It may not look like much, but this is the perfect meal when you’re in serious need of detoxing but can’t bear the thought of starving yourself. In our case, it was sort of a preventive detox- Amanda, Dylan, Zarin, and I loaded up on the fresh veggies and tofu in this dish before our big cupcake taste-off several weeks ago. Did the vitamins and minerals in it help fight off the sugar overload? Well, I might not go that far. But at least we felt a little more virtuous for eating a nutritious and tasty dinner beforehand. (And isn’t feeling virtuous about your dinner half of the battle?)
The Iron Yam is one of my favorite dishes at Native Foods, the Southern California-based vegan restaurant chain, beloved by vegetarians, vegans, and meat-eaters alike. Amanda and I always mean to go there when she flies out from Boston to visit, but we never quite get around to it or else get distracted by more overtly tempting culinary delights of Westwood, like the made-to-order ice cream sandwiches at Diddy Riese. Luckily, The Native Foods Restaurant Cookbook has a bunch of the most popular recipes from the restaurant, including the Iron Yam, so they’re easily replicated at home. It’s not exactly quick to make the Iron Yam, given that you have to roast the yam, caramelize the onions, marinate the tofu, steam the veggies, make a dressing, and then assemble it all, but it’s just the thing to eat when your body is craving filling food that tastes fresh and unadulteratedly healthy. Then give yourself a big pat on the back and reward yourself with a cupcake.
Iron yam (serves 6)
3 medium yams
14-16 ounces firm tofu, sliced
5-6 cups steamed mixed veggies
6 cups mixed baby lettuce greens
1/4 cup fresh chopped parsley
3-4 tbsp Brunoise-cut red bell pepper (optional)
for tofu marinade:
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup rice vinegar
1/3 cup water
1 tsp freshly grated ginger
for balsamic vinaigrette:
1/2 cup balsamic vinaigrette
1/2 cup olive oil
1 1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
for caramelized onions:
3 large onions, cut into thin half-moon slices
3 tbsp olive or sunflower oil
2 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp white pepper
1 tsp maple syrup (optional)
1. Preheat oven to 375. Wash and scrub yams and bake for 1 hour.
2. To make tofu marinade: in a bowl, mix together the soy sauce, rice vinegar, water, and ginger. Pour marinade over tofu slices. Let marinate 20-30 minutes. (Can sit in marinade for up to 24 hours.) Then bake tofu with marinade for 20 minutes at 375. Coordinate so you bake tofu with the yams at the end of their baking time.
3. To make balsamic vinaigrette: mix vinegar, oil, salt, and pepper. Whisk well.
4. To make carmelized onions: heat olive oil in skillet, add the onions with a pinch of the salt, and saute until slightly transparent. Add salt and white pepper, and reduce heat to low. Continue stirring while cooking the onions, uncovered for 40-45 minutes. They will appear very browned, but not burned. Just before removing them from hear, stir in maple syrup if you want an additional glaze of flavor.
5. Steam veggies towards end of baking time for tofu and yams, or prepare earlier and rewarm just before serving.
6. Arrange salad greens on six plates or bowls. Top with steamed veggies.
7. Cut baked yams in half lengthwise, and place one half with flesh exposed on top for color. Put 1 tbsp of caramelized onions on top of each yam half. Cut tofu into triangles and place around circumference of dish. Drizzle entire dish with the balsamic vinagrette. Garnish with chopped parsley and Brunoise-cut red bell pepper (optional).