When I was working as an apprentice for Michel Guérard in the Basque area of France, I peeled a lot of vegetables. Until one day, a few months into my tour, I was asked to make a sauce for dinner service. It was a Saturday night, and the restaurant was fully booked. The sauce was to swathe a gently poached piece of turbot, a delicate, flaky fish. All the flavor of the dish depended on my sauce.
As luck would have it, my charge was to make this “mother” sauce, one of the pillars of French cuisine, lightened up to accommodate the dietary guidelines of Monsieur Guérard’s world-renowned spa. Following the proportions to the letter, I managed to pull it off without a sweat, thanks to an assist from a Vitamix blender. Almost 20 years later, the recipe is still in my file of favorites, probably because everyone raves about it, and it is just so darned easy to make.
I have recruited Sauce Verte to dip crudités, to top grilled or roasted fish, to accompany roasted chicken, and to dress a salad of mozzarella and tomatoes. It has become a year-round staple with seemingly unanimous appeal (as evidenced recently by my green-adverse teenager licking the bowl). You can make it as I do — with green olives and miso — or as the French do, with anchovies and capers. Contrary to its salty ingredients, it goes full tilt on flavor without making your lips pucker.
Tofu doesn’t often figure in French cooking, so here I give it a Provençal spin. Make sure to drain the tofu well, pressing it down with a heavy plate for a meatier texture and better assimilation of the sauce. If you are looking for an exciting new way to present any protein, give this recipe a try. It just might follow you for the next 20 years.
1/3 cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1/3 cup roughly chopped fresh parsley leaves
1/3 cup roughly chopped fresh dill
3 ounces pitted green olives, drained (can substitute 3 tablespoons capers, drained and rinsed)
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon white miso paste (can substitute 6 anchovy fillets, drained)
2 small garlic cloves, peeled
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1. In a blender or food processor, finely chop the herbs, olives, mustard, miso, garlic and lemon juice.
2. With the machine running, gradually add the olive oil and process until combined.
Note: The sauce can be made 1 day ahead. Cover tightly and refrigerate.
1 (14-ounce) package organic firm or extra-firm tofu, cut lengthwise into 4 to 6 slices
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons Herbes de Provence
2 teaspoons grapeseed or canola oil
1. Remove the tofu from the package and wrap it in double-layered paper towels. Place on a plate or cutting board, then top with a heavy plate to press out the excess liquid. Allow to dry for at least 15 minutes.
2. Season the tofu generously on both sides with salt, pepper, and Herbes de Provence.
3. Heat a large sauté pan for a minute or so, then add the oil, swirl it to coat the pan, and heat until shimmering. Add the tofu slices and allow to cook undisturbed for 3 to 4 minutes, or until golden brown. Flip the tofu gently and cook the other side until golden.
4. Arrange the tofu slices on a platter, topped with Sauce Verte. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Our December cooking contest will be the most fruitful of the year. Give it a shot!
For another unique spin on tofu, try my Tofu with Pea Shoots recipe.
Photo credit: Blake Slatkin