Recipes // Side Dishes // Pesto Tofu with Smashed Purple Potatoes and Charred Asparagus (GF)

Pesto Tofu with Smashed Purple Potatoes and Charred Asparagus (GF)


c2013 By Makini Howell. All rights reserved. Excerpted from Plum: Gratifying Vegan Dishes from Seattle’s Plum Bistro by permission of Sasquatch Books.

Sometimes it’s hard to get tofu to absorb a tasty marinade. In this recipe I use a spicier sauce to impart flavor, but the dish doesn’t end up super spicy, just nice and flavorful. It’s one of Plum’s most popular.

Note: Silken tofu is a type of tofu much like high fiber or traditional firm. Everywhere silken is used in this book, it indicates a silken firm tofu, not a smooth soft silken version of tofu.

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients For The Pesto Tofu:

  • 1⁄4 cup (about 20 small to medium) roughly chopped garlic cloves
  • 1⁄4 cup finely chopped red onion
  • 1⁄4 cup roughly chopped kalamata olives
  • 4 firmly packed cups fresh parsley leaves (from about 2 medium bunches)
  • 1⁄4 cup fresh oregano leaves
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 4 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • Sea salt
  • 1 (14- to 16-ounce) package firm silken tofu (such as Island Spring brand), cut into 8 pieces 2 inches long by 5 inches wide by 1⁄2 inch thick
  • Olive oil cooking spray
  • 1 cup Basil-Walnut Pesto

Ingredients For The Smashed Purple Potatoes :

  • 1 pound (about 8) baby purple potatoes
  • 1⁄4 cup plus 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 3 garlic cloves Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives, rosemary, or thyme
  • Zest and juice of 1 medium lemon

Ingredients For The Charred Asparagus:

  • 1 bunch (1 to 11⁄2 pounds) large asparagus, tough ends trimmed
  • 2 teaspoons chopped garlic
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper


  1. To make the tofu, put the garlic, onion, and olives in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until finely chopped (it’s important to stop before the mixture turns to a smooth puree). Add the parsley and oregano and pulse briefly, 1 to 2 seconds, until the herbs are also finely chopped but not pureed. Or, if working by hand, finely mince the ingredients with a sharp knife and combine in a small mixing bowl. Transfer the mixture to a medium bowl. Add the oil, lime juice, vinegar, paprika, sugar, cayenne, and red pepper flakes (or more to taste), and stir until the sugar dissolves. Season to taste with salt. Pour 1⁄4 cup of this marinade into a shallow, medium baking pan, reserving the rest.
  2. Heat a stovetop or outdoor grill to high heat.
  3. Spray the tofu pieces evenly with cooking spray on both sides. Grill them for about 1 to 2 minutes on each side, flipping them with a long spatula, until distinct hash marks form. Transfer them to the baking pan, setting them atop the marinade and pouring the reserved marinade over. Cover the pan and refrigerate for 8 to 12 hours (or up to overnight for more flavor).
  4. To make the potatoes, preheat the oven to 450 degrees F, and line large sheet pan or cookie sheet with aluminum foil or parchment paper for easy cleanup.
  5. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the potatoes and boil them until they’re fork-tender, about 10 minutes. Drain the potatoes.
  6. Drizzle 1⁄4 cup of the oil all over the prepared pan. Place the boiled potatoes on the sheet, leaving plenty of room between each one. With a potato masher or the flat end of a spatula—or even your hands if the potatoes are cool enough—gently press down on each potato until the top gives way and the insides are lightly crushed. Rotate the pan 90 degrees and mash the potatoes again more forcefully, until they are slightly flattened. (The idea is to open up the potato enough to let in the flavors of the garlic and herbs.) Brush the tops of each crushed potato generously with the remaining 3 tablespoons of oil and sprinkle with the garlic. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Bake the potatoes until they’re golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and sprinkle the potatoes with the parsley, chives, and lemon zest and juice. Set aside.
  7. To make the asparagus, in a large bowl or on a baking sheet, toss the asparagus with the garlic and oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  8. Heat a stovetop or outdoor grill to high heat. Grill the asparagus for 1 to 3 minutes on each side, until they are bright green and still have a crunch.
  9. Heat a medium sauté pan or stovetop griddle over medium heat. Remove the tofu slices from the marinade with a slotted spatula, reserving the marinade for later use. Working in batches, cook the tofu for 3 to 4 minutes on each side, until they’re heated through and crispy on the outside.
  10. To serve, stack 2 potatoes near the center of each of 4 plates. Lean 2 tofu pieces against them, drizzle the tofu with pesto , and arrange 3 to 4 asparagus spears against the tofu.

Basil-walnut Pesto (SF/GF)

Every time I go somewhere and want to order a pesto dish, it has cheese in it. Pestos are great, and they should be vegan too. When I was trying to figure out what created that characteristic taste and consistency, I realized I could replace the cheese with nuts. What you get is a dairy-free, soy-free, gluten-free spread that has so many uses—try it on sandwiches, with salads, or, as we do here (page 73) with tofu.


  • Makes about 1 1⁄2 cups
  • 11⁄2 ounces fresh basil leaves and stems, roughly chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 1⁄4 cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon chopped garlic
  • 1⁄2 cup loosely packed baby arugula, tough stems discarded
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons walnut pieces


  1. Put all the ingredients in a blender or the bowl of a food processor.  Puree until smooth, about 15 seconds.
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