In this unusual salad, the watercress is wilted slightly by contact with the tofu-walnut mixture, which is added directly from the pan.
- 2 tablespoons grapeseed oil or extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 large shallots, cut into thin rings (rings separated with your fingers)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 pound very firm tofu, cut into matchsticks
- 1 cup coarsely chopped California walnuts
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 2 to 3 large bunches watercress, trimmed of the largest stems, and in a medium-large bowl
- Very ripe and sweet cherry tomatoes – whole, if tiny or halved, if larger (optional)
- Place a large, wide skillet over medium heat and wait about a minute. Add 1 tablespoon of the oil, and swirl to coat the pan. Add the shallot rings and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt, and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, for about 3 minutes, or until the shallots become very soft. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside.
- In the same pan add another tablespoon of oil, stir to distribute, and then add the tofu strips. Sprinkle in another 1/4 teaspoon salt, stir to combine, and then spread out the tofu in a shallow layer. Let it sit over the heat without stirring for a few minutes – until the tofu browns lightly on the bottom. Stir to redistribute, and let it sit again to brown and firm up further. Add another 1/4 teaspoon salt, and do this yet again. The tofu will become chewy and compelling.
- Stir in the walnuts, and the remaining salt. Spread it out again a couple of times, cooking and redistributing the mixture until it is fairly uniformly golden. Return the shallots to the pan and stir them in. When it looks irresistibly yummy, add the vinegar one tablespoon at a time (it will sizzle on contact), stirring to combine after each addition. Turn off the heat and let it sit to absorb for another minute or so.
- Add the tofu-walnut mixture to the waiting watercress, and toss to combine. Serve right away, topped with a scattering of cherry tomatoes, if desired.