I’m pretty ace at saving recipes. Letting them sit in my mind long enough to want to recall them when it’s time to consider dinner, however, not so much. I subscribe to CHOW’s daily recipe and Splendid Table’s Weeknight Kitchen, and both provide extra tastiness to my morning e-mail check. 9 out of 10 get stashed in their respective folders, and most are never to be seen again. You should see the recipe folder in my bookmarks. It’s a little ridiculous.

Not so this recipe. Lynne Rossetto Kasper’s “Salad of Beef with Lime, Chile and Mint Inspired by Laos” (whew) raised my eyebrows enough that I made it last summer for Avery, and tonight for Ben. This is a riff on Lynne’s riff on larb, the Laotian crisp, spicy, protein-heavy salad that breaks summer heat into tart bursts of flavor. I’ve been using tofu, with a curiosity about shrimp for the next go.

Whereas Lynne broke out the grill for this, I seared the tofu; she used rice noodles, and I picked up a fun squishy pack of kelp noodles at the store that work beautifully. Instead of tossing it all together, I laid those big gorgeous pieces of soy curd right on top. After I snapped the photo, I realized I had an avocado, too. That took this from delectable to downright scarfable.

Larb, Kind Of
adapted from Lynne Rossetto Kasper
serves 2-3 as a main course

1 large garlic clove, minced
2 teaspons grated fresh ginger
2 packed teaspoons brown sugar, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon each salt and ground black pepper
zest and juice of 1 large lime
1 tablespoon fish sauce
2 tablespoons water

1 12-oz package kelp noodles, or 12 oz dry rice noodles, soaked in warm water to soften
4 whole scallions, thinly sliced
1/3 cup fresh cilantro leaves, roughly torn
1/3 cup fresh mint leaves
1 jalapeno, thinly sliced
2 small cucumbers, peeled, seeded, and thinly sliced
1 cup thinly sliced green cabbage

1 16-oz package extra firm tofu, pressed for at least 30 minutes
1 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup neutral oil, like sunflower, canola, or peanut (coconut oil would be good, too)

Mix dressing ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.

Mix salad ingredients in a large bowl and set aside.

Stand the block of tofu on end and slice down the middle. Stack the two slabs and cut into thirds, making six pieces. Put cornstarch on a plate and coat the tofu in it.

In a large skillet, heat oil barely to the smoking point. (Really. It’s got to be hot.) Pull tofu out of your cornstarch dredge, tap off the excess cornstarch, and lay each piece carefully in the hot oil. Shake the pan occasionally to make sure nothing’s sticking, but otherwise leave it in there for 2-3 minutes to let it get a nice brown crust. Turn with a fork and brown the other side. Remove from oil.

Toss the salad with 2/3 of the dressing and spread on a platter. Arrange the tofu on top and finish it off with the rest of the dressing. I recommend an avocado, too.

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