tofu, the water pressed out carefully with a cloth

I grill the tofu in a non-stick pan with absolutely no oil, shaking the pan occasionally to prevent sticking. When one side is brown, I sprinkle a tiny bit of salt on the top side and flip. Turn off the heat and place on a plate to cool.

the salad:

ladle 1 2 or scoops of brown rice as a bed on a plate

top with a few generous handfulls of chopped romaine (or the salad green of your choice).

one cucumber sliced on the diagonal and then stacked and cut into matchsticks. I like to take my cucumber matchsticks and roll them around with a little salt to make them sweat a bit. sprinkle over the lettuce.

finally, a japanese twist, sliced miyoga! chop a bulb in half and cut little slivers to sprinkle on top of your salad. Miyoga (sometimes labeled “Japanese ginger”) gives a light but necessary refreshing flavor to the salad… if you don’t have a lovely Japanese green grocer like the Yasai market in Berkeley, then you can substitute with green onions or a scant amount of red onion.

ladle the dressing carefully over each plate, making sure to cover the tofu and all the salad. Done! so fast! so delicious! so healthy! so refreshing!