Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Insalata Caprese with Basil-Walnut Pesto, Lemon Tofu Mozzarella

Caprese salad a simple salad from Italy traditionally composed of tomato, basil and mozzarella. Not being a huge fan of vegan cheese I wanted to go a different route and marinate some silken tofu in herbs and citrus to allow for a flavorful alternative that resembles the texture of mozzarella but has much more flavor.
My immediate inspiration for this dish were the beautiful heirloom tomatoes I saw at the store today. Summer is the best time for tomatoes and when heirlooms start showing up, I can't resist despite the somewhat costly price. Good produce is always worth it.
Traditional caprese serves the tomatoes raw but I wanted to roast them with a homemade pesto to allow all of the flavors of summer to amplify. Roasting is also a fool-proof cooking technique for tomatoes that aren't so flavorful, resulting in a wonderful taste and texture afterwards everytime.
Now...I know what you're thinking.."tofu mozzarella?" I was a little skeptical of my idea as well. As much as I love tofu, I never eat it raw. BLEG! I can't even stand the thought of it. In fact when people find out I'm vegan and they ask "what do you eat?!" I always respond in a very sarcastic (with a tinge of annoyance) way "raw tofu and wheatgrass." And now look...I ate raw tofu for dinner. The jokes on me! The strong lemon and herb marinade really worked its way in the silken tofu wonderfully and left no residual tofu flavor. The texture was creamy and paired perfectly with the roasted tomatoes. I will definitely be adding this to my list of favorites.

Lemon Herb Tofu Mozzarella
2 large sprigs fresh rosemary, leaves stripped
3 tbl fresh thyme leaves
5 small mint leaves
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
juice and zest from 1 large lemon
3 tbl extra virgin olive oil
3 tbl canola oil
10 oz extra firm silken tofu, 1/2" slices

Use a mortar and pestle (or roughly chop) to crush up all of the herbs, releasing their natural oils and flavor. Transfer to a bowl and combine the salt, pepper, lemon juice and zest and oil. Whisk to combine. Lay the tofu in a baking dish with sides and pour the marinade over top.
Marinate for 5 hours to overnight, basting once or twice during this time. Serve raw.

Basil Walnut Pesto
1 cup raw walnuts
2 oz fresh basil leaves
3 garlic cloves
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

In a food processor, combine the walnuts, basil and garlic. Process until smooth. Add the salt, pepper and oil and process until smooth.

Insalata Caprese
4 heirloom tomatoes, 1/2" slice
basil walnut pesto
lemon tofu mozzarella
1 cup fresh basil leaves
extra virgin olive oil
flaky sea salt
black pepper

Preheat the oven to 425.
Line the tomatoes in a single layer on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.
Roast for 10 minutes then remove from the oven. Spoon some pesto on top of each tomato and return back into the oven for 5 minutes.
Serve the roasted tomatoes with lemon tofu mozzarella, fresh basil leaves, a drizzle of olive oil and flaky sea salt.


  1. I've been thinking of the lemon mozz since I commented. I just made the above and put over breaded and baked eggplant cutlets. Holy milkshake, it was divine. Tis hot here in PDX and this totally hit the spot.


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