If you give me an assortment of ingredients and tell me to make dinner, you’ll likely be eating one of two cuisines, broadly interpreted. I’ll cook greens in tons of olive oil, with lightly sautéed garlic and a pinch of red pepper flakes (let’s call that Italian) and serve them with pasta or eggs or bread. Or, I’ll stir-fry beef or chicken or tofu in a mixture of sugar, fish sauce, and soy sauce (let’s deem that Thai) and put it on top of rice. Standard stuff, easy, and delicious – but hardly experimental.
So, I’m grateful to my cookbook shelf, where chefs and home cooks take these ingredients I already use and put them together in ways beyond these two fallbacks.
These miso-balsamic tofu rice bowls owe their tastiness to Anna Jones, author of A Modern Way to Cook to Anna. She take soy sauce and balsamic vinegar, which I never would have mixed together, and turns them into a marinade. Mixed together in equal parts, with olive oil for richness and maple syrup for sweetness, the sauces turn into a zippy but simple seasoning for chicken or tofu. The balsamic is sweet and just a little tangy; the soy is full of umami. And since the marinade doesn’t have garlic or onion, it’s even simpler to throw together, and it has the kind of staying power where you can eat the resulting tofu or chicken again and again without the flavors becoming cloying, which sometimes happens when a marinade is really strong.
This time, I poured the marinade on tofu. I’ve been cooking under the broiler recently, and here I use it to get crispy brown edges on the tofu.
With steamed string beans, thinly cut carrots, a handful of washed lettuce from the CSA, a tahini sauce that’s as quick to whisk together as the marinade (and also includes a touch of balsamic vinegar!), and a handful of rice: the tofu becomes a filling, healthful, and colorful bowl.