My husband and I celebrated our wedding anniversary earlier this month with a visit to Carmel and Santa Barbara. Since Carmel is a short drive for us, it makes for an ideal last-minute getaway. Too ideal, in fact, that we seem to be making the drive once a month lately. The hotel we’ve stayed in for the last 15 years is in a residential area only a couple of blocks from the beach, making it easy to pretend that I live there (oh, how I wish I had a place there!) as I stumble out of my hotel room each morning for a beachside stroll with a cup of tea.
Our anniversary fell on a Tuesday and by Wednesday we weren’t quite ready to finish celebrating. We took a drive down to Big Sur, something we haven’t done in at least a decade, so we played tourists, stopping at most of the scenic points to snap a picture or two. Big Sur was an old stomping ground of my husband’s as a young man and he regaled me with stories of weekends past spent on the beach with his good friend.
Not having been fortunate to secure the room we wanted in Big Sur Wednesday night we headed home…only to find ourselves on Thursday morning still unable to shake the wanderlust. At 9:00 am we managed to book a hotel, rent a car and the pleasant weather promised a smooth flight. Still packed from our Carmel getaway, we were off at 10:30 for the one and a half hour flight down to Santa Barbara.
Our grumbling stomachs always beg to be fed as soon as we drive into town and from past visits we’ve found a favorite in Sojourner Cafe for a never-fail, wholesome and satisfying lunch.
Sojourner is a hip cafe that’s been around for over 30 years. It’s not a vegetarian- or vegan-only establishment but the meatless options are abundant and, from what I’ve had, tasty–even this carnivore leaves full and happy.
A favorite for me and my husband is their Tofu Buddha salad. The concept of a Buddha bowl is to combine scrap vegetables and grains. At Sojourner they serve a salad version with brown rice, marinated tofu and mixed greens with a bright ginger-based dressing. It’s so simple and satisfying that on this trip I vowed to recreate it as soon as we returned home.
This is my version.
In place of brown rice I used barley. I had the notion that barley’s larger size and texture would pair better with the mixed greens and it turned out that my husband and I preferred it over rice for this dish. I stirred in just enough housin sauce into the barley to give it more flavor and I was happy with this inspiration, too. I didn’t feel the need to marinate my tofu after doing this and combined with the nest of mixed greens, carrots, zucchini, red cabbage, avocado and tossed with my zesty take on their ginger-soy dressing, we were very pleased with my version of a Buddha bowl.
We spent our three days in Santa Barbara in beautiful weather doing much of nothing besides walking, browsing, wining and dining (for dinner we really like Olio e Limone). What we originally planned to be a simple anniversary in Carmel turned into a blissful, week-long celebration.
Tofu Buddha Bowl with Ginger-Soy Dressing
- **For the Salad***
- 1/2 block firm tofu drained and grated using a box grater, using the largest hole
- Cooked barley cook according to package directions. Feel free to use any grain: brown rice, quinoa, etc
- 1 carrot peeled and shaved into ribbons
- 1 zucchini peeled and shaved into ribbons
- Red cabbage sliced thinly
- Mixed greens
- Sliced avocado
- 1-2 teaspoons hoisin sauce for the barley optional
- ***For the Dressing***
- 2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger I use a Microplane grater
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 5 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 2 tablespoons sweet soy sauce kecap manis- if you don't have this, add a combination of regular soy sauce and honey or molasses to taste
- 1 tablespoon regular soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons sesame oil
- 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
To prepare the dressing: Blend all the ingredients together until smooth. Set aside. (Makes 1 cup).
To prepare the salad: I like for the barley and tofu to be a bit warm when I serve them so I heat them up. The cooked barley can be served plain but I like to add a little flavor by tossing it in some hoisin sauce. Combine the hoisin sauce and barley in a bowl and set aside.
Assemble the mixed greens on a plate. Top with the red cabbage then the barley and tofu. Arrange the zucchini and carrot ribbons along the perimeter of the bowl. Drizzle with the dressing and serve.
Measurements: You will notice that I haven't included measurements for most of the ingredients that go into this salad. It's really a matter of how much you want to add of each ingredient. Feel free to sub any of the vegetables or the grain with your favorite.
Barley: The cook time is for cooking the barley. If you already have some barley or rice left over, you can disregard this.