Antipasto Salad

I have always had a long-term adoration for everything Italian.  When I was a kid, I had a "Roma" t-shirt that I wore until the threads gave out.  I would watch foreign movies with my dad, like Cinema Paradiso.  In college, I took years of Italian language classes, and would walk around trying to think and speak in Italian.  I am positive that had to be annoying, but I was in love, what could I do?  

Italians value family and aesthetics.  Their food is a direct reflection of both things.  While this hardly qualifies as an "ugly" salad, maybe with poor knife skills it could be.  But I kind of doubt it. Antipasto is the appetizer that signifies that a meal has started.  It generally includes meats, cheeses, pickled vegetables, olives, and artichokes.  It brings people together.

While it may not be fresh mozzerella, marinaded tofu does it's best to be a stand-in in this salad.  I include some traditional Italian vegetables, like artichokes and fennel.  The dressing is a briny, red wine vinegar with Italian herbs.  For a variation, change up the vegetables or add some capers.

It makes a fantastic meal on it's own, especially if served with some crusty bread on side.  It's also a terrific salad for summer BBQs or any time those you love gather.

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Antipasto Salad

1 14 ounce extra firm tofu, pressed and cut into cubes

Olive oil

½ cup red wine vinegar

1 tsp dried oregano

1 tsp dried basil

½ tsp Italian seasoning

1 cup water

½ yellow pepper, chopped

½ red pepper, chopped

½ green pepper, chopped

1 small bulb of fennel, chopped

½ English cucumber, chopped

⅓ cup fresh green beans, blanched

1 cup grape tomatoes, halved

¾ cup grilled artichokes (make your own, use Monterey Farms Grilled Artichokes or another brand)

Assorted olives, to taste

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1. Move your oven rack to the highest position inside your oven.  Preheat oven to BROIL on HIGH. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or foil.  Spread out the cubes, and drizzle olive oil over them.  Move the tofu around in the olive oil to make sure all sides are coated.  When the oven is ready, put your cookie sheet on the top rack and broil for ~10 minutes.  Keep a close eye on it, to make sure it does not burn.

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2. While your tofu is broiling, put together the marinade.  Add red wine vinegar, basil, oregano, Italian seasoning, salt and water to a sealable container.  

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3. After removing tofu from the oven, immediately put it into the marinade.  Seal the lid on the marinade container and gently shake the tofu. 

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4. You can make the marinaded tofu up to 24 hours before you are ready to use.  Store it in the refrigerator.  If you are tight on time, put the sealed container in the freezer while you cut the rest of the vegetables.  Give it at least 25-30 minutes to cool off and soak up the flavor.

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5. In a large bowl, combine all the vegetables.  Dump in the marinaded tofu, including the marinade itself.  Drizzle with olive oil.  Add whole assorted olives to your taste.  Stir.  Taste, and adjust seasonings.  Serve with a crusty bread.

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