This Seared Tofu Harnesses the Brain-Food Powers of Mustard

Mustard has powerful anti-inflammatory and digestion-promoting properties

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Reprinted with permission from Smart Plants © 2019 by Julie Morris, published by Sterling Epicure. 

It is a little unnerving to think that I spent my entire childhood believing that the sole purpose of mustard is to adorn hot dogs (and also that it has to be an electric shade of yellow). In truth, mustard can bring recipes to life, just as it does in this dish. In this recipe, we use both Dijon and whole-grain mustard for an extra bold flavor that enhances every bite of succulent kale and tender tofu.

Hippocrates (460–375 BCE), often referred to as the “father of medicine,” used mustard seeds in various treatments. Even the legendary Dr. Edward Bach (1886–1936), famous for developing flower remedies as a form of alternative medicine (his formulas are still used today), incorporated mustard extracts to treat nerve tension and depression. While modern Western medicine does not overtly promote mustard as a brain-boosting compound, the seed’s strong anti-inflammatory and digestion-promoting properties have been shown to help create a balanced system for the mind to function at its best.



Seared Tofu with Kale & Whole-Grain Mustard



  • 1 (14-ounce) package extra-firm tofu
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • Sea salt
  • 1 bunch lacinato kale or another variety of kale, stemmed and coarsely chopped
  • 1 small sprig rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon whole-grain mustard
  • 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley


1. Press the tofu between several layers of paper towels to extract as much moisture as possible. Halve the tofu widthwise, and then cut the pieces into 1-inch cubes.

2. To make the marinade: Place 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the garlic, Dijon mustard, maple syrup, vinegar, and 1⁄2 teaspoon salt in a large bowl. Mix very well, and then add the tofu. Gently toss the tofu cubes by hand, making sure they’re well-coated with the marinade. Place the tofu in a single layer in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat, leaving any excess marinade in the bowl (reserve for step 3). Cook the tofu cubes, turning them every few minutes, until they’re deeply golden on each side. Transfer the tofu to a large serving bowl, along with any tofu “skin” left in the pan. Season the tofu with a small pinch of salt and cover to keep warm.

3. Toss the kale and 1⁄4 teaspoon salt in the bowl with the reserved marinade, using your hands to thoroughly massage the leaves with the mixture.

4. Give the skillet you just used a quick clean and return it to the stove over medium heat. Warm the remaining tablespoon of olive oil in the skillet, and add the rosemary sprig and red pepper flakes. Let the mixture sizzle for about 30 seconds, until it is fragrant. Add the onion and cook, stirring often, for about 5 minutes, until the onion has softened. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the kale and any remaining marinade. Cook until the kale is well wilted, stirring often for about 3–5 minutes or until tender.

5. Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the wholegrain mustard. Transfer the vegetables to the bowl with the tofu, lightly toss the ingredients together, and sprinkle with fresh parsley. (You can use the rosemary sprig for garnish as well.) Serve warm or at room temperature.

Brain Boost: Mix 1 teaspoon of the reishi powder into the marinade with the olive oil, garlic, and Dijon mustard, etc.

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